I'm fairly expert in Photoshop but a total novice in Illustrator. I need to do an infographic and I have a suspicion that Illustrator is what a real designer would use, but I don't really know why I think that, since Photoshop does vectors pretty well and I'm not sure what Illustrator adds to this. (I'm not saying it doesn't add a lot, I just don't really know what it is.)

Every time I open Illustrator it seems just baffling (as did Photoshop before I learned it), and I'm wondering if it's something I should really commit to learning, or if Photoshop can do everything Illustrator can.

  • 1
    Somewhat related question: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/35564/…
    – joojaa
    Nov 16, 2014 at 16:08
  • 3
    The biggest reason Illustrator seems baffling at first is that over the years it has grown to a monstrous bloated buffalo of a program which provides so much functionality that the basics get lost. A good way to learn the concepts of vector artwork is to study old-school tutorials for much older versions of Illustrator that didn't provide as many features. Creating a gradient between two curves by creating a repeating series of transformations of curves, for example.
    – barbecue
    Nov 16, 2014 at 20:04
  • Really, if you're a professional graphic designer and you neither understand nor appreciate the difference between raster and vector graphics then you probably would be well advised to get a handle on this - immediately. This is a critically important concept that you really can't afford to not completely and fully grasp. I'm not even a graphic designer and I wouldn't for a minute consider building an infographic in Photoshop instead of Illustrator. It is simply the wrong tool for the job.
    – J...
    Nov 17, 2014 at 13:56
  • @J...: Well I'm not a professional designer, I just do it on the side, and I do understand very well the difference between raster and vector. The question was about what tools Illustrator has for vector graphic manipulation that Photoshop doesn't have. Nov 17, 2014 at 14:23

4 Answers 4


This is a very, very broad question and should probably be closed as too broad (I voted so).

There are a ton of things Illustrator does which Photoshop does not. Just as there are a ton of things Photoshop does which Illustrator does not. In addition, there may be common areas where Illustrator is much better than Photoshop even though features are similar.

Off the top of my head...

  • create true vector files (resolution independent files)
  • Access type glyphs
  • Text wraps
  • Symbols
  • variable vector strokes
  • Path operations
  • Multiple artboards

No designer should be bound by tools. Knowing Illustrator is mandatory in my view. Photoshop, while a great tool, is not the be-all-end-all. If you were a mechanic, you would not restrict yourself to only using a flat-head screwdriver. You'd probably also get a Phillips screwdriver -- even though you could turn some Phillips screws with the flat-head.


  • I think the most important point is that the output is vector art, but you might want to say more about the specific advantages of vector art: Each line is defined by a mathematical formula, so it can be independently edited and transformed.
    – barbecue
    Nov 16, 2014 at 20:02
  • @barbecue -- as I posted, this is a very broad question and that specific topic is covered on the "Related" links I posted.
    – Scott
    Nov 16, 2014 at 20:03
  • Simply put, Photoshop is optimized for raster graphics, Illustrator is optimized for vector graphics.
    – Axel
    Nov 17, 2014 at 3:46
  • I would possibly disagree with that a bit. You'd have to define what "optimized" means.
    – Scott
    Nov 17, 2014 at 4:15
  • 2
    @Scott! you've gone blue :O
    – SaturnsEye
    Nov 17, 2014 at 10:45

List of All Points Adobe Illustrator can do which Adobe Photoshop Can't

  • 3D Effects
  • Appearance Palette
  • Number of Artboards
  • Vector Software
  • Graphs
  • Symbols
  • Width Tool
  • Live Paint
  • Live trace
  • Envelope Distortion (Make with Top Object)
  • Blend (CTR + ALT + B)
  • Gradient Mesh
  • 3D Perspective Grid
  • Text Wrap
  • Symbol sprayer tools
  • Knife, Scissor tool
  • Vector Brushes (Art Brush, Pattern Brush, Bristle Brush)
  • Area Type Options
  • Glyphs
  • Transform Each command
  • Links Palette
  • Offset Path
  • Threaded Text
  • Scribble Effect
  • Image Maps

You are correct that Adobe Illustrator is the better application to use in creating Infographics. I always created my Infographics in Adobe Illustrator. There are a myriad of reasons that Illustrator is better than Photoshop in this task. The biggest is text scalability. Your Infographic will likely have a lot of text and it must always be crisp. Photoshop is wonderful for images, especially PHOTOS. It was never meant to deal with text (aside from large headlines).

However, use Photoshop to create graphics to import into Illustrator. There are so many tutorials to learn Illustrator. You should check out Lynda.com and Udemy.com if video tutorials help you learn best.

  • I know what you mean about scaling text. Photoshop can do it, but very tediously. Thanks for the input. Nov 17, 2014 at 14:20

I think that while scalability, path operations, etc are true, they are somewhat trivial issues for most purposes. I do think there is a correct answer to this question.

The main benefit to using a vector program, such as Illustrator, is that the end product is a vector format: these vectors are all distinct and can be pulled apart, modified, deleted, etc. after the final product has been finished. That is, vectors are "open source", since they are freely and easily modifiable. Not so with bitmaps; after you've painted an object into a layer, you're not going to be able to delete that person from the layer, or tweak his body shape trivially.

This comes with its downsides: vectors are restricted to those operations that can be made to be open source. So some lossy operations, such as "blur this object and flatten it onto the page" are not possible with vectors. In fact, you will see that these lossy operations are precisely the operations that vector software don't offer. Thus, this is the fundamental difference between bitmap and vector programs. It is a tradeoff between power and modifiability.

As an example, think of a CAD program: if you want to adjust the width of some object (which will happen frequently), it would be best if adjusting the width was a single step and everything else adjusted itself instantly to accommodate this change. If this is to be possible, the kind of "bitmap" operations that Photoshop offers must be prohibited.

  • 1
    I would not call scalability trivial.
    – barbecue
    Nov 16, 2014 at 19:55
  • Object > Rasterize or Effect > Stylize > Rasterize or Effect > Blur > in Illustrator. Raster from vector is generally an easy thing. Vector from raster is generally not.
    – Scott
    Nov 16, 2014 at 20:02
  • @barbecue When you need scalability, it's crucial. But for most purposes it's unnecessary. You can instead create a large canvas and then scale up if desired. Most artworks don't care about scalability, since details tend to become irrelevant once they're small enough. Of course you can create examples such as icons/logos where you must must must have scalability, but once again, these are not the general case.
    – user33635
    Nov 16, 2014 at 20:52

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