I had this problem. Back when I was a student and recent graduate, I hated working with vectors and would do essentially all my creative work in Photoshop, reluctantly switching to Illustrator to "vectorise" my completed, signed off design to create the final artwork. Getting a job where I had to produce data-driven graphics at short notice where working in raster was never an option cured me of my bad habit and made me face my problems with vector - and I now use vector for almost everything except photo editing.
For me, it boiled down to:
Vector has a steeper curve because raster does more with fewer variables
- In Photoshop, almost everything boils down to basically manipulating the colour/value, blending/opacity and selected/masked state of pixels across layers. Almost all the fancy tools are basically variants on these three types of variable. Once you've got your head around these things, you can find ways to do almost anything using just a few tools and principles, and it's relatively easy to intuit and grasp what kind of tools might exist to make complex tasks easier
- Illustrator has many more types of moving parts, and many more variables that are non-obvious or invisible at first. It's much easier to be completely stuck in Illustrator because you don't even know what type of tool might get you where you need to go. Here's a few things that helped me:
- The appearance window. Many courses treat it like an optional advanced feature. I think this is a mistake. Being able to see a simple list of what is going on with each object and being able to edit them all in one place made it feel much more manageable, and makes the user feel more in control.
- Working with effects and then expanding them to understand how Illustrator was actually getting from A to B using vectors. "Wow, that blend, wasn't magic, it was actually just a stack of a thousand slightly differing rectangles! Hey, I can take any of these rectangles and do things with them..."
Vector's lack of fuzziness takes some getting used to
Gradients and effects feel like an incredibly blunt tool when you're used to the complete freedom of fuzzy-edged selections and brushes in raster applications.
For me, learning to use gradient meshes and blends helped, mostly because discovering that I could make any type of near-photo-realistic elegant blend effect helped me realise that 99% of the time I didn't need to, and was feeling handicapped and limited from doing something I actually seldom needed to do.
Closely related to both the above. In Photoshop, working felt fluid and natural, like drawing or painting. In Illustrator, it felt like I was having to strategically plan a series of operations then clunk-clunk-clunk my way through them.
Part of this was just less experience, but a few things that helped included:
- Learning that freehand drawing is possible in Illustrator and, with pressure-sensitive art brushes, can be very effective
q, the lasso selection tool. Every designer I've worked with recently has barely used it before, then started using it regularly after a few weeks working with me. Drawing a sweeping lasso around the points in the section of artwork you want to work on then manipulating them is much faster, and feels much more fluid, than clunk-clunk-clicking on many tiny points.
I'd got used to the pixel grid as a simple absolute everything could be kept precise against. I found it hard to adjust to Illustrator where everything could be off by near-infinitely tiny amounts.
Working intensively with the Align window (particularly realising it can be used with points, not just objects) and getting used to toggling smart align on and off from the keyboard without thinking about it, and understanding Illustrator's (invisible, object specific) pixel grid, made me appreciate that vector's lack of limits is purely a good thing and that I didn't need some fixed, arbitrary, inflexible ultimate grid.
Like learning to swim and moving to the deep end of the pool where your feet can't touch the bottom, you need to learn there are other things you can do - you don't need that crutch.