If you are new to Design and the print industry, you may already know how frustrating it is to find the right software to keep up with the industry standards and know what each program is designed for since definitions tend to be very vague.
Adobe has long been the industry standard and become synonymous with print. While there are many programs available that offer similar features, sticking with Adobe products will ensure consistency with most print shops. That being said, knowing the differences between the programs and what they are designed for can save a lot of wasted time in preparing artwork. Below is a list of the 3 most commonly used Adobe programs as well as a brief description of each.
Adobe Illustrator is a vector based program meaning it is designed to create line art graphics and drawings. It is great for creating logos, graphs, and intricate artwork with higher precision and execution than other programs. As long as the artwork was created in Illustrator (as opposed to being imported) it can be reduced/enlarged to any size without quality loss and the file will remain small. While it has some of the features that other programs have, it does not support them as well . For instance, it has effects and filters but they are much harder to manage and tend to make the file much larger than necessary. It also has type features but doesn’t support multiple pages so it is more complicated to create layouts.
Adobe Photoshop is a raster based program. It is designed to apply effects and filters to existing artwork and photography. It is a very powerful program for creating realistic textures, artwork and effects and is equally as good for creating web graphics. Like Illustrator, it combines some of the features that the other programs have, but also like Illustrator, it does not support them as well. In order to achieve the quality and resolution of a vector image, the file could end up being 20x the size of a vector file, so it essential to know what the file will be used for before creating (ie; print or web). Once it has been created at a certain size, it cannot be enlarged without the quality suffering. It also does not support multiple page documents, simply because of the file size constraints.
Adobe InDesign is a desktop publishing program which basically compiles and links artwork, graphics and text into one file. It is designed to layout single and multiple page documents for print. It has a preflight feature which diagnoses any issues you might have before sending to a printer. It also has a collect for output feature which collect all linked artwork and photos along with the file itself and fonts used into one folder. It supports style sheets, rules, page numbering, etc. As with the others, it has several outside features but does not support them as well.
In a nutshell, each program has similar features to the other programs, but is individually designed with one core function that works in tandem with the other programs. If used to their full potential, they will compliment each other rather than compete.
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