Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign: Strengths, Weaknesses and When to Use Each

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Photoshop isn’t the end-all-be-all when it comes to design. It is by far the most known out of the three and is often referred to whenever those sketchy images pop up of models who strangely look too thin for real life “they must be photoshopped.” But, adobe created a whole suite for design and they offer many programs that when used together help you create your perfect marketing masterpiece.


Strengths: Web Designs, Photo Editing

Weakness: Text, and Scaleability

Photoshop is a raster based program. Raster refers to the use of pixels. Pixels are tiny squares of color that make up an image. These pixels only allow for an image to re-size so much before the image gets distorted, “pixelated” and blurry.

Rules to design by:

  • Don’t do text in Photoshop for print materials. Bring design into Indesign then add your text. This will keep text crisp and clear.
  • Standard resolution for print images is 300 DPI, web images are 72 DPI (this can be found in Photoshop index Type_image size_resolution) (ADD SCREENSHOT)
  • Pixels are for web, inches are for print.
  • Know the exact dimensions of what you are designing. It will help you layout your designs proportionately and it will help you see how much space you have for your content.


Strengths: Logo design, Scalability

Weaknesses: Image Editing, Text Formatting

Illustrator is a vector based program, meaning it uses mathematical equations to determine objects appearance. This allows for objects like your logo to scale as large or as small as you need and it won’t effect the quality keeping your perfect logo looking crisp and sparkly clean. Illustrator is usually the best choice for logo creation. Logos appear on many platforms – everything from the sign on your building to the footer of your website. Your logo has to be able to scale from one extreme to the other.

Rules to design by:

  • Save your logo as an .ai or .eps file (these will keep the logo in a vector format)
  • Outline text (when sending logos to other people make sure your text is outlined. Not everyone will have the same fonts as you. If they don’t, their computer will change the font to its default font which is usually boooring. Outlining turns the text into shapes and will keep the same look of the font you used. Only do this after the text is finalized and no further changes need to be made. Once it is outlined, it isn’t considered text to the program and can’t be edited.)


Strengths: Print, Digital Publishing

Weakness: Image Editing, Logo Design

Indesign brings all your design pieces together. Think of it as the glue of your design, allowing you to take advantage of the strengths of each program. It is best used for pieces that are text heavy. Brochures, informational pieces, ebooks, ect. It offers the best option for text formatting and keeps pages organized and easy to access. Indesign can get a bad rap sometimes but once you learn and understand the program, it will change your life.

Rules to design by:

  • Place files into Indesign (File_place) it creates a link to the original file which can be edited by the original program and updated in Indesign
  • Make style guides for your text (there’s character styles and paragraph styles)
  • Save PDF files from here. They just work better.

(there are tons of tutorials for each of these programs if you need help don’t be scared to try them out)