Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign represent the “big three” of the Adobe Creative Suite—but never assume that one is interchangeable with another.
Use the wrong design program to create a certain element of your artwork, and you might end up with blurry text, sloppy layouts, or a logo that you can never resize without turning it into a pixelated nightmare.
Using all three programs together, however, turns them into the ultimate dream team. You can maximize the strengths of each Adobe product while also minimizing their weaknesses; where one program fails, another can pick up the slack.
Which Adobe Program Should You Use for Designing Print Media?
Since each program has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, the one you should choose depends on which part of the print design you’re actually making.
Using this presentation folder design as an example, let’s break down which Adobe programs (Photoshop vs. Illustrator vs. InDesign) were used to create its various elements.
Designing a Logo: Illustrator
The perfect scalability of vector images makes Illustrator, hands-down, the best program for creating print logos. A logo you create in Illustrator can be imported into a number of different projects and will always print with crystal clarity.
If you don’t have Illustrator, InDesign also has the vector tools you need to create a scalable logo. Photoshop can work as a last resort, but keep in mind that the vectors you create will be converted to raster images and you’ll likely see some slight pixelation if you try to reproduce the logo in different sizes.
Drawing Shapes and Graphics: Illustrator
Illustrator is the go-to choice for drawing any shaped visual elements, since vectors can be easily manipulated, altered and resized. Vector illustration can be tricky to learn, but the results are much more professional looking than other hand-drawn options.
If you don’t mind working in a pixel-based environment, you can achieve similar results using Photoshop. Since not all of your illustrative elements will be reused in other designs, you won’t run into any pixelation issues as long as you don’t have to resize the image.
Adding Filters and Special Effects: Photoshop
Photoshop gives you access to an impressive library of filters and special effects. If you want to give your print media projects that extra level of flair, Photoshop should be your first choice.
If you don’t have access to Photoshop, you can add a few limited filters to your photos directly from InDesign. It doesn’t have quite the same scope as Photoshop, but it can handle the basics.
Manipulating Photos: Photoshop
The name says it all—Photoshop has the most tools for manipulating photos, and since photos are created using pixels, you don’t have to worry about distortion. Whenever your print design includes photographs, use Photoshop first to improve the image quality before importing into another program.
Again, if you don’t have access to Photoshop, InDesign can at least handle the basics, like cropping and resizing. It shouldn’t be your first choice, but it’s manageable in a pinch.
Writing Copy: InDesign
If you’re designing a brochure, pocket folder or other print project that has large passages of text, InDesign is very handy for its intuitive word wrap feature. Word wrap helps you easily break up your copy into columns, letting you utilize every inch of canvas space. InDesign also creates crisp, clean text devoid of pixelation.
Illustrator can also be used to create smooth, scalable text out of vector shapes, but without the word wrap tools, it can be difficult to create a good-looking layout for text.
Designing Layouts: InDesign
InDesign has all of the best tools for creating complete layouts for print, especially multi-page layouts using its master page system. It can also handle multi-page templates, which makes it easier for you to quickly put together a sharp-looking layout.
Illustrator can also handle multi-page layouts to a degree, but without the master page system, you’ll end up having to do a lot of extra work.
Creating Your Print Ready Files: InDesign
Composing a print-ready folder design in InDesign is a fairly simple affair. It keeps all of the design elements in their original state, so when it comes time to print, you’ll have the most accurate representation possible. InDesign is also better than most other Adobe programs at creating .EPS files, one of the more ideal formats for print-ready artwork.
Illustrator makes a decent second choice for its ability to export accurate print-ready .EPS files.
What About Adobe Fireworks?
Although Adobe Fireworks is an excellent illustration and photo editing tool, when it comes to designing print media, there isn’t much that Fireworks has to offer over the other programs in the Adobe Creative Suite.
It’s actually something of an amalgam of all three programs—it has layers and photo editing tools like Photoshop, vector illustrations like Illustrator, and the use of master pages like InDesign.
However, Fireworks is primarily for web and digital design, so when it comes to creating print designs, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table.
We all have our own ways of doing things, and you should ultimately choose the program that best fits you as a designer. In the end, what matters is that your final product is clean, clear and catching to the eye.
Do you have any questions about using Illustrator vs. Photoshop vs. InDesign for creating print media designs? What have been your personal experiences with using the Adobe Creative Suite for print media? Is there another alternative program that you prefer over these three? We really want to hear from you, so please leave your comments below!