There is a sea of creative software out in the world, but all creative software is not created equal. It's imitating weeding through search results, forums, product reviews & blog posts trying to find the best program for a given project. So let's talk software.
Adobe has become the industry standard in a number of creative fields—especially design—but with their range of programs it still can be hard to determine which one is the best fit for a project. I use three programs in my process: Photoshop, Illustrator & InDesign. Each plays a different role & features a unique set of tools that best handles different parts of my process.*
Think About the End Product
Before jumping headlong into software, it's important to think about what it is that you want to create. Is the end piece going to be a printed, physical product or a digital only piece? Are you reproducing traditional artwork—painting, drawing, screen print, etc.—or creating something from scratch?
Thinking about these questions during concept development helps focus design choices & determine the best tool for the each project.
Adobe Photoshop: Image Editing Powerhouse
Adobe Photoshop is a powerful photo editing program that can seemingly do anything—like bringing dinosaurs back from the dead to chase innocent wedding parties.
Photoshop play a very basic role in my process. I use it to create high contrast versions of my scanned sketches so they’re easier to convert into digital graphics. Photoshop also a great tool for getting traditional artwork ready for print reproductions, as well as for creating digital only graphics. Photoshop also has an extensive brush collection that some artists love using for their original artwork.
“The Downside”: Photoshop uses pixels (tiny squares of color) to build images. So images need large dimensions and/or be scanned or photographed at a high resolution (300dpi or higher) to get a quality image for the desired size & format. Otherwise, a small, low resolution image will become a pixelated, splotchy mess when enlarged.
Adobe Illustrator: Master of Vector Graphics
Adobe Illustrator is at the core of my process as a hand letterer & illustrator. Illustrator is perfect for creating graphics from scratch or from sketches, using an array of different tools & features. Graphics created in Illustrator completely scalable so can shrink to thumbnail size or enlarge to fit a billboard.
While Photoshop creates images using pixels, Illustrator uses mathematical formulas or vectors—yes, math—to define the edges & shapes of graphics (aka vector graphics). Illustrator also, has a rich tool set to build & manipulate graphics for any style & level of detail.
“The Downside”: While Illustrator can create highly detailed, complex vector graphics, but it can't generate reproductions of traditional artwork. Converting traditional pieces in Illustrator smooths & simplifies the shapes & colors—or requires an inordinate amount of tinkering with different tools. Illustrator is also not great for typesetting, lacking robust alignment & type editing tools.
Adobe InDesign: Print Design Partner in Crime
Adobe InDesign is my go-to for any type graphic design project—print or digital. InDesign was designed to create type-based print layouts, featuring robust alignment, type setting & formatting tools that help create to amazing layouts.
Once I create my graphics & lettering in Illustrator, I use InDesign to set up my print files so all the parts of the final product are lined up & formatted properly. InDesign is also great for combining vector graphics with typeset copy so the two merge seamlessly & shine beautifully.
“The Downside”: InDesign has some features to create graphics, but none are as in depth as in Illustrator. InDesign can also add effects to images, such as drop shadows, but it doesn't have any have photo editing tools or features.
Go With What Works
At the end of the day, the best program is the one you feel most comfortable using. I love the rich features, amazing online resources & helpful support that come with using Adobe products, but they're also the programs I have been using for years.
Over time, I have developed a relationship with my programs—sometimes a love/hate relationship—that allows me to work the way that makes the most sense for me, but not everyone works the same way. Take time to learn about different software programs & experiment to find the best solution for your process.
Do you have a project in mind but don't know the where to start? What is your favorite software for your work? Let me know in the comments.
“Hand Lettering 101” is an ongoing series that discusses various topics on hand lettering, including the creative process and behind the scenes.
*Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I genuinely love working with Adobe’s software & I feel that they have the best features & resources. However, there are several similar softwares on the market that may be a better fit with other creatives.