Illustrator vs Photoshop: Which to Use for Web Design?

Both have terrific functionalities and could be used for web design. But who takes first place in the Illustrator vs Photoshop contest? We’re here to find out.

Web design
June 5, 2023

They are very similar, so when to use Illustrator vs Photoshop? We’re here to tell you about the different functionalities of the software and solve the Illustrator vs Photoshop dilemma.

Even if you’re a total design newbie, you definitely know about them. With many similarities between the two software, it can be challenging to decide when to use Illustrator vs photoshop.

Neither of them was primarily devised as web design software. So, the dilemma of Photoshop vs Illustrator can be even more difficult if this is the type of project you have on your hands.

Let’s start by going deeper into both options and discussing their functionalities. After that, we’ll go on to define which is a more useful tool for web design: Illustrator vs Photoshop.

What is Illustrator?

Illustrator is one of the first Adobe design software, created way back in 1987 with the first Macintosh computers.

Illustrator is a vector graphics editor, which means it is used to create, manipulate, and save vector graphics images.

Vector graphics are computer images created using a sequence of commands or mathematical statements that put lines and shapes in a two-dimensional or three-dimensional space. Vector graphics resemble connect-the-dot images, so they’re perfect for creating things like logos, typography, and sharp-edged illustrations.

Because of the way they’re created (mathematical formulas), vector graphics are easily scalable and don’t lose quality if you increase the size of the image.

What is Photoshop?

Regarding age, the difference between Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop is slightly in favor of the latter. Photoshop was launched a few years later than Illustrator in 1990 and created by Thomas and John Knoll.

Photoshop is a raster graphics editor used to create, manipulate, and save raster graphics images.

Raster graphics, also known as bitmap images, are digital images that use tiny rectangular pixels, or picture elements, arranged in a grid formation to form a complete picture. If you’ve ever zoomed in on a photo too much, you would have noticed the little rectangles appear.

vector raster.png

As you can see, Illustrator is generally much better suited for individual portions of web design. So, why is it that many designers still prefer Photoshop over Illustrator?

That said, while we will give a point here to Photoshop, the choice in this respect depends on your needs. A stunning graphic artwork will be a brilliant choice for some websites. Others (and a majority, in fact) only require simple graphic illustrations that you can easily create with Illustrator.

Bootcamp via Medium

The most crucial characteristic of raster images is that they support a wide range of colors and can depict subtle, graduated tones. That’s why raster images are used in photographs, shaded drawings, or complex illustration art.

Logo Depot

Adobe Illustrator vs. Photoshop: which to use for web design?

What is Illustrator used for vs Photoshop? Before we get into it, it's necessary to note that both Photoshop and Illustrator can be used for web design.

However, you want to decide which solution might better fit your needs. So, let's look at some of the critical aspects of web design and answer which of the two software is a better fit for them.

1. User-friendliness

If you haven't used either tool, this is the first concern we must address in the Adobe Illustrator vs Photoshop debate.

Which of the two tools is easier to use?

In general, Illustrator is slightly easier to use, especially for people with little to no design background. However, the two are very similar with most of the same tools. The main difference comes down to more advanced photo editing tools.

So, for that reason, this point in the Photoshop vs Illustrator duel goes to the latter.

2. Creating layouts/wireframes

Although both software are decent for creating simple "sketches" of a website, Illustrator has to win this round.

The reason for this is the ease of scaling graphics, which is particularly important in the early stages of creating a website's layout and different displays, including mobile displays.

3. Photo editing

Articles with visuals get 94% more views than those without. And consumers are 60% more likely to contact a business if an image appears in search results. So, some sort of visuals on your website is a must.

But professional photographers can be expensive and hard to come by. There are loads of stock photos readily available online, but using them without alterations will harm your brand image.

So, when you're building a website, you should also have the option to edit photos to match your brand and the website's overall look.

As you might suspect, this round of Illustrator vs Photoshop ends in Photoshop's favor since its primary purpose is photo editing.

3. Drawing and illustration

Illustrations are a fantastic way to give websites visual interest if you don't want to use photography.

Moreover, simple illustrations can be a terrific accompaniment and improve the user experience significantly. You can use them in infographics to simplify complex processes or add motion design to them to guide visitors through the website.

When it comes to the choice of Adobe Photoshop vs Illustrator in this area, things aren't exactly clear-cut. Photoshop drawing is definitely more refined, as the brush tool allows you to mix pixels and create unique colors and tones.

illustrator vs photoshop illustrations.png

5. Icons/symbols

So it looks like Photoshop is the superior tool for all things visual, right?

Not quite. There's a significant part of web design where Illustrator holds a major advantage: symbols and icons.

As the superior Adobe graphic design software, Illustrator has a fantastic symbols library that can be used for buttons, navigation menus, and more. Another extra helpful hack is instancing, which allows you to automatically change the symbol in every instance across your project (or add exceptions if you want to).

6. Typography

Fonts are a necessary part of your brand's visual identity. So, if you have created a brand's visual style guide, you probably have a few fonts that fit your brand's style.

However, you might discover that your primary fonts aren't ideal for web use. If you want to modify existing or create new typography, the choice of Photoshop vs Illustrator has a clear winner.

Illustrator is much better suited for creating typography. Since text is an essential component of web design, this is yet another good reason to choose Illustrator over Photoshop.

What is Illustrator used for vs Photoshop in web design?

So, let's quickly recap the results in the Adobe Illustrator vs Photoshop battle.


The reason for this is simple yet convincing.

Most websites use raster graphics and Google Images does too, so Photoshop could give you a better idea of what the design will look like when live.

However, if you still want to use Illustrator over Photoshop, here are a few nifty tricks to ensure the work produced in Illustrator is perfectly optimized for the web:

  1. Make sure you use pixels as metric units: Since designs display on screens of different sizes, inches and centimeters are not the most reliable units.
  2. Enable pixel preview: This is a lifesaving hack for using Illustrator for web design. It allows you to view vector graphics as raster graphics. When zooming in, they will get slightly distorted just as they will once they’re up on the web.
  3. Use symbols for buttons: Don’t forget about instancing as a great way to save time on design tweaks! If, however, you’d like to take a more custom route, check out our free icons gallery with thousands of trendy, editable designs.

So, if you're wondering what is Illustrator used for vs Photoshop in web design, the answer might go something like this.

Illustrator is better suited for specific web design projects, such as creating wireframes, mockups, and buttons. Photoshop is the superior tool for creating website visuals, including editing photos and drawing complex illustrations.

Need more web design help?

We hope this solves your Illustrator vs Photoshop dilemma and helps you choose the right software for your project.

For further web design reading, we recommend you check out our articles on the best web design tools and programs and the hottest web design trends.

Still in the woods when it comes to web design? No worries! Sign up with our unlimited design service today and get easy and affordable access to a team of web designers. Use our professionals to boost your team, or let us handle web design for you.

See how it works and check out some of the websites created for our clients.

Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.

Wait... there’s more!

Enjoyed the read? Subscribe to our mailing list for all the latest tips, how-tos and news on graphic design and marketing.

Wait... there’s more!

Enjoyed the read? Subscribe to our mailing list for all the latest tips, how-tos and news on graphic design and marketing.

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.