Illustrator is the industry-standard vector graphics and illustration app. Designers and illustrators use it to create logos, web graphics, fashion designs, product packaging, and so much more.
What can you do with Illustrator?
Even if you can't draw things by hand, there’s still a lot of things you can do with Adobe Illustrator. Before we talk about some of the common ways people use Illustrator, let’s quickly cover the difference between vectors and pixels.
Vectors versus Pixels
Adobe Illustrator is vector-based, and Adobe Photoshop is primarily pixel-based.
- Pixel-based graphics: When you capture an image on a digital camera or scanner, it is converted into pixels (small square blocks that are a single color). The more pixels you capture, the more information (detail) is in the image file. The number of pixels limits how far you can zoom in before seeing the pixels, or how large you can print the image at good quality.
- Vector-based graphics: Vector graphics are not made of pixels. They are comprised of paths (Bézier curves) that behind the scenes are mathematically described as perfectly clean lines, points, and curves. Vector graphics can be enlarged to any size with no loss of quality, so they are ideal for graphics such as logos and icons.
Drawings & Illustrations
One way to create a vector drawing/illustration is to draw it by hand and then trace it in Adobe Illustrator. You can also draw directly in Illustrator. Having artistic talent helps, but even if you can’t draw well in real life, you can still use Illustrator’s drawing tools to create things you might never have been able to create by hand.
Logos & Icons
It’s important to create logos as vectors, so they can be used at any size. Creating a logo in Photoshop as pixels would be a mistake because you’d limit the quality and size at which you can use the logo. Icons are used in websites, apps, print, and all types of design. These two are best drawn as vectors so they can be scaled without loss of quality.
Web Graphics & Social Media
Vector graphics can be used in websites as SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics). Social media graphics often require converting your designs into pixel-based PNG or JPEG files, but it can still be easier to work with vectors during the design process.
Fashion designers often use Illustrator to create patterns (controlling how art repeats within a pattern), explore color, and to show how patterns look in a dress, shirt, pants, etc.
Designers that create packaging appreciate Illustrator’s precision and many graphic features. Amazing typography, graphic effects, ability to import photos and many more features let packaging designers create the beautiful packaging material that will be printed and used to sell/protect the products we purchase.
Adobe Illustrator is an essential design app for many creatives to know because you often need to create or edit vector graphics for use in InDesign, Photoshop, After Effects, and many non-Adobe programs.