Let me start by saying that I’m a complete novice when it comes to illustrator. However in all my years of manipulating photos and producing decent quality graphic design work, I’ve never really been forced to use Illustrator and the well-known .ai and .eps file types. I’m sure there are designers out there who have used both applications successfully but for some reason, I’ve never really got to grips with Illustrator and creating files from scratch using it. The few times I’ve tried to teach myself and learn on the fly have ended up with too much time spent Googling the tutorial, and normally resulting in me to using Photoshop somehow.
The main reason that I’ve seen people using Illustrator for is for the purposes of print. Illustrator files are mainly based on vector images, meaning that once you create the image, you can increase or decrease to any size without compromising on the quality. Of course it’s true that if you created a Photoshop file from scratch and it was large enough in resolution, you could arguably scale it down without losing quality. But in Photoshop, once you scale down and the complete the render, you can’t scale back up again without losing the quality and making the image do that horrible “blocky” thing!
Now I’m not suggesting to anyone starting out with these sorts of programs that you try and make it work using Photoshop because it can cause headaches, a bit of extra work and most certainly doesn’t follow the industry standard for printer formats. I would definitely suggest sticking with Illustrator for print related material and learn Photoshop too. I know that courses can be fairly expensive but it’s worth it I think if you are working in some sort of marketing department where you need to regularly produce print.
So I still use Photoshop to produce everything and if people really need .eps files etc., I can literally drag and drop them from Photoshop into Illustrator and it seems to do somewhat of a conversion. This conversion isn’t into a full vector image but as long as the resolution is higher than the eventual 100% scaled print material, you wont lose quality. Just remember not to scale up and make it go all “blocky”. Over the years I’ve built relationships with printers who actually don’t mind using .psd and .pdf documents, as long as the resolution is very high. For example, if I’ve designed business cards in the past, I do them in Photoshop, make them really high resolution and then PDF them with the correct crop/bleed marks.
Crop / bleed mark tip:
One trick I’ve learned for business cards is that most cards printed are about the same size (unless client is specific) so what you can do is make the top layer in Photoshop effectively a white thick border with the crop marks over the top but merged as one layer, as long as you keep the size of the canvas the same and this border as the very top layer, everything you do in the layers underneath with always be within the required guidelines.
The main exceptions for Photoshop and when it becomes trickier are when you are designing things like vehicle signage. I’ve designed several different styles for fleet vehicles including basic signage to full wraps. Each time I’ve struggled a little to get the printed results in the correct resolution. The way to cheat is as I said before and produce very large and hi-res images to then slightly shrink down to print and never losing quality. But 2 problems with this, 1: the file size is massive and 2: some large vinyl printers only accept .eps / vector file types.
So my advice to anyone who, like me, is good with Photoshop but not with Illustrator, get on a course and I’m sure you will pickup the basics enough to get a good understanding of how to use it effectively. Plus, let’s face it, they are both made by Adobe so a lot of the controls are similar, it’s just knowing how to get going.
There will come a time where I am forced into going on a proper course to learn more about industry standards as you could get caught out on a project and the last thing you want is to let a client down.