Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Overview of Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign

Matching Software to Projects

Everyone and their grandma knows that Photoshop is, and most people have heard of Illustrator and Flash, but other Adobe software, such as InDesign and Dreamweaver remain in the depths of obscurity all most but those familiar with multimedia software.  What is the point of all these different random sets of software, and when would it be best to use one over the other?  If someone wants to make a poster, would it be better to use InDesign or Illustrator?  What about Photoshop?  This blog topic seeks to explain the very basic differences between Adobe's big names and help readers easily match projects to the software most appropriate. Differences will be compared slowly in a series of blog posts about common tools, their differences, and then different tools and their advantages over each other.  Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign will be the main focuses of this project.

This article will serve as an overview to explain the best uses for the three different software outlined above.  Though some of their uses are interchangeable, each software has things it is more specifically designed to do.  

Photoshop - Drawing and Photo-editing
Illustrator - Drawing an Graphic Design
InDesign - Layout and Design


There are a ton of things that one can do in photoshop, but the processes during which it shines most are definitely drawing and photo manipulation. 

You'll recall the great deal of variation in Photoshop's pen tool discussed in the Pen Tool article from this same series. 

Photoshop comes prepared with a wide variety of brushes, most of which you can modify the size and hardness of.  And as if the brushes pictured above weren't enough, there are a great variety of different brushes you can access through the arrow button on the top left of the brush box.

Further, you can even save the customized brushes based off modifications you have made to existing brushes.  From the toolbar, access Window > Brush and this will open a window that allows you to customize your brushes further.

There are quite a variety of brushes can be modified.  You can even turn a simple brush like the one pictured to the left into something dynamic like the brush set on the right.  Once you have a brush you like, you can save it from the initial brush drop down menu.  Just click the square button at the top left and a window will pop-up and prompt you to name your new brush.

There are even a variety of places online where you can download new photoshop brushes.  myPHOTOSHOP BRUSHES.com and Brusheezy are but two examples.  Though some places will need payment in exchange, many websites and artists give out exceptional brushes for free.

Though the Pen Tool alone seems a to make Photoshop fantastic, let's go over the tools that gave Photoshop its name and made it into a great software for photo manipulation.

Perhaps the most useful and easiest photo manipulation tool in Photoshop's arsenal is the Adjustments window, which can be accessed via Window > Adjustments.  From here, you can easily edit a photo's Hue/Saturation, Brightness/Contrast, Color, etc.  

The handy thing about working from this window is that every time a new adjustment is done to the photo, it is added as a layer, so you can easily undo recent edits and compare different variations. 

In this situation, I added three different adjustments. 

Though the differences don't seem to be that drastic here, they can be substantial when making photos more dynamic and interesting and change moods entirely.  And all this can be done with only a few simple clicks.

There are also a lot of fantastic tools for actually modifying images (that's where that famous "that was definitely photoshoped" comes in).  These include great tools like the clone tool, spot healing brush tool, etc.  

For a great series of easy to understand tutorials, check out the Adobe TV website.


Illustrator's strength lies in its ability to draw and create graphics.  As covered in the vectors article, this means that once your graphic has been created, it can be increased almost infinitely without worry of a decrease in quality, aka pixelation.  This means that it is ideal for creating posters that need to be in a variety of sizes.  Illustrator also shines in the creation of closed shapes.  That is, one can easily create geometric shapes and modify them substantially.

Using the pen tool, it's quite easy to make straight lines (see left), and if those lines are connected, they can be filled to form shapes, such as this right triangle.

If we then choose the pencil tool, and draw along the edge of the shape, we can very easily change the shape into anything we desire, while still keeping it a singular object.

Once we have an object, we can edit its appearance, which is where some of the real fun of Illustrator begins.  The Appearance tab can be opened by going to Window > Appearance.  Notice that this simple shape already has a stroke and a fill.  We can modify these, or create new ones.

Just by adding strokes and increasing their sizes, I was able to make a very different shape than I had before.  From here I can make a wide variety of changes to this shape.

Making sure to select whatever part I want to edit (click Path in theAppearances tab in order to select the entire object), I can then go to the Effect dropdown menu.  This allows me to apply a variety of changes to the object.

I can roughen it by going to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen.

I can warp it by going to Effect > Warp > Arc.

I can even add round corners by going to  Effect > Stylize > Round Corners.  

You can even create multiple copies using the transform effect.  There are a ton of great effects and tools in Illustrator, and you'll have to do some digging to discover them for yourself.  Also for check outAdobe TV for a series of great easy to follow tutorials! 

In Design

When it comes to putting together books and pamphlets, InDesign is the way to go.  InDesign has a series of useful features that allow you to focus more on the layout of what you're doing than the actual individual elements.

Much of InDesign is set up to prepare an item for printing.  Notice the pink and purple lines.  These are set up to show you were the margins of your page are.

If you click the Rectangular Frame Tool, you can create a space where objects can be placed, for example, pictures or text.  Objects will not flow out of our rectangular frame, but stay neatly inside, so that you always format things exactly.


When you know you want to put text in a certain area, but don't have the text on hand or haven't written it yet, you can use the handy Fill with Placeholder text tool, so that you can see how much text you can fit into the box and test out sizes.  As you'll remember from the Text Tool Article in this same series, you can link text between multiple text boxes.  This allows you to do things like continue a story from page to page. 

InDesign is most practical for layout.  For a great series of tutorials on InDesign, check out Adobe TV!