InDesign vs Illustrator

Some people might wonder what the difference is between InDesign and Illustrator. The two programs have some similar features, but they are geared towards different aspects of Desktop Publishing.

While there are plenty of articles about Quark VS InDesign, I often see questions about the difference between Illustrator and InDesign.

Many of the tools and graphical elements in the user interface of the two programs are similar. Many functions are similar. Printers who accept InDesign files will accept Adobe Illustrator files too. Soo, why can’t one just buy either program?

Illustrator and InDesign have two different purposes. While it is true that one can design an entire flyer in Illustrator and give to a printer to get it reproduced, there are things that Illustrator cannot do, when we talk about laying out a piece of literature.

The first problem arises when one tries to design a multi-page document. Illustrator can only deal with one page at the time. That means one file for each page. It also means that consistency could go out the window because you don’t have the aid of master pages and other tools that you do find in InDesign. You might think: “Oh well, not a big deal, I will just copy and paste the repetitive elements in each document.” Just the fact that you have to create a new document for each page is tedious. Then you start copying and pasting elements in each document, making sure they are all exactly on the same spot, and if a graphic element is going to run through a spread of two or more pages, then you will really start having a hard time. Imagine doing all this for a publication with 120 pages.

InDesign has also other tools that aid the designer in his workflow. It has preflight tools that help the designer see if all the elements of the document are as they should be for offset printing. You can easily check which images are CMYK and which ones are RGB without having to open all of them in Photoshop or some other graphics editing program to find out. You also have a packaging function, which allows you to collect all the files needed for a publication, flyer and so on, in one place. That is images, fonts and obviously the InDesign file.

InDesign gives you a better control over how to place external images withing an InDesign document and treats clipping paths differently from Illustrator.

The tools in the Tools palette of the two programs are different, as well as other functions. InDesign has tools that allows you to do basic editing, such as the Line tool, Shape tools, Scissors Tools and so on. Those tools allow you to create some basic shapes and so on, so you don’t have to open another program, such as Illustrator of Photoshop, to draw a rectangle or a line. However when we talk about graphics editing Illustrator is way superior to InDesign. This is because Illustrator is designed to handle graphics, particularly vector graphics. Illustrator as an array of tools that allow you to do all sorts of things with graphics. It has filters, even 3D options. Illustrator’s purpose is to create and edit vector graphics and that is its strongest point. It is much superior than InDesign in that regard. Don’t use InDesign for extensive vector graphics editing, because it is like using a toothbrush to sweep your floor.

Yet when we talk about laying out a publication, you are better off using InDesign, as that’s what it’s for and its tools are supposed to make your life easier while you design. You would be importing graphics you have made in Illustrator, or Photoshop or what have you, into InDesign. InDesign is what brings everything else together and what will give you the final result. Yes you can use Illustrator for laying out single page documents, just keep in mind that you won’t have the aid of the tools which you would otherwise find in InDesign.

As I said at the beginning, the difference between InDesign and Illustrator is in their purpose and, conesequently, they were developed with different focus.