To Photoshop or Illustrator, that is the question

Photoshop and Illustrator, they’re basically the same right? Well, not quite. When starting out in design it’s easy to think of these two Adobe programmes as interchangeable, but while they have a lot of crossover – and are designed to complement each other – they were both created to serve different design purposes.

If you’re designing a t-shirt (or working on a design for any piece of clothing, for that matter!) it’s important to work with the software that’s most attuned to support the type of design you’re trying to create. To help you get a sense of which is best for you, we’ve run through the basics, with pros and cons for each.

photoshop for t-shirt design

What is Adobe Photoshop?

Perhaps the best known piece of photo manipulation software on the market, Photoshop is so well known that the brand name is now commonly used as a verb to describe any tweaks or edits done to a photo (particularly when it involves making someone appear more attractive).

But apart from being synonymous with airbrushed celeb snaps, Photoshop is a go-to piece of software for graphic designers, artists and photographers. It’s a raster graphics editing programme, which means it uses pixels for editing – so the more you zoom in, the bigger the pixels will appear, making it easy to make tiny, detailed adjustments. It uses a layer based system to allow users to make countless edits to an image, as well as create completely new ones.

Pros of using Photoshop

Cons of using Photoshop

illustrator for t-shirt design

What is Adobe Illustrator?

Another staple for designers, Illustrator is another key piece of professional software from Adobe. In many ways a companion to Photoshop, Illustrator was created as a tool for making everything from logos to icons, illustrations to typography.

Unlike Photoshop, Illustrator uses vectors – scalable images that will look the same whatever size you make them. This is why it’s so useful for things like logo design – images will look clear and crisp whether they’re on a billboard or a business card.

Pros of using Illustrator

Cons of using Illustrator

 photoshop vs illustrator for t-shirt design


When it comes to t-shirt design, which one you use will depend on the kind of image you’re working with. If the t-shirt design is  photo based – then Photoshop will definitely be the best choice of software. If the t-shirt design consists of a logo or text based graphic – Illustrator will be the most straightforward choice. Of course – most professional designers will use both, editing photos in Photoshop before pulling them into Illustrator to add text.

Ultimately, both pieces of software are powerful tools for design – whether you’re making a t-shirt or a poster – and they work together to offer endless potential for generating amazing, professional quality images.

Designing a t-shirt? At ICON Printing our expert team are always happy to talk you through any queries you might have. Get in touch.