Which one should you use?


There are many tools available from Adobe that help graphic designers and production artists create engaging content. However, not all are the same, and in most cases, each design tool performs different tasks. Therefore, to produce high quality content at a lower cost, you need to know the main differences between these graphic design tools.

Read on to learn about the differences between InDesign and Illustrator.

What is Adobe InDesign?

InDesign is a professional tool that helps you create high-quality page and layout designs for digital or print media. It also gives you access to Adobe Stock for fonts from the world’s largest foundries and all kinds of images.

Adobe InDesign also makes your content management tasks easier with Adobe Experience Manager. Therefore, the tool provides you with everything you need to produce and publish a wide range of print or digital media such as books, e-books, digital magazines, and product brochures.

What is Adobe Illustrator?

Designers who create designs for mobile, interactive video, print, and the web consider Adobe Illustrator to be the gold standard in the industry. It is basically a vector graphics drawing and editing software from Adobe Creative Suite. With your creativity, you can create high-quality illustrations of actual events to get rid of the use of stock images on your web pages or mobile apps.

Illustrator is quickly becoming more popular among content creators and freelance designers who want to take care of their own design work. With its many drawing functions, you can create a variety of artwork for digital or print media projects.

A visual showing the InDesign interface

InDesign comes with several features, such as an elaborate toolkit. Some of the tools in this application allow you to select, edit, and create page components. Another set of tools allows you to select type, lines, shapes, and gradients.

InDesign’s Adobe Capture extension feature lets you extract design elements such as color palettes, shapes, and fonts from an inspirational image. You can use these extracted resources to create authentic content using your own imagination.

Related: How to Choose a Color Scheme for Your App: Things to Consider

Apart from the design features, this tool also comes with robust layout editing and printing options.

An image showing the Illustrator interface

On the other hand, Illustrator offers more drawing features than InDesign. Tools like Selection, Pen, Curvature, and Lying down lets you quickly create unique designs with drag and drop editing. The Recolor illustrations is an AI-based color tool that quickly swaps design colors without manual editing.

Automations and integrations

You can easily integrate InDesign with other third-party applications to export and import content or layouts. For example, the integration of Brightspot and InDesign facilitates the effortless digital-to-print workflow for newspapers, magazines, and books. InDesign can also integrate with third-party content management systems such as Canto DAM.

Similar to InDesign, Illustrator can also connect to third-party applications such as content management systems with limited options. However, it has robust integration with other Adobe Creative Suite tools like Photoshop and Adobe PDF.

An image showing automation scripts in Illustrator

Illustrator supports various file formats so that you can reuse designs and illustrations from other tools. The tool can effortlessly import Photoshop, Adobe PDF, AutoCAD, EPS, and DCS illustrations.

For automating the design workflow in Illustrator, you can use features such as actions and scripts.

User-friendliness and learning curve

A visual showing InDesign models

Adobe Creative Suite tools are intended for professional-level work. Therefore, you have to go through some learning before you become an expert. However, the latest InDesign and Illustrator apps are easy to navigate compared to previous versions.

InDesign and Illustrator offer a wide range of ready-to-use templates free of charge; you will find templates for several popular design projects. Additionally, Illustrator provides an interactive learning tool that helps you create basic designs like Pac-Man, Flower, Mobile Device, etc.


InDesign has flexible and intuitive features for collaborative design projects. You don’t have to leave your app to view design work or comments. The Share for Review option allows you to initiate a collaborative discussion with the customer and manage comments from one place.

On InDesign, you can change document access to Invitation Only or Public Link to meet the requirements of your project.

Illustrator also supports collaborative work through the Illustrator cloud document feature. Besides sharing, it goes further and gives you access to your work on many devices. Therefore, if you have to travel, resume your work on iPad, which you left unfinished on your desk.

Online or offline publication work

An image showing the Properties tab in InDesign

InDesign is a powerful tool for publishing print or digital media. You can resize your document without leaving the actual file by using the tools in the Properties tongue. You can change orientation, width and height in real time.

It also makes it possible to rearrange the pages with a few clicks and even add a new page in the middle of the book without manual work. In addition, using the Master pages feature, you can create uniform columns, footers, headers and margin guides for all pages.

On the contrary, Illustrator is only suitable for one-page content publishing tasks. You can use the ruler and grid tools for content alignment. The Character and Type The tools help you change fonts and text styles.

Related: The Best Free Alternatives to Adobe Illustrator Browser Based

When to use InDesign

A designer who thinks about when to use InDesign

The general rule of thumb is that you should use InDesign when your design project includes a lot of text per page, page numbers, and uniform layout or designs. Therefore, when you need to create designs for posters, flyers, postcards, eBooks, brochures, resumes, presentations, or menus, InDesign is the best choice.

This tool is also useful when you need to create multiple documents from a master template. For example, InDesign Data fusion feature allows you to automate the work of producing business cards. If you need to create cards for multiple clients, you can reuse a template instead of starting from scratch.

When to use Illustrator

An illustration to show when to use Illustrator

On the contrary, Illustrator is more of a drawing tool. It has various drawing features that allow you to use your imagination to create works of art. According to Adobe, this tool is suitable for creating content like fonts, logos, icons, designs based on cursive fonts, graphics, banners, infographics and wallpapers.

Illustrator is also suitable for creating designs for app / website user interfaces, wireframes or landing pages. The tool allows you to easily increase or decrease the content. You can also move around the canvas content via drag and drop actions.

Adobe InDesign vs Illustrator: be versatile

InDesign and Illustrator have a different set of features that when combined deliver great results. You need a set of tools, rather than relying on just one, to do the best job in a graphic design project.

If your goal is to become an expert graphic designer, it’s high time you took hands-on training on the entire Adobe suite of graphic design tools, including InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator.


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