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Should you use Photoshop or Illustrator for your pattern designs?


Should you use Photoshop and illustrator for surface pattern designs?

One of the things that I know people get really confused about when they’re new to pattern designing is which program that they should use. So I wanted to give you some pros and cons of each program.

Before I do, I did want to say that there is a common misconception that you need to use illustrator in order to create your pattern repeats. But this simply is not true. You can absolutely use both Photoshop and illustrator and in fact, if you are working in industry in a full-time job, most companies will require that you know how to use both of the programs. And the thing is, each of the programs is better for different things. So if you do know how to use both, you can then use the right program to create the end results that you’re after.

Start with one program

You really want to start with just one program. If you try to learn illustrator and Photoshop at the same time, you will end up  being very confused. I liken it to learning two Latin languages. So for example, if you were going to learn Italian and Spanish at the same time, having not known how to speak either of them, you would just get really confused. So I recommend starting with one program and then learning the second one. Once you feel comfortable with the first then you can learn the second

I’m going to start with Photoshop. Photoshop is what’s called a raster program which means it’s made up of pixels. So that means it’s made up of those little squares. If you zoom right in on a Photoshop file, you’ll be able to see all of those little pixels. One of the great things about creating artwork in Photoshop is that you can create artwork that resembles artwork that has been created by hand. You can use a fantastic range of beautiful brushes that you can create your artwork with and replicate hand-created artwork.

When you’re creating artwork in Illustrator, you won’t get that same hand-created, look and feel that you get in Photoshop. If you’re creating hand-created artwork and you want to use them in Illustrator you will need to image trace it, which means you need to vectorize it and turn it into shapes. If you’re happy to have your artwork with a vectorized feel to it then Illustrator is great however if you want a more realistic look then it’s better to use Photoshop. Essentially the difference between the two programs is that you can create quite different looks and feels to the artwork that you can create.

So generally what I suggest is if you’re really unsure of which program to use is to think about how you’re going to be creating the artwork and the look and feel you’re wanting to create. Think about what kind of look and feel that you’re wanting to create and then go from there because the thing is you can absolutely create pattern repeats in both those programs.

We dive deeper into the differences between the two programs in this podcast episode.

You can download my Pattern Design Secrets eBook here


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