I Switched from Photoshop to Illustrator. Part 1: Reasons and Challenges

Magoz illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Since I became a professional illustrator, I always used Photoshop as my main drawing app. I developed a solid workflow in Photoshop that allowed me to work for newspapers where you need to work very fast and be effective.

Last year, I started to work with Jose on animations and that required vector illustrations. At the beginning, I kept working with Photoshop and then vectorising the resulting images using Vector Magic and Illustrator.

But after a while, I realized that that system required to invest a substantial amount of time to do the conversion and the results weren’t optimized for the animation process either.

I decided then to start using Illustrator to creating the illustrations for animations. I still used the sketch made in Photoshop as a guide.

Using Illustrator. First steps

At the beginning everything was a bit confusing, I had to adapt my mindset to a new environment. The rules were different, the tools were different, and even the interaction was different. The switch from Photoshop to Illustrator didn’t come alone. It wasn’t very comfortable to keep using the Cintiq tablet anymore, so I started using a mouse.

It wasn’t the first time I used Illustrator, I was familiar with it, but I never created a complete illustration from scratch in Illustrator. I faced a lot of challenges from the very beginning.

First challenges

  • Using a mouse
    I always used graphic tablets and switching to a mouse was tricky.
  • Unnatural way of drawing
    Probably, this has been the most important one. I love to work in Photoshop because it’s like painting with superpowers, very natural. The mouse is the opposite, but it also has benefits, I’m still adapting to it.
  • Layer system
    In Photoshop, layers were essential for developing illustrations. It looks like the layers in Illustrator look more like the layers folders in Photoshop. The elements inside of the layers in Illustrator would be the layers in Photoshop.
  • The Brush isn’t the main tool anymore
    Instead, the Pen tool, Shapes and Pathfinder are the ones that I use the most.
  • Several artworks per document
    It challenges the older system of one file per document, and it has a significant impact on the folder structure system.
  • GuideGuide not available
    I definitely miss GuideGuide plugin for Photoshop. I’ve created an Illustrator Action that achieves the same thing, but it’s not as flexible.
  • Canvas Rotation tool not available I love how Photoshop allows you to temporary rotate the canvas while you draw. It’s true that the way of working in Illustrator is more unnatural, and it’s not as useful, but I hope Adobe implements it at some point in Illustrator as well.
  • Transformation panel options
    It took me some time to realise the options of the Transformation panel “Scale Rectangle Corners” and “Scale Strokes & Effects”. I experimented some errors because those options were unchecked. After a while, I find those options very helpful.
  • Pixel Grid It also took me time to get familiar with the “Align to Pixel Grid” option, I also had errors with some shapes because I didn’t know about that option.

Illustrator as my main tool

After some weeks of experimenting with Illustrator, I feel comfortable, and my speed is increasing. I’m slowly polishing my workflow in Illustrator, learning new tools, shortcuts and even using some Actions.

Switching to Illustrator comes with a lot of bonuses as well. The very reduced file size, the possibility of exporting any size and resolution or the possibility of having different artworks inside of the same document are great new benefits. I will write about those benefits and discoveries in the following parts.

• • •

In the Part 2 I share with you how I stopped using Photoshop to create the sketches as well, and what do I use instead. It has been another massive change.