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(Last updated on November 18th, 2021)

Adobe Illustrator or Adobe InDesign? Which software is right for you?

Read this in-depth Illustrator vs. InDesign comparison if you want to make a wise decision.

Illustrator is a vector-based program designed to create resizable vector assets. The best benefit of using Illustrator is that everything you create here is scalable. Meaning, you can resize the asset without losing the resolution of the image. The software is great for creating logos, graphics, and more.

InDesign is also a vector-based program, created in 1999, designed as a page layout program. You can create magazines, interactive media, eBooks, and more in the program. The software is perfect for creating uniform layouts across large, multipage documents.

Related: Adobe Illustrator Cost: How Much is Illustrator? (up to 60% off)

Both Illustrator and InDesign are great programs targeted towards creating different final products. Read on to see what fits your needs.

Comparison At a Glance

1. Features
Winner: Adobe Illustrator. Adobe InDesign is specifically aimed at creating publications. Meanwhile, Illustrator is much more of a sandbox app, allowing you to create a much wider range of assets. InDesign, in terms of publications, is much better than Illustrator for workflow and organization, but overall offers less.

2. Pricing
Winner: Tie. The pricing between the software is exactly the same. You can either buy InDesign or Illustrator individually or both with the full Creative Cloud Bundle. You cannot buy either as a one-time purchase. They are only available via subscription.

3. Collaboration
Winner: Adobe InDesign. Adobe InDesign contains the Share to Review tool, allowing the user to collaborate with other team members without ever leaving the application. Other users can comment and critique, allowing the project a seamless revision process. Illustrator does not have this feature.

4. Publication Design
Winner: Adobe InDesign. This program is designed for creating a uniform page layout. While you can make a similar product in Illustrator, it would be much more time consuming and inefficient. The layout tools, master pages, and adaptive text layout all make InDesign a powerhouse.

5. Compatibility
Winner: Tie. Both Illustrator and InDesign work seamlessly with Adobe Creative Cloud apps, working the best as a trio with Adobe Photoshop. Illustrator and InDesign were meant to be compatible, collaborative apps, bringing together different types of assets into the same program. Together, they create great finished work.

6. Workflow
Winner: Tie. Illustrator and InDesign have their separate workflows. While InDesign is very straightforward and focused on layout, both programs are very customizable to fit your creative needs.

7. Users
Winner: Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator has a wider user base than InDesign. They have a bigger audience because it can create a wider variety of media assets. While both are more geared towards creative professionals rather than a casual user, Adobe Illustrator is used by more people.

8. Learning Curve
Winner: Adobe InDesign. This program is very straightforward in terms of its learning curve. Unlike Photoshop or Illustrator, the program’s tools solely focus on publication layout, therefore not bogging down the user with hundreds of tools.

Illustrator vs. InDesign: Summary

Both Adobe Illustrator and InDesign are powerful pieces of software. Taking the time to learn the programs depends on what you are using them for. If you need to create text-heavy or multipage documents, use InDesign. If you are a graphic designer specializing in creating graphics and one-page designs, use Illustrator.

However, if you want the most creative control and best use out of InDesign, you should also learn Illustrator to create great graphics for your work.

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1. Features

InDesign and Illustrator were designed to do different things. Illustrator is much less rigid than InDesign, allowing you to create everything from logos to flyers, illustrations, magazines, and so much more.

InDesign, while more limited to publication, is much more powerful than Illustrator when creating large documents. Both programs have useful features, depending on your needs.

Both Adobe Illustrator and InDesign are vector-based software, meaning that the design is based on mathematical equations (lines, curves, and points).

Vector is very useful for graphic designers making logos or other assets that need to be resized. Vector-based programs allow you to make an object smaller or bigger without losing quality.

Adobe Stock

Both Illustrator and InDesign have access to Adobe Typekit and Adobe Stock. Typekit is an incredibly useful font database, containing hundreds of fonts to use for your projects.

If you need a photo, graphic, or template option, Adobe Stock is perfect for you. Using the database, you can buy these assets via credits. Both resources connect seamlessly with the software.

Both programs are great at doing one-page designs. If the design is text-heavy, InDesign is great at adapting the text to fit as you resize columns and layout visually. Illustrator is powerful in creating colorful graphics that frame the piece. Together, the programs work very well in creating a finished final product.

Illustrator allows the user to create completely custom logos and graphics. Powerful tools, such as Shape-Builder, the Pen Tool, Curvature Tool, Selection Tools, and Layers, allow for quick graphic creation. Color tools, such as Recolor Artwork, allow the user to quickly change color pallets for the piece and avoid a tedious redesign.

Illustrator’s scalability is useful when creating things like logos for a company, able to be resized from a small business card image to a full-size billboard without losing quality.

Illustrator is also a master of typography, allowing the user to create custom fonts. You can import sketches of font design into the program, converting the drawing into a vector using the tool Image Trace. Utilizing third-party programs, you can organize your fonts and use them in your next creation.

Adobe has recently introduced a new feature to Illustrator called cloud documents. Cloud documents allow the user to save their files via the Adobe Cloud, allowing the user to access their files from anywhere, changes saved automatically. You also have access to document history, allowing you to go back to previous versions. Currently, InDesign does not have this feature.

In terms of creating uniform layouts and large publications, InDesign is much better suited than Illustrator. For example, you can easily add a page in the middle of the document without spending tedious time moving things around.

The program automatically renumbers pages for you. In Illustrator, the numbering is not automatic, and you would have to do this manually.

InDesign is also a master at creating e-books. You can quickly resize book layouts with InDesign, its AI offering layout suggestions that are intuitive and adaptive to the new sizes.

If you are working as the book designer for a writer, the collaborative Share to Review feature allows you to send out new versions and receive critique without ever leaving the application.

You can also create stunning presentations in InDesign. For the presentation, you can set paragraph styles and master pages to establish the theme. InDesign lets you import photos and graphics. You can also add interactive features such as slide transitions, animated videos, and hyperlinks.

Overall, Adobe Illustrator is the best software in terms of features. The capabilities of the software are extensive. You can create many of the same final products that you can in InDesign and much more.

Winner: Adobe Illustrator

2. Pricing

ProductRegular PriceDiscounted Price
Adobe Creative Cloud$52.99/monthCheck here
Adobe Illustrator$20.99/monthCheck here
Adobe InDesign$20.99/monthCheck here

The pricing for Adobe Illustrator and InDesign are completely the same.

Adobe Pricing

You can either:

  • Get the individual app for $20.99/month or $251.88/year. Both include Adobe Portfolio, Adobe Spark, Adobe Fonts, and 100 GB of cloud storage in the package.
  • Get the complete Creative Cloud suite for $52.99/month or $635.88/year. The package includes all of the Creative Cloud applications.

If you plan to use InDesign, I recommend going ahead and getting the full Creative Cloud Suite. The program works best in collaboration with Illustrator and Photoshop.

If you are creating graphics and one-page layouts, getting just Illustrator is a good option. The software is a great stand-alone piece.

Winner: Tie

3. Collaboration

InDesign allows you to share your work with others for feedback without ever leaving the application. The Share for Review feature is a powerful collaborative tool.

Adobe InDesign Collaboration

You can add people to view, no attachments necessary. People can even mark up and comment feedback in the chat window. Collaborators can then go and make the edits, resolving the revision within the chat built-in to InDesign. In terms of collaboration, InDesign couldn’t make the process easier.

Illustrator does not have a built-in share tool. While Illustrator has cloud documents, allowing files to be uploaded and stored in the cloud accessibly, you would still have to move off the application to collaborate with other people.

Winner: InDesign

4. Publication Design

Both Adobe Illustrator and InDesign can create publications. However, InDesign has templates and workflow designed specifically for this purpose. If you are creating anything beyond a simple one-page design, InDesign is the right choice.

There are many great reasons why InDesign is better publication software. For starters, the Properties tab allows you to resize the document without leaving the main window. You can adjust the height, width, and orientation on the main page.

In InDesign, you can also add pages and reorganize them very easily. In the Page layout, you can drag pages around to switch the positioning. You can easily add and delete pages within the Properties tab.

Meanwhile, adding pages and reorganizing them is a very time-consuming effort in Illustrator, forcing you to make the edits manually.

InDesign, unlike Illustrator, also uses a tool called Master Pages. This tool is essential for publication design because it creates consistency throughout the document. You can set headers, footers, columns, margin guides, and more for the master.

Lastly, InDesign is a powerhouse when working with text. Adjusting columns for print is easy, with InDesign automatically aligning text to create clean edges and good readability. Meanwhile, in applications like Illustrator, you would have to do this work manually. Not worth it for large projects.

Now, Illustrator can still be a vital tool in creating one-page publications. The software has many templates for flyers, postcards, and more, many of the same templates offered in InDesign. There are rulers and grids to help with alignment, Character and Type tools to adjust the text’s nuances.

Additionally, Illustrator being is a vector software so that everything can be endlessly resized. If the final product is bigger than 1-2 pages, however, Illustrator would be a tedious choice.

Adobe Illustrator Publication Design

Winner: InDesign

5. Compatibility

Both Adobe Illustrator and InDesign are very compatible programs. They work seamlessly with many of the Adobe Creative Cloud programs and work together very well. Illustrator and InDesign are both able to be used Windows and Mac operating systems.

Both programs have sister-apps on the iPad. Illustrator has a sister app called Adobe Fresco for iPad, which creates both pixel and vector illustrations, making it a great companion app.

Adobe Comp creates beautiful compositions for print and web, able to be exported into applications such as InDesign or Illustrator.

Again, Illustrator and InDesign are great used together. Illustrator is perfect for creating stand-alone vector graphics like a logo or icon. InDesign can only make limited shapes. Use Illustrator to create the general graphics, then import them into InDesign.

Winner: Tie

6. Workflow

Both Adobe Illustrator and InDesign have customizable workspaces. Every creator can fine-tune the software’s layout to suit their needs best.

They both customize the Workspace with options such as Essentials, Web, and Typography, to name a few, and arrange the window tiles to flow in a better direction.

Adobe InDesign Workflow

Both InDesign and Illustrator create a great workflow for the creator. Illustrator makes a more freeform sandbox approach that matches what the software is supposed to do: create clean, vector-based images. InDesign has a more rigid structure that works for its purpose: creating clean, publication work.

Winner: Tie

7. Users

More users are going to require Adobe Illustrator over InDesign. InDesign is specially tailored for publication professionals creating print media like magazines and books.

Meanwhile, Illustrator is perfect for creating vector art, flyers, business cards, logos, etc. Therefore, Illustrator is tailored to a wider audience.

InDesign is used by graphic designers as well as communications and marketing professionals to create print media. It is the lead software in the publishing industry, leaving old rivals such as Quark in the dust.

Illustrator is used by graphic artists, illustrators, and anyone who needs to create vector graphics. Almost every industry needs Illustrator so they can create resizable vector graphics. Being able to resize an asset without pixelation is invaluable.

Winner: Adobe Illustrator

8. Learning Curve

In comparison to other Adobe programs, InDesign has an easier learning curve. Illustrator is one of Adobe’s most complex programs, requiring the user to learn how to draw in vector mode, an alien concept to most.

For an absolute beginner, all Adobe programs will have a learning curve. As you learn more programs, the software language of Adobe will start to make sense to you. Adobe has similar layouts and tools across its programs, some more extensive in one program than another.

For example, Adobe Illustrator is designed to fine-tune vector graphics, almost all the tools specially designed for this purpose. Examples are the Selection tool, the Direct Selection tool, the Pen tool, the Curvature tool, and the Shape-Builder tool, to name a few.

InDesign can also create shapes but on a much more limited basis. Tools that crossover include the Pen Tool and Shape Tools (Rectangle, Oval, Polygon), but with much less creative precision overall.

The InDesign layout focuses the user on creating a publication. All of the essential tools are at your fingertips, without much explanation needed. Because the focus is solely on publication, there aren’t many tools to overwhelm the user. The majority of what you create in InDesign is the same medium, so you end up using the same tools over and over.

Meanwhile, Adobe Illustrator has a much bigger range of what you can create. Therefore, the tools and design process can be completely different, depending on what you are making. Creating a logo would be a different process than making a book cover, for example. The range and vector-mode of creation cause a steeper learning curve.

Winner: Adobe InDesign

Final Thoughts

Both Adobe Illustrator and InDesign are great programs for different purposes.

If you are not doing print media work and only specialize in creating illustrations, media assets, and simple one-page publications like flyers, use Adobe Illustrator. The program has everything you need to make these assets.

If you are doing text-heavy work and making the graphics, I say get the whole Adobe Creative Cloud bundle.

Why? InDesign works well in conjunction with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. It is not really meant to be a stand-alone application because it doesn’t edit photos or graphics, essential pieces of print work. Using the applications together, you can create stunning layouts with great graphics.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Illustrator and InDesign?

While both are vector-based systems, InDesign focuses on creating a large cohesive layout while Illustrator focuses on individual graphics or one-page projects.

Should I learn Illustrator or InDesign first?

If you work in a collaborative space and are not creating graphics, the only layout, learn InDesign. If you are doing both, learn Illustrator first to figure out how to make beautiful graphics, then use InDesign.

How hard is it to learn Adobe InDesign?

Compared to other Adobe programs, Adobe InDesign is easier to learn. Adobe offers many tutorials and learning lessons and the software itself is straightforward.

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