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If Photoshop Was Batman, Then Illustrator Would Be…

posted by Matt Ward on Jan 9, 2010.

Perhaps as a direct result of too much Batman: Arkham Asylum, I found myself asking the question: If Photoshop was Batman, what would Illustrator be? In this silly little article, I explore some of the intriguing possibilities.

Can we have a little fun in this post? Let’s start by me admitting that I’m a pretty big Batman fan. I’m not obsessive. I don’t follow the story lines or buy all the comics every month, but I have a deep interest in the Dark Knight as a character. He’s troubled and complex and terribly interesting – definitely my favorite comic character of all time!

I was also lucky enough to get Batman: Arkham Asylum for my X-Box 360 this Christmas, and I am absolutely loving the game (even though I haven’t really had the chance to play at all over the past few days). It’s probably one of the best games I’ve ever played, and it’s gotten me back onto a big Batman kick.

Batman (click for image source)

Batman (click for image source)

So, what does this have to do with design? Absolutely nothing!

However, a few months ago, I was reading a pair of articles over at GoMediaZine, where the author had Photoshop and Illustrator engage each other in an epic and imaginative battle of words. It was an interesting pairing of articles. Personally, I found the writing to be a tad obnoxious, but that’s just how some people roll. Anyhow, the posts stuck with me, and I think back to them every once in a while.

One of the things that really struck me, though, was the way that the author simply presupposed this massively antagonistic relationship between Photoshop and Illustrator. Personally, I don’t see it at all. For me they are like the Dynamic Duo of my design workflow! Each application serves its purpose, and I quite often use them in tandem.

I find they work quite well together when I am working with more complex vector illustrations in Photoshop. I create a vector Smart Object in Photoshop, opening and editing it in Illustrator, as necessary. It works really well for me.

Still, there seem to be a variety of different views on the relationship between these two applications, and I found myself thinking about various relationships between Batman and the various characters in the DC universe. More specifically, the thought occurred to me – if Photoshop was Batman, what would Illustrator be? Here are some possible scenarios.

Superman

Superman (click for image source)

They’re both on the same side, but their methods are quite different, and as such they occasionally clash, though usually with a peaceful resolution. In this scenario, Illustrator is unquestionably the stronger of the two, with its polished and squeaky clean image(s).

Photoshop on the other hand, works in the rougher, grungier world of pixels. It may not have the same Kryptonian strength, but it’s bag of tricks had more to offer, and it’s not afraid to get its hands a little dirty to get the job done.

Also, they rule over completely different areas. Photoshop is the Dark Knight of Gotham’s pixel graphics, while Illustrator keeps its vigil over Metropolis’ vector art.

Robin

Robin (click for image source)

Photoshop is the head of the operation, here. He makes most of the decisions, calls most of the shots, while Illustrator is the younger, less experienced sidekick. Sure, Illustrator has a few good tricks – it’s flexible and acrobatic, but it lacks the vast knowledge of Photoshop.

Illustrator dreams of making it on its own one day, and does occasionally find itself taking on solo missions. For the most part, though, it remains firmly and safely under the tutelage of Photoshop, who it looks at like a friend and mentor, someone to appreciate and learn from.

Nightwing

Nightwing (click for image source)

Illustrator is all grown up. It used to be more of a sidekick to Photoshop, but has finally matured and struck out on its own. It’s still acrobatic and flexible, but has also grown in strength and is now more than capable of handling things all by itself.

Still, Illustrator recognizes that it’s working in Photoshop’s turf. Illustrator may have grown up enough to be able to handle itself out on the the tough streets of Gotham, but there is no doubt as to who is the big Bat in town.

Note: For the purposes of this article, I am purposefully disregarding the fact that Nightwing/Dick Grayson does actually don the cowl for a while.

Alfred

Alfred (click for image source)

Illustrator is level-headed, hard working and incredibly loyal. It’s saved Photoshop more than a few times in the past, cleaned up messes, stitched up mistakes and just helped keep the entire operation glued together. Photoshop could probably survive without it, but it just wouldn’t be the same.

Ultimately, though, Illustrator remains Photoshop’s butler. It works hard and diligently, but all of it’s efforts are ultimately done to support Photoshop in some way.

Catwoman

Catwoman (click for image source)

Photoshop and Illustrator never know what their relationship is going to be like on a given day. Sometimes they find themselves working together towards a common goal. At other times, though, they are at each others throats, battling each other towards conflicting and irreconcilable ends.

Neither would consider themselves enemies, and there are even hints of some level of mutual attraction. At the same time, though, they just cannot bring themselves to completely consider themselves allies either. They both see themselves as be doing good work, but while they do share some similar methodologies, their approaches are just too different for them to work well together on a consistent basis.

Lately, though, there have been more positive encounters than negative…

Ra's al Ghul

Ra's al Ghul (click for image source)

Both Photoshop and Illustrator believe themselves to be working towards the greater good, but their ideologies and approaches to achieving their purposes are so incredibly different that they cannot help but come into direct conflict time and time again, often violently.

Despite their differences, though, there remains a grudging respect between them, as they each recognize the other’s unique strengths and abilities. In the most extreme of circumstances, they may even be willing to temporarily set aside their animosity and work together towards a common goal. Such an alliance must always teeter on the edge of the proverbial knife, and both sides know that it simply will not last.

Joker

Joker (click for image source)

There is nothing buy enmity and hatred here. Everything they do opposes each other and there is no hope of any alliance ever forming. In fact, their actions are almost entirely antagonistic to each other, especially Illustrator’s whose brightly coloured exterior masks a much deeper psychosis.

Each drives the other, however, in a sort of cyclical relationship in which Illustrator obsesses with besting, and perhaps even destroying Photoshop, while the ever-resourceful Photoshop continues to find ways to overcome Illustrator’s plots, but refuses to cross into that place where he ultimately destroys his arch-rival.

Final Thoughts

Alright, I think it’s fair to say that none of these imaginings will perfectly depict the relationship that exists between Photoshop and Illustrator. There are just too many varying factors, both between the applications themselves and between the various characters from the DC Comics universe. Still, I hope you found it to be a fun little exercise, and that it got your thinking about the relationship between Illustrator and Photoshop in your own workflow.

Do you keep the two applications completely separate from each other, with no thought for combining them? Or, do they function more as a team, working together to achieve the same ultimate goal? Are you satisfied with this relationship, or do you want it to change and evolve into something more productive? Even if this article was mostly just fun and silly inner-geek indulgence, these last few questions are interesting and at least worth thinking about (assuming, of course, that you actually use Illustrator and Photoshop).

Adobe has been making strides over the past several releases to help both applications play nicely together, through the introduction of things like Smart Objects. Illustrator is also equipped with some raster-based effects and familiar Photoshop filters. Personally, I find that the movement from Illustrator into Photoshop is much smoother than the inverse, though this likely at least partially due to the way that I like to work.

With that being said, though, it’s your turn to talk. What do you think? If Photoshop was Batman, who would Illustrator be for you? Would you name anyone on this list or would you choose someone else entirely? The Riddler? Bane? Commissioner Gordon? I’d love to hear your views on this (silly?) comparison! Hope you enjoyed it, too!

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Also from Echo Enduring Media:

An Unfolding Tale

About the Author

Matt Ward is a digital artist who lances freely under the moniker of Echo Enduring Media, and specializes in graphics design, illustration and writing. He is also the Creative Director for Highland Marketing, a creative direct marketing company based out of Waterloo, Ontario. You can follow Matt on Twitter

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Comments

Jan 9, 2010

rafael armstrong says:

I’ve always imagined Bats to be a relatively conservative and right-wing millionaire, so I’d have to say Illustrator would be his left-wing counterpart (and definitely my fave DC hero)– Green Arrow.

Jan 9, 2010

Matt Ward says:

Interesting. I’m pretty much a one hero kinda a guy in the DC universe, so I don’t know a tong about the Green Arrow. I did write an essay in university about Batman, though, where I questioned the validity of his connection with conservative capitalism… I should go back and review that one… thanks for the comment :)

Jan 9, 2010

Design Informer says:

That was an incredibly fun article to read. Very unique and out-of-the box. I like it.

Personally, I think the Batman and Superman analogy is the most accurate, but it’s still not perfect.

Great article Matt!

Jan 9, 2010

Matt Ward says:

Thanks, Jad. Glad you liked it. It was fun to right. And you’re right – none of the analogies are quite perfect.

Mar 8, 2010

sinrevelar says:

Fun enough! I´ll have to credit the Batman-Superman to be the most accurate. In one hand, Pixels are tricky and diffcult to approach, as Gotham City. And Metropolis is outstanding and technological, always expanding in a clean (not so clean underground) comparable to vectors (which aren´t clean to work with most of the times) Even though I loved the post.! Thx!

Jan 9, 2010

Anthony Licari says:

Some decent thoughts. Not so keen on the “Robin” one though. The comparison is being made through the eyes of Photoshop as Photoshop is being defined as “Batman” and Illustrator is the one given the variable. Had Illustrator been defined as Batman and Photoshop relative to Illustrator standards almost all the examples could be reversed which pretty much shows that the two are entirely different applications, serving different purposes.

I personally rarely touch Photoshop but then again I’m not really a designer, I just draw little cartoons every now and then in Illustrator.

One time I did need to run some batch commands on thousands of images and Photoshop handled that nicely.

Jan 9, 2010

Matt Ward says:

Well said, Anthony. I had thought of that as I was writing too. Perhaps I should have included a similar comment in the article itself. I tend to use Photoshop a bit more frequently, and I do think that it is probably the more powerful of the two applications, but that’s just my personal view on what could be a hotly contested subject.

Not so keen on the Robin one, eh? Fair enough. At first, I kind of thought my own view of the programs fell in the “Robin” arena, but the more I think about it, the more I have to say it’s Nightwing. Illustrator is a fine program in its own right, and perfectly capable of standing on it’s own two feet. But, at least for me, Photoshop is still the kind of the castle, or the big Bat in Gotham… or whatever metaphor works :)

Thanks for the insight, though. I certainly think that many of the relationships could have been inversed if Illustrator had been the constant.

Jan 10, 2010

Javier Mateos says:

Hey nice article was fun for reading, I don’t usually post comments but guess this one is worth to say Illustrator would be Vicki Vale, she is sexy and as Illustrator you use it for it’s curves!

Ps: sorry for any typos Im at the iPod heh…

Jan 10, 2010

Sun says:

That was an excellent post!! I too think that its Bat & superman!

Jan 10, 2010

OllieJ says:

I agree that this is a fantastic article, and a much better executed scenario than the GoMedia version (mainly because I’m not into giant fighting Japanese robots).

I think the scenario I like best is Batman/Superman. You hit the nail on the head in regards to Illustrator’s squeaky clean, bright colors. Superman’s costume intentionally looks the way to show that he can be trusted, that humans have nothing to fear from the Kryptonian, and that he can handle the oversized jobs that can be too much for regular men.

Jan 10, 2010

Rachel says:

Love the analogy. I would go with Batman/Superman combo. I tend to only work on photos in photoshop and single page layouts in illustrator. So I am working the other way round to most designers.

It was a while before I understood why people work the other way round. But then my job is largely layout only within a brand style.

Jan 10, 2010

Grabbins says:

I use Illustrator and Photoshop everyday and I personally loved the idea of Illustrator being Alfred! It was a quirky comparison and I didn’t see it coming! I like the way you said “Illustrator is level-headed, hard working and incredibly loyal” that for summed it up for me.

Cool post and some great analogies. This is the first time I’ve come across your site and I’ll soon be back for more no doubt :)

Jan 10, 2010

Rob Bowen says:

Great post, indeed! Really thoughtful and refreshingly original approach to this discussion. From the beginning, as soon as you posed the question, Nightwing was my first instinct, and when I saw him on the list, i knew that would be my answer.

There were a lot of great comparisons here, but for my part, and in my mind, Nightwing is the winner! But I guess, each could be applied, depending on the user. Each of us relate to the two programs in completely different manners, and therefore, we may all see the relationship differently.

Again, great post.

Jan 11, 2010

Matt Ward says:

Right on! Nightwing is definitely one of my favorite characters. I like the evolution of Dick Grayson into a full on hero in his own right! He has a killer costume too ;) But yeah, I think that Nightwing makes the best comparison for me too.

Jan 10, 2010

Lea Eva says:

Bruce Wayne – of course!

They’re one of the same, yet each has their own strengths and work well independent or together.

Great article idea…

Jan 11, 2010

Matt Ward says:

Interesting! I hadn’t even thought of including Bruce Wayne in the post, but it’s a totally interesting idea. Two sides of the same coin (Two-Face anyone?), but also strangely independent of each other. I really like this line of thinking! Thanks so much!

Jan 11, 2010

Bonita says:

excellent article!! great to read!! :D

In my opinion, the Catwoman and Alfred comparisons best describe the relationship.. and I like Javier’s idea about Illustrator’s curves, but I think Catwoman has what it takes here! :P

Jan 11, 2010

Matt Ward says:

Nice! I love Catwoman. Definitely my favorite “villainess” in the Batman world, and one of my favorite female comic characters. I hadn’t thought of the connection between curves and curves though! An interesting thought.

I wonder if people who were leaning more towards Nightwing (like myself and Rob), might start thinking about Huntress, because she is pretty independent and also has curves… Thoughts on this one?

Jan 11, 2010

countzeero says:

I have to go with Batman and Robin if only because of the fact that my Ps and Ai never go anywhere without each other. I would probably add Dw (Dreamweaver) as Green Lantern as these three make the ultimate workflow team.

btw I agree your approach is better than GoMedias on this one.

Jan 11, 2010

D. says:

Very enjoyable article! I think I’m somewhere between Alfred and Superman… depends on the day.

Jan 11, 2010

Morten FC says:

I think the Superman/Batman combination is probably the most accurate, especially because of the goodguy/badguy relationship that one can imagine there would be between the two programs.
I don’t believe in then one with Illustrator being Robin, simply because Adobe Illustrator is older than Photoshop ;)

Great read!

Jan 11, 2010

David J says:

Hahaha! Very interesting and clever way to compare and contrast the love-hate relationship between the two programs. being a VectorMan myself i would vote for the Superman option.

Jan 12, 2010

Waasys says:

Probably Joker )

Jan 12, 2010

cchana says:

nice question! always been a batman fan, so that might explain my preference for photoshop! :P

Jan 12, 2010

Brad C says:

Yeah, that was fun.

Jan 15, 2010

M. joshua says:

Definitely Joker,

Remember at the end of the Dark Knight what the Joker said about paradox? Batman can’t kill the Joker. The Joker can never kill Batman. In an odd way, they need one another.

I can’t say I always need the Joker. But we’d be less interested in Batman without him.

Jan 22, 2010

Kate says:

This post is absolutely incredible.

Jan 22, 2010

Brad says:

If Photoshop Was Batman, Then Illustrator Would Be…still vastly over priced

Jan 22, 2010

Pariah Burke says:

What an incredibly fun and unique exercise! My hat’s off to you, Matt.

Every one of your scenarios rings true. In my 20+ years experience using and teaching both applications, the users sometimes play Photoshop and Illustrator against each other as adversaries, sometimes allies, sometimes sidekicks to one another.

One minor point of contention: Illustrator, created in 1986, is older than Photoshop, which, even in its first incarnation as Barney Scan, didn’t hit the scene until 1989. Thus, in the Robin and Nightwing scenario,s it might be Illustrator who is Batman, mentoring the younger Photoshop.

Jan 22, 2010

Pariah Burke says:

Incidentally, if Photoshop is Batman, Illustrator is Superman, would InDesign therefore be Wonder Woman or Green Lantern?

Jan 22, 2010

Scott says:

So then Dreamweaver would be Spiderman? Or are we going with strictly DC characters?

Jan 22, 2010

Glasswalker33 says:

Really nice article there! I had never looked at Photoshop and Illustrator quite in that light.

First off, I’m not that much of a DC fan, as I’ve been a Marvel fan (grew up with Star Wars and Uncanny X-Men) since I’ve been able to read. So without knowing a great deal about personalities, etc. of the DCU, I would have to compare Illustrator to The Riddler.

The phrase that comes to mind is ‘an enigma wrapped in a…’ on and on. I don’t use Illustrator that much anymore at all. I’ve always had a hard time learning it. Even the pen tool in Photoshop can leave me in conniptions for days, if I’m not careful.

If I had to choice from your references, I would have to fall in with the majority and say that the Batman/Superman analogy is a good one. The dirty, grungy pixel smearer, to the pristine, well-organized smooth lines of vector weaving; Gotham juxtaposed against Metropolis or even the crystalline structures of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

Again, a very enjoyable article.

Jan 22, 2010

Whitney Pierce says:

Fantastic~!!!

Jan 23, 2010

kilinkis says:

watta post! watta job! i like the superman version of illustrator

Jan 23, 2010

Senne Gorris says:

Thx for the great article man, really enjoyed it!

Jan 23, 2010

bango says:

When I began to learn to illustrator, I would have say that it looks like The Riddler !

May 12, 2010

Matthew Clark says:

I always use Adobe illustrator at work because i work in an animation studio. this is really a serious tool for the graphic artist.’`;

Jun 16, 2010

clippingimages says:

Superman it is …There is no exception of Batman …

Jul 10, 2010

Jake Lewis says:

i don’t know with other users but the new version of Adobe illustrator is a bit slower when it loads. ~-;

Aug 11, 2010

Lucas Watson says:

Adobe Illustrator has more features than its competitors ..

Oct 17, 2010

Round Mirror  says:

in our office we use adobe illustrator very much`.*

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