Should you draw cartoons in Photoshop or Illustrator?

Choosing between Photoshop and Illustrator for drawing cartoons will depend on what style of cartoon you want to draw.

If your style is more traditional like a newspaper cartoon or comic and manga, then Photoshop would be your best bet. If you want to draw a more modern-looking cartoon with clean crisp edges and lines, then Illustrator is the software to use.

What style of cartoon are you drawing?

To understand why style is important, it’s crucial you know the difference between Illustrator and Photoshop and their intended use.

Photoshop is a pixel-based or raster-based editing image software that is designed to touch up photos and images. I say touch-up because, in the hands of an artist, you can literally paint over an image with Photoshop. Check out the video below to see a cartoon drawn using Photoshop.

Those painting tools have been refined over the years to allow artists to create original artwork from scratch, just like drawing on paper. Thus making it perfect for cartoonists who like to draw comics or more traditional cartoons.

Illustrator is a vector-based drawing tool that is intended for designing logos, typography, and such but you can draw very detailed work including cartoons using the program. It will give you clean crisp lines and edges. Check out the video below to see a cartoon drawn using illustrator.

Being vector-based, you can scale your drawing (expand) to any size you wish without losing quality, unlike Photoshop where the pixels get stretched and look blurred at large sizes.

As a result of this difference, Illustrator has very few painting tools available. Its main drawing tool is the pencil (or pen). It really comes down to personal preference which one you will choose for your own style of cartoons.

If you want to do a photo-realistic drawing, photoshop would win hands down.

For cartooning portraits

If you are looking to create a cartoon or caricature from a portrait photo, Illustrator will take longer to draw with using the pen tool but will give you clean smooth curving lines, colors and shading.

Photoshop will be faster to master and will allow you to use a brush tool and give you a natural inked, drawn or painted look. But at the end of the day, it comes down to drawing style. If you like clean smooth lines and colors, Illustrator is hard to beat.

If you like your cartoons with rough lines and detailed colors and shading techniques, like stippling, then Photoshop should be your choice.

Note that an artist skilled in Illustrator can achieve a highly detailed drawing with texture just as a Photoshop pro can create clean crisp edges with smooth curves. It really depends on your abilities and how much time you spend learning new tricks and techniques on these very versatile programs.

Which is easier to draw cartoons in?

Photoshop is easier to draw, Illustrator is easier to edit and make changes later on. Illustrator being a vector-based program has a learning curve. You will need to learn how to use the pen tool and other tools for drawing circles and curves, which has different techniques than with a brush tool in Photoshop.

This may take some time, but once you know this, you can draw just about anything using the pen tool. Photoshop on the other hand is easy to master. Its brush tools are basic and skills are easy to develop while still producing great-looking cartoons.

So which is better? Depends on the style you want to achieve and your patience to learn.

For animated cartoons

If you plan to animate cartoons, your choice may be different depending on the type of animation you are making. If you are using frame-by-frame animation technique, photoshop will be the best choice being a pixel-based program where you create a drawing for each frame.

The program will allow you to create high-quality animations where your character is detailed enough, plus is easier to master. Adobe animate, previously known as Flash lets you draw as you would in photoshop and animate them.

For rigged animations, Illustrator will be best since it’s a vector-based program that allows you to manipulate shapes and lines after you’ve drawn them without the need to erase them. Paired with Adobe after effects, you can create awesome animated cartoons that look great for infographics and ads.

What is a Cartoon?

A cartoon is an exaggerated or whimsical drawing that is created to express an idea or tell a story in a way that a photograph or video cannot. It can be as simple as an image of a person with exaggerated features like large eyes and mouth, to completely surreal images that make the viewer question reality.

A cartoon simply put, is an illustration designed to add humor, irony, satire, or any other emotion into its composition. It can be used as a form of social commentary on news and current affairs. Cartoon drawings have been used to communicate ideas for centuries but in the 21st-century cartoons are mostly made using modern techniques such as computer software programs.

Why should we use vector-based software for drawing cartoons?

Vector graphics are resolution-independent, unlike raster graphics. Vector graphics can be scalable to any size without loss of resolution or quality (depending on whether the artist has made any sharp edges).

Unlike Photoshop which is pixel-based or raster-based software where pixels form images, a vector graphic is like a mathematical drawing. The drawings consist of lines (straight or curved) called paths. These lines are then filled with colors and other effects to bring out the details in drawings.

The advantage of vector graphics over raster is that they will not blur no matter how you scale them up or down so they look crisp at all times. So if you are making a cartoon drawing for large prints like wall art, van wrap or billboard, you don’t have to draw it on a large canvas on Photoshop. You can draw it on a small artboard in Illustrator and scale it up to whatever size you wish once you are done.


I hope you find this article helpful in deciding what software to use for drawing cartoons or illustrations. As an Illustrator, I have used both Photoshop and Illustrator. I suggest that you learn both programs as they each have their own advantages depending on the type of drawing you are creating. Once mastered, both these programs will be a powerful tool in making awesome artworks.

Should you buy Adobe Illustrator? Is it worth it?

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