Photoshop or Illustrator? The age old question. Which one is better for designing personalised T-shirts? The short answer is that they’re both great at it but you should pick one or the other depending on what your design is.

But how do you know which one is better for YOU?

They’re both design programs made by Adobe which is why they may look similar to the untrained eye but they’re designed to fulfil different needs.In order to answer this question, we need to go over the basics of each program.


Illustrator was designed to create technically perfect graphics. This means that they can be as precise as possible and stretched or shrunk to any size without losing quality. The way they achieve this is by working with vectors. It’s a bit abstract, but basically, vectors are two points joined by a math algorithm.

This is the program of choice for most graphic designers because it makes it really easy to work with layers and convert artworks into different types of files. It also has got many options for types and paragraphs.

When it comes to T-shirts, because Illustrator works so nicely with shapes and layers, it is perfect for creating artwork for almost any printing technique including screen printing, CAD-cut vinyl and transfer. If you want to print a logo on your garment or a very simple illustration (with only a handful of colours) then this is the program for you.

Illustrator is also popular among fashion designers who use it to create the flat sketches of their creations.


t-shirt design, illustrator


The benefits of Illustrator:

  • Offers many options for working with text
  • Allows to change the size of images without losing quality
  • Can work outside the workspace
  • Has got a relatively easy learning curve
  • Can create PDFs* of multiple-pages
  • Exports artwork to .EPS better than Photoshop

The downsides of Illustrator

  • Very limited photo-editing options

*At Printsome, we use Illustrator to put together the visual proofs of our clients.

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As the name implies, Photoshop was designed to edit photos. This program was created to edit pixel-based images. If you don’t know what pixels are, they are the very small colour squares that internet images are made of. If you zoom in enough on any image that you’ve found online, it will eventually transform into a bunch of coloured squares – these are pixels.

But nowadays, Photoshop is much more than just a photo editor. Thanks to tablets that imitate pens and pencils, this program has become the software of choice for digital artists. Thanks to its immense catalogue of brushes and textures, this program can imitate almost any hand-made technique on screen.

If you were wondering when it’s the best moment to use Photoshop, it is (like you probably already guessed) when you want to print a picture or a realistic illustration on a T-shirt. Which means, when it comes to printing techniques, Photoshop is best suited for DTG. Since it is the only one that can handle all of the filters and editing options that the program offers.


t-shirt design, photoshop


The benefits of Photoshop

  • Offers an almost infinite amount of filters and modifying options for pictures
  • Costs less than Illustrator
  • Uses layers which are easier to use than Illustrator’s
  • Has got a free, limited version called Photoshop Online Tools
  • Can imitate almost any manual technique
  • There lots of resources out there (because it’s so popular)

The downsides of Photoshop

  • Is very limited when working with vectors

Note: If you want to learn how to prepare artwork for DTG, check our following post ‘How to prepare in Photoshop an artwork for DTG printing

Why the confusion?

After reading this post, it might come as a surprise to some that these two programs get mixed up. After all, they both have such specific functions. Yes, they were each designed for particular purposes in mind but there are also areas where they overlap.

While Illustrator is the winner of this one (by far), Photoshop also has several options to edit types and paragraphs. If you need to edit text, always choose Illustrator.

Image editing
We already stated that Photoshop is specialised in filters and photo editing options but Illustrator has got a few, as well. Nowhere near as good, of course.

Again, while Illustrator is way more intuitive (and better in general), Photoshop can also work with vectors.

They complement each other

Ideally, you shouldn’t have to choose one or the other, these programs are designed to complement each other. Let’s say, for example, you need T-shirt with the portrait of someone with a text on top of it. You’ll probably edit the photo in Photoshop first and then, import it to Illustrator where you’ll work the text.

The following video in Adobe’s website, explains way better how all the programs should be used and how they complement each other – except for Flash because it’s dead.

T-shirt Printing for Designers

Thanks to our five years of experience in the apparel-printing industry, we are able to offer a service catered towards the needs of designers and creative directors. Printsome’s apparel-printing services are perfect for streetwear collections, T-shirt lines and merchandise, among many other possibilities.

From the moment you get in touch, one of our ‘printing experts’ will answer all of your questions and find efficient solutions to your needs. It is our mission to help your career flourish. Thanks to high-quality garments and cutting-edge printing techniques, we can produce almost any design. Printing T-shirts has never been this easy.

Why worry about inventory or logistics when we can take care of that? We deal with the boring stuff so you have more time to do what you love. To find out more, simply visit our website.

t-shirt designers, banners, printsome


Harald is one of the founders of the Printsome-Insights blog! Previously, Senior Content Writer, with over five years experience writing about garment printing, he's now been whisked away into entertaining other audiences with his fabulous words. For over seven years he has been proofreading, blogging, copywriting newsletters/landing pages/social media + editing. Whilst also bringing Printsome brand to life with voice and soul. He is also well-versed in enforcing content styles and content strategies for B2B businesses.

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