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In theory, any implication that produces printable output could be used to create a print project. But not all applications provide the full range of control you want for successful print output. As you could use Microsoft Word or PowerPoint or Publisher to create your job, but your printer wouldn't be really pleased. There are good reasons why Adobe software is the preferred standard for print, but which Adobe application is appropriate? After all Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign all allow you to set type, but they're not interchangeable.
Photoshop is called Photoshop for a reason. It's appropriate for manipulating images period. Now in rare instances, such as large headline type that you want to apply special effects to, it's okay to create type in Photoshop, but be sure to keep it as vector. And to do that save as a Photoshop PDF, and then that vector content is correctly rendered. Don't set small body text in Photoshop and don't use Photoshop to create layouts such as business cards. If I zoom way in on this text, you can see that it's made out of pixels.
And if you zoom way out, it may look okay on screen, but I promise you if this is printed, it's not going to look as nice and sharp as you would like to have your business card look. There's considerable feature overlap between Illustrator and InDesign, and there are some types of projects that really you could handle equally well in either application. But Illustrator is perfect for creating logos or maps or collateral, especially, since we can now have multiple artboards within a file. But it also allows you to place images apply some special effects such as shadows and those are actually accomplished only with pixels.
So anymore, Illustrator is not purely a vector drawing program, it allows some pixel-based content. The type handling in Illustrator is very similar to InDesign, you can even create character and paragraph styles. And in Illustrator, all text is vector, and that's how it should be. Always remember to set your artboard dimension to your correct trim size, specify a bleed zone outside the artboard. But Illustrator doesn't support Master pages or automatic page numbering or hyperlinks or cross-references, and that's why for those projects, you want to use InDesign.
InDesign can be used to create anything from a little business card to an 18-foot by 18-foot banner. The minimum size in InDesign is one point by one point. I doubt you'll ever use that. And with the ability to create multiple page sizes within a single document, you could create a business card, letterhead, and envelope in one file much like you could in Illustrator. InDesign support effects such as shadows and glows and embossing effects as well as blending modes. In this way, it's very much like Illustrator. So given the overlap between Illustrator and InDesign, how do you choose? Well, here are some suggestions.
Use InDesign if you need to set a lot of body text. You may find some of the formatting a little bit kluging in Illustrator. If you need master pages you absolutely need InDesign. If you have more than four pages, go to InDesign. And if your document contains more than just a few images, I think you want to use InDesign. It's a little bit of a challenge to crop images in Illustrator, it's very straightforward InDesign. So now that you have some idea of what each application does best, maybe it's a little bit easier to choose the correct one for the next project you have coming up.
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