What Program for Vector-based Illustration
February 5, 2004 12:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm a Photoshop wiz interested in trying my hand at some vector-based illustration for a change. Which program is best? Is there a free/OSS option that can compete with Illustrator/Painter/FreeHand? And how much of a head-start will my Photoshop knowledge get me in Illustrator vs. anything else?
posted by Aaorn to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
Unless you were masking like a madman with paths, it won't help much.

It's all about the Pen Tool, everything else is just window dressing.
posted by Stan Chin at 12:41 PM on February 5, 2004

Well, I know I'm comfortable in llustrator but can barely open a file in Freehand, for what that's worth. One thing to keep in mind: Illustrator CS's new 3D tools - I haven't had a chance to get my hands on it yet, but it sounds like a neat new feature.
posted by jalexei at 12:53 PM on February 5, 2004

Illustrator will probably make you feel more comfortable & it's nice having the built-in compatibiity, but if you heavily rely on shortcuts, be prepared for a few surprises... especially if you're using an older version of Illustrator.

Aside from the familiar menu setup and palette layout system, your Photoshop knowledge may not take you as far as you'd like. Sure, each program has introduced features from the other over the years, but raster and vector art require different ways of thinking, and of course, different tools. There is also a score of maddening little inconsistencies across the programs. Still, it's what I use at work and at home. I use other vector programs merely for opening/converting files that Illustrator chokes on (haven't had this come up in a while).

Anyway, don't forget that Adobe has trial versions available. Get yourself a copy of the associated Classroom in a Book and spend the weekend deciding if you like it.
posted by Sangre Azul at 1:16 PM on February 5, 2004

Having a background with Photoshop would make a move to Illustrator the most logical choice. Stan is right about the pen tool—it's key.
posted by btwillig at 1:18 PM on February 5, 2004

Everything I've read about Sodipodi has been positive, but I'm totally clueless when it comes to using it, despite being reasonably good with photoshop and the gimp. It's OSS, so can't hurt to try it, and it works in windows and linux.
posted by duckstab at 1:43 PM on February 5, 2004

You might want to check out XaraX (but only if you're using Windows.
posted by grumblebee at 2:26 PM on February 5, 2004

Note: Illustrator is a huge resources hog, much more so than PS or FH, so handle with care if you have less than 1GB RAM and a few spare gigs on your HD.
That said, being fairly proficient in both, I use Freehand for day to day stuff, layouts, etc, and Illustrator for 'special' stuff, including brush strokes, vectorizing, etc.
posted by signal at 6:18 AM on February 6, 2004

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