What Adobe package to use for simple designs?
May 18, 2007 6:56 AM   Subscribe

I've used Adobe products in the past and have been fairly impressed. Now I want to buy an Adobe package to design and generate JPG and EPS files of my relatively simple t-shirt, bumper sticker, and button ideas for emailing to a printing shop.

Will want to do some two-color designs, but no screens, complex color manipulations or any of that other fancy stuff. Graphics will be simple, solid, "silouhette-like."

I am a graphic design newbie.

Would PhotoShop Elements be sufficient?
posted by ZenMasterThis to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Most print shops are going to want EPS, which means you need Illustrator. Photoshop isn't vector-based, so it won't generate the output you need.
posted by mkultra at 7:21 AM on May 18, 2007

I disagree with mkultra. I'd check with the print shop first - many can work with other types of files (though probably not jpg). I've worked with shops that took PDFs for small, cheap runs of stuff.

I have the full CS2 suite so I can't remember what Elements is restricted to. From Adobe's page, it does not look like it can create vector graphics. But you can try it out for 30 days.

It sounds like OpenOffice Draw can create scalable vector graphics. And you can't beat the price.
posted by desjardins at 7:50 AM on May 18, 2007

I've taught both Photoshop and Illustrator to beginning graphic design students and I'd recommend starting with Illustrator.

It's going to be great for creating simple, silhouette type images and it will generate artwork with crisp edges instead of the fuzzy edges that you're likely to get from Photoshop. Illustrator is better at working with type, makes it easier to work with a two-color setup and saves smaller files. The Adobe classroom in a book series is excellent for getting off the ground with the program.

In the hands of a skilled designer Photoshop can do all those things too (including generating EPS files) but the learning curve is steeper, even for Elements. If you don't want to learn everything about print production, start with Illustrator instead.
posted by Jeff Howard at 8:15 AM on May 18, 2007

Elements is just a scaled-down Photoshop.
mkultura is correct that printers PREFER vector eps files. They also like PDF files that are output from Illustrator or InDesign. The common denominator is they are both postscript-based. That's the language of the printing industry. If you want the best results, those are the file formats you should send.

That said, a printer will certainly take other files...even image files as long as they are high-resolution and correctly-sized. This means images at at least 300dpi and lossless. Low-resolution and lossy jpegs will not give you good results. Oh, and CMYK. Not RGB images.

Honestly, if these are promotional items, you should give the printer the best files possible in order to put your best face forward.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:25 AM on May 18, 2007

OpenOffice Draw is a horrible pain. The freeware you are looking for is Inkscape.

However, if you really prefer Adobe products and have too much money, you're probably looking for Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator is a vector drawing program, as opposed to PhotoShop which is a raster drawing program. The difference is explained (just look at the pictures) here. Since you want to create a lot of different sized items, vector is the way to go, since you can scale the same image you used on a button to tee-shirt size and it will still look great. Even if your print shop can handle cruddy images, you obviously want the best quality, yes?

The down side: vectors, or more specifically vector programs, can be non-intuitive. Check out the trial version of Illustrator, by the time the trial is over you'll know if it makes sense to you/if you're willing to spend time getting it to make sense.
posted by anaelith at 8:32 AM on May 18, 2007

Illustrator if you have cash lying around taking up space. Inkscape otherwise. I'd download Inkscape right now and just start playing with it.
posted by signal at 8:39 AM on May 18, 2007

Are you familiar with Illustrater at all? If not, it can much more difficult to learn than photoshop.

You also might try looking on ebay for slightly over versions. CS1 of either is till quite good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:27 AM on May 18, 2007

Brandon's right --- hit an older version to get your feet wet. But, if you're on a PC, I'd look for Illustrator 8. I know it still runs fine in XP (maybe even Vista) and, honestly, you're not going to miss out on much that's in the higher versions. It'll let you pick up on the basics of Illustrator without forking-out $600 for Illustrator CS3.
posted by nathan_teske at 4:01 PM on May 18, 2007

Uhm...why hasn't anyone mentioned The Gimp?
posted by TomMelee at 7:02 PM on May 18, 2007

Because the OP should get a vector program instead of a raster program? GIMP is great but definitely not what's needed in this case.
posted by anaelith at 9:38 PM on May 18, 2007

I work in prepress for a commercial printer in Reno, NV. Illustrator is the best way to go (you don't even need the latest version). You should call the printer and ask what format they prefer. I like to get PDF & EPS(with any placed images embedded and all fonts outlined).

Also, please remember printers require at least .125 inches of bleed and crop marks. As someone else said files should be built in CMYK.

Last minute changes are a lot easier to make if you DO NOT subset fonts. Make shure your PDF file has the fonts 100% embedded.
posted by elricbillman at 11:46 PM on May 18, 2007

If you have existing raster versions of your art, maybe see if you can get a new enough version of Illustrator to get the Live Trace feature. CS2 or newer, I think.
posted by misterbrandt at 10:32 AM on May 19, 2007

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