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Graphic Designer vs Illustrator- What's the difference?

Graphic Designer vs Illustrator- What's the difference?

Let's talk about the difference between a graphic designer and an illustrator as well as some of the tools, resources, and design programs or illustrator programs that you'll be using within the 2 different fields. These are quite separate and differing fields. So you want to make sure that you know the correct path you're going down the resources that you need to maximize your ability in that specific industry. So as we go through the article and we're talking about some of the gear and tools and tips and resources.

Graphic Designer vs Illustrator

So graphic designer vs illustrator, really to talk through that and figure out what the key differences are and which one is right for you.


This is one that I did not put myself in the camp of. This is somebody who from a young age has always been in the sketchbook loves the concept, and loves building out art and ideas, and themes, and big elaborate sketches maybe even sketches like Marvel characters or dinosaurs are just really fun stuff. Just has quite the imaginative background to their skill set.

Graphic Designer

Now, graphic designer for me, I have a background in photography. So when I really got into looking towards going to College I thought okay how can I take my photography and really maximize my skills within that. And the graphic design was a good fit for me because it has a lot to do with composition, layout, organization of text images, graphic elements, and things along those lines.

So you have really kind of creative expression sketch artists have taken into a digital world Vs for me, a photographer who's then it takes is images, resources, text stories and organizes them into magazines, organizes them into vacations, informational materials maps, all those things. 

So printed material, organizational skills vs illustrator who's creating the illustrations possibly for the magazine who's creating the imagery for books. Maybe you want to illustrate for children's books or you're illustrating for comics. I hope you're starting to kind of get the gist here of graphic designer vs illustrator.

Now some of the gear you need.

As a graphic designer, I find one of my biggest resources is obviously a laptop computer or a desktop computer. If you're interested in the best laptops computers I have already made an article that you can check that. But a laptop is going to be one of your main items that use it as a graphic designer. For an illustrator is the same thing.

But with the difference here is you're going to want to be using probably a mouse as a graphic designer and a Wacom tablet as an illustrator so that'll just give you the ability to basically draw directly on your computer with a pen and tablet. Fantastic piece of technology.

What applications are you using?

A software. The Adobe Suite is the go-to professional industry for illustrators and graphic designers. Graphic designers are going to use a combination of tools and illustrators are as well but they vary slightly. Graphic designers your main workhorse is going to be in design. You'll be doing all of your final production work within the design. You're going to use Photoshop and a little bit of illustrator and complement your work within in design.

But as a whole that's where you want to be building out your projects. Creating your magazine layout. You can use book layout etc. You use Photoshop for photo editing and manipulation? You use illustrator to create some simple graphic elements.

Now for the illustrator, you're gonna be using Adobe Illustrator. That will help you to create very clean very scalable graphic shapes. You can complement your work with Photoshop but I don't recommend it.

The reason is Rasterization vs vector and what that means is Photoshop is a Pixel-based product so that means whenever you build out a piece of heart it only has a certain amount of scalability before it starts to look pixelated like a bad photograph whereas Illustrator is created with vector and that is scalable. That has infinite scalability and you can scale it very small as well.

That's why I recommend working within primary illustrator unless you just have to do something in Photoshop. I hope this gives you kind of a basic understanding of the two industries. I hope this gives you a basic understanding of the two job roles or job titles that you want to call them. The income levels are going to vary according to obviously the company you work for in the skill sets that you have.

But as the base graph designers are making to get started around $39,000 in your geographic location and illustrators are going to sit around the same area may be a little bit lower on $33 to37. So just a little bit less. Only because advertisers tend to lean towards graphic designers. Give them a bit of a wider skill set sometimes.

But if you can build up your skillset as an illustrator I usually have no problem turning in a pretty good starting salary.

Last words

I hope that I helped you get your gears turning on graphic designer vs illustrator. If you have any tips if you're an illustrator your graphic designer you're like Hey you missed this or you really should have added that. Please comment below. Please give me your feedback.

I want to make sure that we're giving the best resources here for people jumping into our industry. This is the best time to become creative. Gary Vayner Chuck said The creative is the variable. So you have the best business idea. But if you don't have a good solid creative team or creative bone in your body your idea may in fact not take off. So this is a fantastic time to become a graphic designer or an illustrator.

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