What is the Difference Between PSD Design and AI?

Knowing where and when to apply the right file type and be critical when it comes to digital graphic design. When thinking of logo images or images appearing on your website, two different file types are likely to be the most common: the PSD file format and the AI file format.

Read on to learn more about the purpose of each file type, as well as the differences between them and how a graphic design agency like LightHouse Graphics can assist you with your next graphic design project using a PSD design or AI file formats.

What is a PSD File?


A PSD file format is an image file format that is hosted within Adobe Photoshop. A PSD design file is often used to contain high-quality images and graphics and support multiple layers and imaging options. The layers available in a PSD design file make them handy for various tasks, including color and tonal adjustments. Most importantly, you can edit adjustment layers of graphics while leaving the base layers unchanged.

As the software used most widely for web design, Adobe Photoshop ensures that any PSD design file you choose to work with will be universally accessible by designers throughout the web. This means that as your team expands and you look to utilize more designers than just yourself, you can outsource work by sharing the PSD design file across your design team.

What is an AI File?

Adobe Photoshop

On the other hand, an AI file format represents a piece of artwork designed within Adobe Illustrator. This type of file format was created by Adobe specifically to house vectors within a single page. Vector graphics are unique because of their ability to adjust in size infinitely without losing resolution. Therefore, having the ability to work with vector files within your graphic design work can be critical.

Because of their convenient and efficient nature, AI format is most often applied to logos and other forms of print media. For example, if you are looking to place your school logo on a shirt design, it would be important to use a vector image to allow your clothing designer to resize it to their liking without changing the integrity of the overall image.

Should I Use a PSD or an AI File?

Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop both play an integral role in the creation of stunning designs. However, each serves a unique purpose. 

Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop both play an integral role in the creation of stunning designs. However, each serves a unique purpose.

As stated above, Adobe Illustrator is vector-based editing software and is best used to create logos, graphics, cartoons, and fonts. Because Illustrator uses advanced mathematical constructs to create their infinitely resizable vector graphics, they are highly manipulatable.

Additionally, vector graphics are composed of dots connected via algorithm rather than mere pixels. With this, the images never lose quality and maintain a better print output as they are not resolution-dependent.

Unfortunately, though, because Adobe Illustrator largely exists to create and modify vector images, the program is not easily manipulated to modify images that have already been created through different programs due to the limited number of filters and editing tools available within the program.

On the other hand, Adobe Photoshop is a fantastic program for modifying images that have already been created or are not readily editable–like photos. It’s also Adobe’s most popular program! Photoshop includes a variety of interesting tools to create special effects and beautiful filters within your designs.

This more conventional type of design is useful for web graphics because the photos involved in these projects will remain the same size throughout the project. Additionally, since you can edit your image pixel-by-pixel, you retain more power over your projects than you would in any other program. However, a drawback of working with pixels is that sometimes the graphics can begin to look a little jagged or lose resolution as you scale something to a larger or smaller size.

Although some people will vehemently disagree over which of these programs is better, both serve their own vital and unique purpose within the scope of a design project. For example, if you need to overlay text on your logo or watermark something into your online design portfolio, you’ll want to use Adobe Illustrator.

On the other hand, if you want to make adjustments to a photo or otherwise adapt an existing image, Adobe Photoshop would offer you the ideal solution. Ultimately, these programs serve a sort of yin and yang function–a strong designer will want to have both in their back pocket, ready to deploy at any time.

Let LightHouse Graphics Make the Decision For You

Although these programs are excellent, they are designed for expert use, and they come at a premium price. Adobe Photoshop will run about ten dollars per month, while Adobe Illustrator will set you back nearly twenty dollars per month. While this doesn’t seem like much, the cost of these programs, along with the time it would take you to learn to maneuver them, could be a heavier lift than is worth it.

Instead, trust a talented, service-driven graphic design agency like LightHouse Graphics to handle your design needs. Give us a call today to find out how we can help you with your next graphic design project.