How many design programs do you need? Procreate and Illustrator are two whose names come up often, and for good reason. Both are very good at what they do, however what they do is quite different. You may believe that both applications are for illustration, but in fact they serve vastly different purposes.
Let’s put it in basic terms. Procreate is perfect for hand illustrations that imitate drawing on canvas, and it uses a mobile layout. Meanwhile, Illustrator provides the ability to make scalable designs, and uses a desktop interface.
One of the most important features of Illustrator is the ability to make vector graphics. These are images that are infinitely scalable. This means that they don’t contain pixels, and can’t become pixelated by making them bigger. This is why Illustrator is the choice for professionals who are creating logos. This way, a logo can be used on a business card or on the side of a three-story building all with just one file.
Procreate does not have this ability. Its images are limited to the resolution of the canvas. While scalable images are called vectors, non-scalable images are generally called rasters. While vectors are becoming more popular, most users will find themselves working with raster images most of the time. And if you just want to make art, and don’t plan on printing it on a billboard, using Procreate is perfectly suitable. Raster images are better for colorful images. So vector is perfect for a three-color logo, but not so much for a painting. The more colors, the bigger your vector file.
While you could make logos in Procreate or make paintings in Illustrator, Procreate is made specifically for painting and drawing. Brushes and painting tools are easily accessible and the interface knows that is what you’re using the program for.
Mobile vs Desktop Compatitbility
Illustrator is a desktop tool/ Procreate, on the other hand, is available only on iPad tablets. It lets artists have the visceral experience of drawing on a piece of paper with a pencil, even if that pencil is an Apple Pencil! You can draw with Illustrator too. Using a mouse is one way, but you can also buy digital pens and pads that aid in hand-drawing. Illustrator does also feature an iPad app, but it is limited compared to the desktop version. You’ll have access to most everyday features though, so you may not even notice!
The mobile option will be more portable. So if you’re the kind of artist who gets inspiration on the bus or at the park, Procreate may be a better option. But if you work best at your desk and like having access to other tools and assets, the desktop experience of Illustrator may be best for you. If you like a little of both and prefer a workflow that takes you from sketching on a tablet to finalizing on a desktop, then Illustrator’s multi-platform aspect may be appealing.
Learning Curve and Complexity
No one is going to argue that Illustrator is a much more complex tool than Procreate. While both have excellent features for what they are, Illustrator’s tend to be more complicated. Part of this is because Illustrator has been around a long time and has received updates and additional features over time. Another reason is that Illustrator is part of a much larger workflow of software, so it has to have compatibility with other software such as Photoshop. Procreate lets you pick up a pencil and start drawing fairly intuitively. If you sit a beginner down to try Illustrator, they may struggle to even make a basic shape without getting instructions. It will take a long time to become proficient with Illustrator, even if you’re an artistic person already.
Procreate is much cheaper than Illustrator. You can purchase Procreate on the Apple App Store for $9.99. Meanwhile, Illustrator must be purchased as part of Adobe’s ongoing Creative Cloud subscription service. You can purchase Illustrator alone for $20.99 per month or $52.99 per month for the entire software suite. Even factoring in the cost of the hardware to run it on, an iPad Pro will still be less expensive than most Mac or Windows laptops or desktops.
Which Should You Buy?
Procreate and Illustrator are both excellent at what they do. However, they serve very different functions. If on-the-go illustration and painting is what you want, go with Procreate. If you want to create scalable graphics, work with additional assets, and have additional flexibility with illustrations, choose Illustrator. Procreate is also an accessible starting point for artists who don’t want to spend a lot of money. Illustrator is best for an established artist who makes money from their art and can pay the subscription fees.