How the Adobe design programs work together (+ free InDesign training!)

How the Adobe design programs work together (+ course closes tomorrow!) — Paper + Oats

The Adobe Creative Suite is the only design software with the capacity to create high-quality, professional design work. The three main programs, Photoshop (PS), Illustrator (AI), and InDesign (IND) each have their own purposes, and it can be confusing to know the differences. Before we jump in to integrating these three programs to work together, here's a quick overview highlighting the strengths of each program and what it’s best used for:

Photoshop (PS) is best for...

  • photo retouching / manipulations

  • 3D effects / rendering

  • texture, shading, and depth

Illustrator (AI) is best for...

  • vector graphics like logos

  • illustrations / icons / patterns

  • simple text applications

InDesign (IND) is best for...

  • text-heavy projects

  • multi-page projects

  • brings together detailed renderings of PS + clean vectors of AI

So how do they all work together?

A common question I get about InDesign, is how does it relate to Photoshop and Illustrator? A lot of designers seem to know that they can work together, but they’re not sure how. Photoshop and Illustrator can integrate into InDesign via linked files. Linked files are simply outside files that are directly linked to your IND file, but remain independent as well. The best part about linked files? It keeps your overall file size down for your IND document. Any updates you make to your PSD or AI file will be updated on your IND file. For example, the background of a book cover design could be a detailed rendering of photos, shading, and texture created in Photoshop. You can drop that image into your IND document as a linked file, then add your text over the top, for a crystal clear, seamless cover design. If you need to make edits to your Photoshop background, it can be updated in your InDesign document with one click. Here are some suggestions about when to link files between these 3 programs:


InDesign + Photoshop

Referring back to the list above, Photoshop is best used for photo retouching / manipulations, 3D effects / rendering, texture, shading, and depth. It can be great for adding backgrounds or images that require this type of editing and precision. Typography in Photoshop is horrid, I’ll be frank. Pulling a PSD background into InDesign, and then adding text with the more sophisticated typography options and rendering of InDesign is the best integration of these two programs. Keeping the linked file as a PSD rather than flattening it to a JPG or TIF is best for easy editing + updating.


InDesign + Illustrator

A lot of the tools in Illustrator overlap with the tools in InDesign, namely ones related to vector work like line work, illustrations, and icons. While all of these things can be created in InDesign, it can be easier + faster to design them in Illustrator. The nice thing about vector graphics between these two programs, is that you can simply copy + paste an object from Illustrator into your IND document, and it’ll still read it as an object in InDesign, not as a linked file (like when integrating with Photoshop). You can make edits to the pasted object in InDesign, including changing fill + stroke colors. If you prefer to keep these types of graphics as links rather than pasted shapes, you can link them as an AI, EPS, or PDF. See the list below of all accepted file types of linked files.

  • EPS

  • AI

  • BMP

  • EMF

  • EPS

  • GIF

  • JPG

  • PCT

  • PCX

  • PDF

  • PNG

  • PSD

  • SCT

  • TIF

  • WMF

Want to learn how to use Adobe InDesign, like NOW?

InDesign Cliff Notes — Free InDesign Quick-Start Guide for Beginners by Paper + Oats

Well good news for you, I recently put together a brand new InDesign guide for beginners — it's called the InDesign Cliff Notes.

In this easy-to-follow 15-page guide + video tour, you’ll get your feet wet with this mysterious program, learn what InDesign is used for, how it works, and how YOU can learn it fast. (As in, I'm passing you my cliff notes for free here, don't tell the teacher!)

Here’s what I’ll be covering in the guide:

  • what types of projects InDesign is best used for (what it’s NOT used for)

  • we’ll crack the code on some common InDesign lingo to help you get the lay of the land

  • a 25-min video tour showing you the 4 most important elements of using InDesign

  • my secret sauce to working smarter + faster in InDesign, plus my personal workflow to get it done

Did I mention these cliff notes are F-R-E-E? Yep. I created this beginner’s InDesign guide with YOU in mind, and I think you'll quickly see how not-scary InDesign really is. 😉



Kelsey Baldwin

Graphic designer + blogger providing design resources to help creative entrepreneurs navigate the world of design + branding for digital products so they can share what they know.

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