photoshop versus illustrator for pattern design.png

(watercolor motif after being digitized and cleaned up/recolored in photoshop vs. illustrator)

Have you ever wondered how paintings get turned into patterns on a computer? Although it feels like a distant memory, there was a time not so long ago (cough 2 years cough) when I was asked by a company to do some watercolors for perfume packaging. I had no idea how to do that. I said yes to the job anyways, and did the paintings. They asked that I scan them and send them as AI files. I think I cried. I went to Kinkos and had the paintings scanned. I didn't know what to ask for. I literally downloaded Illustrator (after googling "What is an AI file") and then dragged the scans into illustrator, clicked save, and sent them. Oh boy, Emily two years ago. Oh boy.

Flash forward to today and I actually can't believe I sent over the paintings like that, ugly background and all. Not vectorized. Not anything-ized. 

Now, I know how to scan, remove the background (by this I mean the white paper the art is painted on that gets a little warped in scanning), reduce colors, recolor, scale, clean up, put into repeat, etc. And guess what? For painters, you can do this in either Illustrator or Photoshop. 

So which one do I prefer?

Well, two months ago, I would have laughed and said "Photoshop, silly - because I still don't know how to use Illustrator."

But in the past two months I've taken an intensive course and now I feel veryyyy comfortable in Illustrator. In fact, I prefer it over Photoshop. That is something I never thought I would say!

One of the reasons I like Illustrator is the ease of cleaning up jagged edges that show up when you scan watercolor at a high resolution (300-600 dpi). In Photoshop, that process can take hours, whereas in Illustrator, you can use Image Trace and it really smooths out the edges. It's not perfect, but it helps a lot. I also think it's way easier to recolor artwork in Illustrator than in Photoshop. 

That being said, I think it's great to know both! If you're looking for online classes, I highly recommend Bonnie Christine's classes on Skillshare for Illustrator, and Bari J's class on Skillshare for Photoshop.

If you have questions, I'd love to help if I can! You can always email me at and I will get back to you!

XO Emily