It’s important to have high-quality visuals that represent your brand.
But with so many design software programs out there, choosing the right design software can be a challenge for small businesses.
Should you choose Adobe Illustrator or Canva? Which one is the best fit for your specific needs?
Before I started my business, I worked in advertising as an art director.
I used a lot of design tools then which I continue to use, mainly Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. But since I started my business, as a self-employed professional who helps other small businesses, I thrive on Canva.
I use both tools extensively, so I can share my experiences.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at Canva vs Illustrator, and their pros and cons, to help you make the best decision for your business.
What is Canva?
Canva is a user-friendly online graphic design tool that can be used to create professional-looking brand imagery examples like business cards, graphics for your content, social media, and other design material for your brand messaging.
You can use the basic version of the software for free.
Launched in 2012, Canva is a relatively new tool. Get a 30-day free trial for Canva Pro.
Canva is a drag-and-drop editor and offers a wide range of premade templates and designs, which can be customized to fit your needs and brand story guidelines.
That’s why anyone can use the tool, no design skills are required. Of course, you can also create complex designs from scratch.
Canva also offers a library of royalty-free photos and illustrations. You can also upload your own photos and videos.
Related: Complete Canva guide
What is Illustrator?
Illustrator is a paid vector graphics editor developed and marketed by Adobe Inc. It is the industry standard for graphic design software, used by illustrators, designers, and artists around the world.
You can get Illustrator by buying the whole Adobe Suite which includes other advanced tools like Photoshop and InDesign as well.
Get a 7-day free trial for Illustrator.
Illustrator offers an extensive set of tools for creating both 2D and 3D illustrations, and you have to create the designs from scratch.
There are filters and effects that can be applied to existing designs, but there are no templates that you can simply customize to create quick designs.
So you need some design skills to use Illustrator, at least in the beginning. Besides, there are no photos or illustrations included.
You have to create everything yourself or import files to work on them.
Canva vs Illustrator: Summary
The biggest difference between Canva and Illustrator is that Canva is a cloud-based software that lets you create raster images, whereas Illustrator is a desktop software that lets you create vector images.
Canva is more user-friendly, has a huge template and content library, and can be used by beginners. Illustrator is a high-level design tool used mostly by professional designers and those with design experience.
Canva vs Illustrator: A detailed comparison
Let’s see in the full comparison of Canva vs Illustrator, who wins in the most aspects.
Canva key features
Canva has a free version that lets you do some simple designs.
It also offers advanced features and options with a Canva Pro subscription which unlocks additional features such as resizing images with one click, advanced photo editing tools, and access to more than 1 million high-quality royalty-free photos and graphics.
Some key features of Canva Pro are:
Brand Kits: One of the main branding elements is brand identity, which needs to be consistent across all marketing materials.
That’s why you need a brand kit, which you can create on Canva, and quickly apply to all designs.
You can upload your brand image attributes like your logo, brand design color palette, and fonts into Canva so that they can be used across all design work. This helps to ensure that all designs reflect the brand in a consistent way.
One-click resizing: With Canva you can resize designs for different platforms in one click.
For example, you might want to create a Facebook ad that is a different size from an email header. With Canva, designs can be easily changed to any required size without losing any quality.
Content planner: With the Canva content planner, it is easy to plan and schedule graphic and video content in advance across different social media platforms.
Background remover: This feature allows users to quickly remove the background from an image in one click so that it can be used as a standalone graphic. This is particularly useful for creating logos or social media icons.
Presentations: You can give Powerpoint a break and create presentations on Canva by using and customizing any of the Canva prebuilt templates.
Illustrator key features
Vector graphics: A Vector graphic is a type of image that can be scaled to any size without losing quality, like the image becoming blurry. They are ideal for illustrations, logos, and icons.
Brushes for drawing: There are a variety of illustrator brushes that can be used for drawing, from simple pens to more complex calligraphy brushes. You can create fine lines or even realistic painting effects. You can also change the brush size, shape, and color.
3D tools: You can also use the 3D tools to create 3D objects and then add lighting and shadows for realism.
Layers: You can break up the elements of your design across different layers, and edit each layer without affecting the others.
Multiple graphic sizes in one file: You can create one Illustrator file with multiple artboards and create a different graphic size in each artboard. So you can have, for example, your posts from different social media, business cards, different sizes of Pinterest pins, or all other graphics you need for a project in one single file.
In recent years, Adobe has added a number of new features to Illustrator, such as the ability to create pixel-perfect artboards and draw with natural brushes.
Canva vs Illustrator: Key features winner
If you need to create quick images, videos, and presentations to use on the web, and also post them on social, Canva is the best choice.
If you want to create high-quality images and graphics that can be scaled and used both for the web and print, go with Illustrator.
Ease of Use
Canva is much more user-friendly than Illustrator and can be used by people with limited design skills. With Canva, anyone can create high-quality designs, without needing to invest time in learning complex software.
Illustrator, on the other hand, is a more complex tool that takes time to learn and master. It also requires some understanding of design principles in order to create effective designs. As a result, it is not as accessible as Canva for people who are new to design.
However, once you have invested the time to learn Illustrator, it can be a very powerful tool for creating professional-grade designs.
Canva is also easier to use for simple designs, while Illustrator is better suited for complex designs.
Canva vs Illustrator: Ease of use winner
Canva is great for quickly whipping up a professional-looking design, as it is based on templates.
This means that most of the hard work has already been done for you and all you need to do is customize the individual elements to create a unique design within the Canva tool options.
However, this also means that you are limited in terms of what you can create.
Illustrator, on the other hand, offers unlimited customization.
You can create anything in any way you want, meaning that the sky’s the limit in terms of what you can design. But it also takes much longer to create a design.
Canva vs Illustrator: Customization winner
If you don’t mind being limited in terms of creativity and just need a lot of designs, fast, then Canva is the way to go.
But if you need complete creative freedom and very customized designs, and have the time and budget to work on them, then Illustrator would win for you.
Canva includes a library of fonts that can be used for free, with more options available for Canva Pro users.
With Canva Pro, you can also upload your own fonts.
Illustrator has fonts included within the tool. Your Illustrator subscription also includes access to Adobe Fonts which is a vast library of fonts. Like in Canva Pro, users can also upload and use any font they like in Illustrator.
Canva vs Illustrator: Fonts winner
Because the Illustrator package includes Adobe Fonts, it is the winner in terms of the size of the font collection.
When it comes to accessibility, Canva wins hands down. Because it is web-based, it can be used from anywhere in the world. Additionally, it has a mobile app that makes it even more convenient.
Related: Can you use Canva offline?
In contrast, Illustrator is only available on desktop computers. This can be a major drawback if you need to be able to work on the go, like if you want to post on social media.
Canva vs Illustrator: Accessibility winner
Canva wins because of its anywhere accessibility.
Canva creates raster images, which are made up of pixels. These images are ideal for web use because you don’t need big images with very high resolution online.
However, raster images cannot be enlarged without becoming pixelated.
On the other hand, Illustrator can create both vector and raster images. Vector images are made up of lines and curves and can be scaled to any size without losing quality. This makes them ideal for print use.
Raster images created in Illustrator can also be exported as vector files, making them versatile for both web and print use. Canva lets you download files of this type: Jpeg, png, pdf, svg, gif, mp4.
From Illustrator, you can save files in more than 20 types of extensions: jpeg, png, eps, ai, SVG, bmp, CSS, dwg, swf, PSD, tiff, targa, txt, and others.
Canva vs Illustrator: File formats winner
Illustrator gives you more options to save files for static images, so it is the winner here.;
But Canva lets you create animations and videos, so it is the winner if it comes to motion graphics. But Canva lets you create animations and videos, so it is the winner if it comes to motion graphics.
Canva has 3 tiers of pricing: Free, Pro, and Canva for Teams.
Canva Free: This version is fairly basic but still allows you to create decent designs from a limited selection of templates, photos, and illustrations.
Canva Pro: If you want to use the advanced features of Canva like the background remover, resizing, and more, plus access to millions of templates and premium photos, you can upgrade to Canva Pro for $12.99 per month.
If you get the Canva Pro lifetime deal, you pay $9.99 per month.
You can also get a 30-day free trial for Canva Pro to check out the tool.
See the full differences between the free and paid version of Canva in the image below.
Canva Pro is limited to only one user.
If you want to collaborate on projects and work with other members, you need Canva for Teams.
Canva for Teams offers Canva Pro access to up to 5 team members and additional features for team management and brand controls.
Canva for Teams: Canva for Teams is priced at $14.99 per month for monthly subscriptions and $12.49 per month for annual subscriptions.
Illustrator also has 2 pricing options.
Monthly Illustrator subscription: It also includes access to Adobe Portfolio, Adobe Express, Adobe Fonts, and 100GB of cloud storage.
The monthly subscription is $31.49 per month. $20.99 if you get an annual subscription which you can pay monthly and $19.99 if you pay for the full year upfront.
Monthly Adobe Creative Cloud subscription: If you use more than one Adobe tool, you can also get the Creative Cloud subscription which includes Illustrator, Photoshop, Acrobat Pro, InDesign, Premiere Pro, and 15+ other apps.
It costs $54.99 per month, $49.99 if you pay annually.
So Illustrator is more expensive upfront. However, it also offers more features and is generally considered to be a more powerful program.
Canva vs Illustrator: Pricing winner
Canva has a free version. Even the paid version of Canva is cheaper than Illustrator. So if you just compare the price of using these two tools, Canva wins.
Besides, even team access to Canva is much cheaper than single-user access in Illustrator.
But since the pricing for Illustrator also includes access to other tools, if you do a cost-benefit analysis for such features, Illustrator would be the winner.
It all comes down to what you need for your business.
Canva is a freemium software, which means that the free version could be enough for some businesses. The most customizable options of Canva, however, are in the Pro version. You can get a free trial of Canva Pro for 30 days.
Illustrator gives you a free trial only for 7 days.
Canva vs Illustrator: Free trial
Canva with its 30-day free trial is definitely the big winner.
Canva is a cloud-based program that offers users 5GB of space in the free version and 1 TB (1000 GB) of storage in the Pro version. You can download the files any time you want to use them offline.
Note: Remember you cannot edit Canva designs offline, can only use them as a complete media file.
Illustrator is a desktop-based program and you can save the design files to your desktop. However, like the free version, it also includes 100GB of cloud storage.
Canva vs Illustrator: Storage winner
There is no clear winner in storage because both Canva and Illustrator offer the same 100GB of cloud storage.
When it comes to print quality, there are a few things you need to take into account. The first is the color mode. Canva is web-based, and as such it uses RGB color. This can cause issues when printing, as the colors may not come out as intended.
Illustrator, on the other hand, offers both RGB and CMYK color modes.
CMYK is the standard for printing, so using this mode will give you more accurate colors in your prints. Another thing to keep in mind is resolution.
Canva saves images at a resolution of 96DPI, which is fine for web use but not ideal for printing.
Canva vs Illustrator: Print quality winner
Canva is great and quite sufficient for web-based designs and small files for print.
But if you’re looking to create high-quality designs for both web and print, then Illustrator is the better option.
Which design elements are best created in Canva vs Illustrator?
As Canva lets you download only raster images of certain file sizes, it is the best tool for images that you don’t need to enlarge or need in very high resolution.
So it is the best tool for web and screen-based images like social media posts, blog graphics, presentations, and videos.
With Illustrator you can create very detailed images which you can also enlarge without any quality loss.
So it is best for print images that need to be in high resolution. Posters, shop banners, and logos are some of the design elements that you should definitely create in Illustrator.
Canva vs Illustrator – Which one is the best design tool for which business?
Let’s summarize the pros and cons of each tool.
Canva winning points:
- Canva offers more types of graphics so it’s more value for money.
- Creating designs quickly and on the go is very easy with Canva
- It is cheaper than Illustrator
- You don’t need design skills to create professional graphics with a consistent visual brand identity
Illustrator winning points:
- It is a professional, high-end design platform that offers advanced tools to create 2D and 3D designs
- You can create plenty of customizations in each detail of your design
Eventually, the best fit for your business comes down to one factor: your specific needs. However, this is my recommendation based on my experience with both tools.
If you are a freelancer, small business, or blogger with limited design experience, Canva’s user-friendly drag-and-drop editor, and stock templates and photos may be the best fit for you.
If you are a bigger business with heavier design needs, Canva may not be enough for you and Illustrator might be a good investment for you.
Freelancers, small businesses, solopreneurs, bloggers
Canva (Pro) is usually more than enough if you have basic design needs that need to be executed quickly.
You don’t need to go through the learning curve of Illustrator, and you may primarily need web-based graphics which can be easily created on Canva.
Small to medium-sized businesses, design agencies, entrepreneurs with design backgrounds
You may need more print material or customized graphics that are not possible to do on Canva. So you could definitely try to use Illustrator to create your designs.
Just note that if you don’t have a design background, you will need to take some time to master this tool before you can create your designs. You can also enroll in some courses to learn this tool faster.
Before you decide on any software to pay for, take advantage of their free trial options. Try the software out, and then make your final decision.
Have you used Canva Pro or Adobe Illustrator before? Which one do you prefer? Share your comment below!