The trio of design: The Adobe suite

October, 15 2019
Ryan Wimalasena
Written By
Ryan Wimalasena

The holy trinity of design software. The Adobe Suite is extremely powerful. With these tips from a magical guru (not me), we can extract more value from these powerful tools. The tools we will be focusing on today will be Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe InDesign. But whats the difference?


Photoshop: Deals mainly with rasterised files, or Pixels rather than using Maths. Images will lose lots of clarity as the resolution increases. It generally uses many layers in order to create complex artwork. Photoshop started as a photo editing tool, however, it’s now slowly being adopted for more web-based design.

Illustrator: Deals with Vectors and maths in order to create scalable shapes and objects that can be moulded by the individual to fit the resolution that they desire. Illustrator was developed alongside Photoshop to compliment it and was mainly created to deal with the creation of logos and graphics that may need to be output in multiple sizes and resolutions.

Indesign: Deals with exporting for digital or for print, in the colour palette of either CMYK or RGB, it also facilitates the formatting of a final document. Senior designers still to this day continue to use Adobe Indesign in order to continue to collate their Illustrator files and Photoshop files towards a finished product.

All these tools can work together quite well, however, it’s almost as though Illustrator and InDesign speak the same language, so they are so commonly often used together. As compared to Photoshop which while speaks a similar language doesn’t speak as much maths to create the finished product.

Here are some lessons that I learnt after speaking with the magical Senior Designer guru.

1.) Always add bleed to your designs in Adobe InDesign. The industry standard is 3mm by 3mm. When creating a document this is essential don’t forget it or it will cause a huge amount of problems later on. (Note, always check with your printer in case they require a different size.)

2.) Keep your files in order by keeping a file management system on your computer in place. This is essential as well! (Don't forget to name your files correctly either and always double check before sending to anyone else!)

3.) In InDesign use Gutter and Columns in order to keep the spacing equidistant apart.

4.) When selecting text in a column in InDesign, highlight from the top left, and drag your mouse across the left-hand side and then to where you want the text selection to end, on the right. This is a huge time-saver.

    • You can then use the eyedropper tool (Keyboard Shortcut I) to copy the font, the style, and colour without having to do it manually.
    • The spacing of lines is also known as leading. This is because in the olden days you would add lead to the typewriter in order for it to add a space in between the lines. If you wanted more space you would add more lead, if you wanted less, you would remove lead from the typewriter.

5.) The frames and images inside those frames are not created equal. They can be changed and transformed without having the other one switching.

6.) There’s a difference between copying and pasting and placing a linked file, copying and pasting allows you to make changes without the original file changing. Whilst placing a linked file creates a scenario where if you update the original the final product will also update to reflect the relevant changes in the artwork.

7.) When you are sharing an InDesign file with say a colleague. They need everything necessary to open the file, you must give them the fonts or typeface, the final document, and the relevant linked images and assets. If you are a disorganised mess, you can go to file → package in Adobe InDesign to ensure that the assets are available for the other party to access, but it's better to get it right the first time.

8.) Copying and pasting into InDesign allows the original file to be destroyed.

9.) Crop marks tell the printer where things need to be cut. They don’t cut things out by hand, they have massive guillotines that pierce the paper with a sharp blade, make the printer's job easier by adding crop marks.

10.) When in doubt, double or triple-click in Illustrator or InDesign, it tends to fix a lot of the problems.

11.) When a client gives you a PDF, you have no idea of its origins. Not all PDF’s are created equal, some are terrible like Microsoft word PDF’s and some are excellent such as the Adobe PDF’s. With PDF’s the origin of the PDF matters a lot. To get these assets into usable pieces of work, you can use Illustrator to extract these assets and get the colours out in InDesign, so that you have the relevant images and colours you can work within a working document.

12.) Go to Window → Colour → Swatches. It allows you to add brand asset colours for ease of access.

13.) Text can be linked in multiple columns, rather than guessing whether all the text is selected press command or control A to select all text, you never know if there is any text that you can’t see. Always select all the relevant text.

14.) In Illustrator make sure that designs are always centred for logos and other unique graphics, it’s just industry best practice to do so.

Below is a handy infographic containing keyboard shortcuts that you can use.Artboard 1

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