If you’re a digital artist—or want to become one—you’ve probably heard of Adobe Illustrator and Procreate. But what’s the difference between the two? Which program will fit your needs? Do you need both

What’s the Difference Between Procreate and Illustrator?

At their core, Procreate and Illustrator serve different functions. Procreate is a great tool for digital illustration. It’s designed to work with the Apple Pencil to mimic traditional drawing methods, like sketching with a pencil on paper. Illustrator, on the other hand, is best for creating vector images, such as logos and typography, and it’s most commonly used on a desktop computer rather than a tablet. 

Below, we explore some of the specific differences between Procreate and Adobe Illustrator. 

procreate lines
Designed to be used with the Apple Pencil, Procreate is remarkably similar to drawing with a pencil on paper. 

Image Type and Quality 

One of the most important differences between Procreate and Illustrator is the image type that the programs support. Procreate is a raster-based program, which means the images you create contain pixels, and you can’t scale them without losing sharpness and clarity. To convert a raster image into a vector, you need another software program, like Illustrator, CorelDRAW, or Inkscape.  

Illustrator is a vector-based program, which means it’s best for creating designs that need to be scaled up or down, like logos, flyers, and typography. Because vectors don’t contain pixels, you can endlessly resize them without losing quality. 

drawing in photoshop
You can use Adobe Illustrator to create vector images or convert raster images into vectors. 


If you want flexibility when it comes to where and how you use the program, Illustrator offers more options. Illustrator is available for Mac and Windows operating systems, and you can use it on desktop, mobile, and iPad—although the iPad app is more limited than the full desktop version. 

There is no desktop version of Procreate; it is only compatible with iPad. A variety of styluses work with the app, but for the best experience—and to take advantage of features like pressure sensitivity—the Apple pencil is usually preferred.    


Both programs include a wide range of features. Procreate’s features center around digital illustration. The app comes with more than 200 brushes (and the ability to import custom brushes), so you can easily create any type of drawing, painting, lettering, or texture you can imagine. Procreate also supports animation with the recent addition of its Animation Assist toolbar. 

Adobe Illustrator offers many features to assist in creating precise lines and curves. Using Illustrator’s guides and snap-to-grid features, you can make sure everything is aligned perfectly. 

The two programs also offer some of the same features. For example, Illustrator and Procreate both support layers. While you have to manually create layers in Procreate, Illustrator automatically generates a new layer for each new object in your project. In either program, you can reorganize and merge layers. 

procreate artwork "tea time"
You can create multiple layers in a Procreate project. 

Illustrator and Procreate also both support text, CMYK and RGB color profiles, and the ability to share your projects. 

Jump Into Procreate!

Digital Illustration: Learn to Use Procreate


At just $9.99, Procreate is the more affordable option of the two programs. There are no subscription or renewal fees for Procreate; once you purchase the app, you will receive all future upgrades at no cost. 

Adobe Illustrator, on the other hand, is subscription-based. You can choose from several different subscription options (for example, an annual or a monthly plan or a plan that includes other apps like Photoshop), with the lowest-priced option starting at $19.99 per month. 

Learning Curve and Ease of Use 

All software programs have some sort of learning curve. However, users generally agree that Procreate is intuitive and easy to learn, even for beginners. It’s similar to drawing with a pencil on paper, so you can dive right in without much instruction. It offers a simple interface, with most tools hidden in the top toolbar. This allows you to focus on the canvas and your artwork. 

Illustrator’s learning curve is a bit steeper, because rather than using a stylus and hand-drawn strokes, you use mathematical curves and lines to create objects. Illustrator’s interface is also more complex, with over 20 options on the toolbar on the left side of the screen, as well as additional tools within the top and right navigation. 

adobe illustrator
Adobe Illustrator’s interface is complex, with more than 20 options in the left toolbar alone. 

Lifespan and Updates

Both programs are staples in the creative industry. Illustrator is more commonly used in professional environments, but Procreate is quickly following in its footsteps. 

As far as lifespan, both programs are a smart long-term investment. While Adobe Illustrator has been around much longer—the first version of the program was released to the public in 1987, while Procreate was introduced in 2011—both are expected to be supported and updated long into the future. 

Which Tool Is Right for You?

Ultimately, only you can determine the winner between Procreate and Adobe Illustrator. Both tools are robust and offer a variety of features to help you meet your creative goals, but generally, the programs serve different purposes. For digital illustrators, Procreate is generally considered the winner, but for logo design and typography, Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard. 

Fortunately, whichever you choose, you can find a variety of in-depth tutorials for how to use Procreate and Illustrator, so you can get up to speed quickly and begin creating your digital projects.

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Written by:

Katie Wolf