Photoshop vs. Procreate: A Comparison Guide

Published by Chris Green

February 9, 2021

If you are a graphic designer or digital illustrator, finding the right program matters. In the modern age, it’s never been easier to find apps and software that can help you achieve various designs, aesthetics, and objectives. However, when it comes to OG products, Adobe Photoshop is king. 

That being said, some vibrant up-and-comers are giving Photoshop a run for its money. One of the most prevalent and well-known is Procreate, which makes it easy to get into digital illustration. Today, we want to put these programs head-to-head to see how they stack up against each other. Here is what we determined. 

Price

Starting out of the gate, Procreate has a commanding lead. While there was a time when you could buy Photoshop outright and own the program, Adobe has since decided that it’s better to charge a monthly fee rather than a one-time payment. If you just want Photoshop, you’ll have to pay $20.99 a month for the privilege, which adds up to over $250 per year, every year. 

On the other hand, procreate users only have to purchase the program at a much more modest price of $9.99. Best of all, that’s not per month, that’s the total cost. 

Winner: Procreate

Functionality

Although Procreate won round one, it has a hard time reaching the lofty heights of the juggernaut that is Photoshop. Since this program has been around forever (1987), it has tons of tools that make it one of the most versatile design programs around. There is a reason why Adobe can get away with charging so much annually and still have a rabid customer base. 

While Procreate is built for digital illustration and some photo editing, Photoshop can do that and about 1,000 other things. Even then, there are more illustration and photo editing tools included with Photoshop than you could get with Procreate. 

Finally, another benefit of Photoshop having been around for over 30 years is that there are tons of third-party extras you can buy or find for free, including actions and brushes. Overall, you have an abundance of choice with Photoshop and relatively limited functionality with Procreate. That being said, more and more design elements are being built for Procreate so that that assessment may change in the future. 

Winner: Photoshop

Ease of Use

If you thought this comparison guide would be painfully one-sided after the last entry, Procreate still has a few more wins up its sleeve. Although Photoshop does have tons of features and functions, the sheer volume makes the learning curve relatively high. If you aren’t planning on taking a college course in the program, you may struggle to learn the software’s ins and outs. Even experienced users may not know all the different elements of Photoshop — it’s that intense. Fortunately, there are plenty of tutorials online if you want to expand your horizons. 

So, if you’re looking for something simple and easy to learn, Procreate is going to be much better. Rather than spending hours trying to master the program, you can start drawing almost immediately. The layout and design of Procreate are smooth and efficient (like all Apple products), meaning that virtually anyone can master it relatively quickly. 

Winner: Procreate

Versatility

At first glance, functionality and versatility may seem like the same thing. However, this section will focus on how well each program can fit into a designer or illustrator’s workflow. Rarely does a graphic designer use one program exclusively, so it helps to have something that can insert seamlessly into one’s creative process. 

In this case, both options are highly versatile, but Photoshop still has the edge. Here are a few specific comparisons: 

  • Device Compatibility – One of the most significant limitations of Procreate is that it is exclusive to the iPad. So, if you like drawing or working on a laptop or 2-in-1 PC, you’re out of luck. Photoshop, on the other hand, can be used on virtually all devices, even smartphones. 
  • File Compatibility – Fortunately, you can use most design files in both programs. In fact, you can even import old PSD files to Procreate. Both options offer PNG, JPG, TIFF, PDF, and PSD file types. However, Photoshop has a few extras, including GIF, EPS, and more. 
  • Workflow – If you like drawing and working with a stylus, then Procreate is an excellent choice. However, if you prefer to switch back and forth between a laptop and a tablet, you’re out of luck. 
  • Sizing – Oddly enough, Procreate does not allow you to change the size of the canvas. So, if you need to make extra-large illustrations or designs, you have to use a different program. Photoshop, however, can deliver projects of any scale, making it far more versatile overall. 

Winner: Photoshop

Support Network

Having 30 years in the industry means that Photoshop is essentially the gold standard for graphic designers and illustrators. Most Adobe products are recognized as leaders within their respective industries, which is part of the reason why they are so expensive. 

As a result, you can find tons of support for the program. We already mentioned the sheer volume of online tutorials and third-party extras, and you can find countless message boards and forums to ask questions and collaborate with other designers. 

That said, Procreate has quickly become a favorite in recent years, so the network surrounding it is growing every day. While it’s possible that some other illustration program will come along and knock Procreate out of the running, it looks like it is here to stay. So, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding the answers you need. Plus, since Procreate is so much more streamlined than Photoshop, there is less need to find specific tutorials. You can also find some great procreate brushes here.

Winner: Photoshop, but by a narrow margin

Who is Procreate Best For?

Although technically speaking, Photoshop is the “winner” of our head-to-head matchup, Procreate can be a better option in some cases. If you are a certified digital illustrator, meaning that illustration is your primary design method, you will likely love the easy-to-use platform. While it can be nice to have more features, software like Photoshop can be too complicated and slow you down with so many menus and options. 

Additionally, if you are a photographer who only needs to do light touch-ups or stylization for your images, Procreate is excellent for that as well. You certainly cannot do as much photo editing with this program, but it’s perfect for adding a little something extra. 

Finally, Procreate is ideal for designers on a budget. Yes, $21 per month isn’t that much, but it can add up over time. Plus, the notion of having to pay for the same program every month forever can be off-putting to some. With Procreate, once you pay for it, it’s yours. 

Who is Photoshop Best For?

If you’re a graphic designer that does a lot of work for varied clients, Photoshop should already be in your repertoire. In fact, you may already have the full Adobe Creative Suite, even with its high price tag of $53 per month. Since Photoshop has so many tools and features, any professional graphic designer should be using it, lest they fall behind in the competition. 

Similarly, if you are a professional photographer, Photoshop is going to be your best friend. While you may be able to get away with only having Lightroom, it helps to be able to do more touch-ups and adjustments with the OG program. 

Bottom Line

Procreate has quickly become the go-to software for illustrators because it is powerful and easy to use. However, when it comes to graphic design as an industry, it is tough to find anything better than Photoshop. As time goes on, Procreate may address some of its limitations and become a more versatile design program, but until then, Photoshop is still going to reign supreme. 

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