Last Updated: June 13, 2022
Are you struggling to make the right choice between Canva vs Illustrator for creating stunning designs?
If the answer is yes, then don’t stop reading.
Although both are used to create graphic designs, they serve distinct purposes and are designed for different users.
Canva is best suited to non-designers looking for an extremely easy-to-use design tool to create simple and quick designs as it offers thousands of pre-designed templates for absolutely anything from social media posts and short videos to logos, marketing assets, and much more.
In contrast, Illustrator is geared towards professionals looking for industry-standard vector-based graphic design software for creating detailed artwork from logos and icons to sketches, drawings, billboards, typography, and complex illustrations.
This was just a brief introduction to each platform.
To help you make an informed decision, I am going to explain all the important differences between both tools and compare them in terms of:
- Learning Curve
- Features and Editing Capabilities
- Extensions & Integrations
- Compatibility & Requirements
RELATED ARTICLE: Canva vs Figma: What’s The Right Choice?
Before we get into the details, let me briefly describe both tools.
Canva vs Illustrator: Short Verdict
Canva is a raster-based online graphic design platform for non-designers to create quick designs in minutes, while Illustrator is a powerful vector-based graphic design software for professionals to literally design anything but it requires hours of learning and practice.
The main difference between Canva and Illustrator is that Canva is a raster-based online graphic design platform used for making quick graphics on the go.
Whereas, Illustrator is vector-based graphic design software used for designing detailed artwork – from logos and icons to sketches, drawings, billboards, typography, complex illustrations, and other vector arts.
If you don’t know the difference between vector and raster, let me explain briefly.
Raster images are made of pixels and they lose their quality when enlarged, whereas Vector images are made of paths or line art and they can be enlarged infinitely without losing any quality.
For a better understanding, watch this video:
Since Canva is raster-based, the designs created there can’t be enlarged infinitely without losing quality, whereas the designs created in Illustrator can be scaled down to any size without losing quality.
Besides that, here are all the major differences between Canva and Illustrator:
- Canva has no learning curve, whereas Illustrator has a very steep learning curve.
- Canva has very limited functionality for creating graphics since it is for creating quick and simple graphics, whereas Illustrator is a far more powerful piece of software that lets you design whatever creative vision comes to your mind, which is why it takes longer to get to grips with.
- Canva offers ready-made stuff such as pre-designed templates, stock photos, videos, elements, and graphics to create simple and quick designs in minutes, while Illustrator doesn’t.
- Canva offers a free plan, whereas Illustrator doesn’t. However, both offer free trials.
- Canva is web-based which means you can use it only when you’re connected to the internet, whereas Illustrator can be used both online and offline.
Canva is primarily designed for those without design experience. It is loaded with easy-to-use features, thousands of pre-designed templates, and a huge library of content to create simple graphics from social media posts and resumes to presentations, cards, and other visual content.
Illustrator, on the other hand, is the industry-standard vector-based graphic design software for professionals that lets you create anything you can imagine. It is best used for creating logos, illustrations, digital printing, sketches, icons, typography, and other vector art.
RELATED ARTICLE: Canva vs Photoshop – Which One To Choose?
By now you’ll probably have a better idea of what sets these two tools apart and which one is best suited for your personal needs.
To give you a much better idea, let’s take a closer look at both tools and see which one best meets your needs and fits your budget.
Canva has no learning curve since it is specially designed for people with no prior design knowledge, whereas Illustrator has a very steep learning curve since it is designed for professional graphic designers.
Canva provides all the tools you need to build beautiful designs with virtually no learning curve. You won’t need any prior training to get started with Canva.
For the most part, you should be able to jump straight in, thanks to Canva’s drag-and-drop editor and a huge library of templates for everything from social media graphics and eBooks to banners, presentation, workbooks, and much more.
With tens of thousands of ready-made templates to choose from, and free videos, photos, and graphic elements to populate your designs, you can have fun exploring the possibilities.
Moreover, the drag-and-drop editor is particularly convenient for beginners, with no design knowledge necessary.
The only drawback is that Canva’s ease of use comes at the expense of customization options. While it’s easy to create basic designs, it’s difficult to create anything unique, because you’re using the same design elements and templates as everyone else.
Illustrator, on the other hand, is a very different story. It has a very steep learning curve compared to Canva but you can create literally anything you can imagine if you have the skills, creativity, and know how to use Illustrator.
In Illustrator, you have a lot more freedom to design, but you’ll also need to spend some significant time learning how every feature works.
It comes with a host of unique features, including paintbrush tools, rulers and guides, color capture, and vectorizing. While each feature is designed to be intuitive, it takes a while to become an expert at using each feature.
Once you’ve learned how each tool works, however, and you know when to use them in your design, you’ll find the whole experience of Illustrator becomes much more straightforward.
Learning Curve – Winner: Canva
No doubt, Canva is the winner here because you don’t need any experience or background knowledge to use the tool. Although Illustrator can be very intuitive once you get the hang of it, you’ll need to devote more time to learning.
Features and Editing Capabilities
Canva is a world apart from Illustrator in terms of features and editing capabilities. This is because Canva is intended for non-designers with no experience in creating graphics, while Illustrator is a professional design tool.
With Canva, you’re getting a kit of simple tools intended to help you make attractive designs without any specialist knowledge. This means you’ll be mostly taking advantage of pre-existing templates, videos, photos, graphic elements, and audio.
To help you customize your designs to a certain degree, Canva does offer a range of convenient features, like one-click background removers, brand kits, magic resizing, and animation tools.
To give you an idea of what Canva has to offer and see its features in action, take a look at this interactive presentation:
Canva allows users to create very specific graphics for certain use cases, with minimal effort. However, your options for customization are very limited.
Even with tons of time-saving features, thousands of templates, and more than 100+ million photos, videos, audio, and graphics to choose from, you’re limited in what you can do to make your designs truly unique.
If you don’t want your design to look the same as any other business with access to the same templates and photos, you can move objects around on the page, change colors, and update fonts, but that’s it.
Illustrator, on the other hand, has a wide array of features and tools to add a personal touch to every creation and create truly unique designs.
Its capabilities to design graphics are endless, you can design whatever creative vision comes to your mind.
Some of Illustrator’s core capabilities include:
- Transform shapes with the “transform” tool, and position and align graphical objects according to your specific needs, rather than following pre-set guidelines.
- The ability to blend objects with the blend tool, convert raster images or sketches into vector art, and use the brush tool to create unique designs.
- Freehand drawing with a range of digital brushes, pencils, and pens.
- Using layers to separate the components of your design across different layers, makes it easy to edit one without affecting the others.
- An anchor point grid with snapping functionality that allows you to align shapes and lines accurately.
- Tools for creating geometric shapes, manipulating lines, and adjusting curvatures quickly.
- The ability to create color palettes, use gradient color schemes, fill shapes, and mix different color effects.
- Stylize and draw paths with a paintbrush tool to create cool calligraphies.
- You can create a cloud-based library that will allow you to gather all your design assets for a project – such as colors, brushes, graphics, text, and character styles – into one place, so you can pick up where you left off.
AND THAT’S ONLY TO NAME A FEW THINGS.
Although it’s not possible to cover all the features of Illustrator but to give you an idea of what Illustrator is capable of, you should watch this video:
Features and Editing Capabilities – Winner: Illustrator
Canva is nowhere close to Illustrator in terms of editing capabilities and features. If you’re looking for the best vector-based graphic design tool with the widest range of features and tools, Illustrator should be your #1 choice.
When it comes to pricing, you’re going to pay significantly less for Canva than you would for full access to Illustrator. However, this is because of the differences in what you’re buying.
Canva is a basic graphic editing tool, while Illustrator is a comprehensive system for professional graphic design.
Canva is the only option between the two with a free plan.
However, its free plan does have a lot of limitations. You can only access a certain number of templates and tools when you’re using Canva for free, which means you’re more likely to end up with designs that look the same as graphics created by other companies.
Alternatively, there are two paid plans available:
- Canva Pro: $12.99 per month or $119 per year, for up to 5 people (including you). Adding each additional member will cost you $7.00 if you’re on a monthly plan or $60.00 per year ($5.00/month) if you’re on a yearly plan.
- Canva Enterprise: $30 per user per month.
I recommend getting the 30-day free trial to test out the everything before spending your hard-earned money on these premium plans.
Once your free trial is over, you’ll have to upgrade to either Canva Pro or Enterprise plan if you don’t want to lose access to the offerings of these plans.
RELATED ARTICLE: Is It Worth Upgrading To Canva Pro?
However, if you don’t know what each plan of Canva has to offer, take a look at this interactive presentation:
Aside from the free plan, upgrading to the Canva Pro plan will be the most suitable option for most people. However, if you have a team of more than 25 people then the Enterprise plan is the right option for you.
For in-depth details about Canva pricing plans, what’s included in each plan, and which plan should you choose, read one of these two posts:
Now, let’s get to know Illustrator pricing plans.
Unlike Canva, Illustrator has no free version but it also has a 7-day free trial to test out the software before spending your money.
After the free trial, you’ll need to choose one of its subscription packages if you want to continue using it.
Here are the Illustrator subscription plans:
- Month-to-month: $31.49 per month
- Yearly, billed monthly: $20.99 per month ($251.88 yearly)
- Yearly, billed upfront: $239.88
If you only want access to Illustrator and nothing else, you’ve to choose one of these pricing plans.
Alternatively, if you’re going to be using more than one Adobe product, it might be worth looking at the “Creative Cloud”.
The Creative Cloud subscription is more expensive, but it provides access to 20+ Adobe products including Illustrator, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Adobe Express, Acrobat Pro, and more.
This subscription costs:
- Month-to-month: $82.49 per month
- Yearly, billed monthly: $54.99 per month ($659.88 yearly)
- Yearly, billed upfront: $599.88
For designers in search of a comprehensive selection of tools, the Creative Cloud offers fantastic value compared to buying everything separately.
Pricing – Winner: Canva
Canva is definitely the cheaper option for designs on a budget, with a free version available for true beginners.
However, you may get more value from Illustrator if you’re going to be purchasing multiple Adobe products as part of the Creative Cloud.
Design projects often involve more than one person. Fortunately, Canva and Illustrator both allow for collaboration, with a range of tools to connect your teams.
It’s worth noting that the way these tools promote collaboration is a little different, however.
Canva allows users to collaborate within the design platform in real-time. You can share ideas with your team members and get everyone on the same page, suggesting changes to graphics as you go. There’s also support for multiple devices.
You can either connect with your colleagues by sharing a link or invite them directly to your design via email. There’s also the option to share entire folders of design via email.
With annotations, comments, tagging, and suggestions, it’s easy to collaborate in real-time or take part in asynchronous work on Canva. You can also create teams for specific projects, and assign administrator or member roles to each user to control access.
Compared to Canva, collaborating in Illustrator is a little different. The collaboration functionality in Illustrator and all other products by Adobe is performed through Adobe Creative Cloud.
In Illustrator, you can invite others to edit your document, and share document links for review with other members of your team. You’ll also be able to make changes to designs from a range of devices, including your iPad or smartphone.
Apart from that, it allows users to leave comments or annotations on designs, which other team members can delete, reply to, or resolve.
Although Both Canva and Illustrator provide all the essential collaboration features, Canva offers real-time collaboration which means you and your team members can work on a design at the same time from anywhere in the world.
Whereas, Illustrator provides asynchronous editing where each collaborator can edit a shared cloud document one at a time.
In Illustrator, if the shared cloud document is already open by the other team member, a dialog box appears in which you can choose between these options:
- Click Make a copy to work on a copy of the shared cloud document.
- Click OK and reopen the document after the current user is done with the changes.
For a better understanding of how collaboration works in Illustrator, watch this video:
Collaboration – Winner: Canva
While both have all the essential collaboration tools, Canva has a slight edge over Illustrator as it offers real-time collaboration so you and your team can work on designs in real-time.
Extensions & Integrations
Both Canva and Illustrator work well with a range of other third-party tools and extensions, helping you to bring additional functionalities to your workflow.
Canva integrates with over 90 third-party applications and extensions, such as:
- Email marketing tools: You can save designs to your Mailchimp account within Canva when you’re creating new email templates.
- Social media platforms: Canva supports scheduling and posting for your social campaigns from within the app.
- File hosting services: You can access files from Google Drive or Dropbox, or export creations to your file hosting account.
- Editing extensions: There are various editing extensions available from PhotoMosh to help boost the quality of your images.
- Graphic repositories: You can access free videos, photos, and other content from repositories like Pexels and Pixabay.
- And much more.
In contrast, Illustrator offers significantly more extensions and apps integration than Canva.
While Canva has over 90 apps and extensions, Illustrator has nearly 500 apps and extensions to choose from that are available through the Creative Cloud marketplace.
The massive range of options available includes everything from links to Pantone for checking colors, to Shutterstock for accessing royalty-free graphics.
There are also various tools that allow you to expand your capabilities in Illustrator, like brushes that create lifelike hair or flowers.
To check out all the apps and extensions for Illustrator, visit this page.
Extensions & Integrations – Winner: Illustrator
While Canva offers a fantastic range of integrations, Adobe Illustrator has many more options to choose from to extend your app’s functionality.
Compatibility & Requirements
Let’s compare both in terms of compatibility and the system requirements to run them.
Both Illustrator and Canva can run on desktop devices (Mac and Windows), as well as various mobile devices via iOS and Android.
Primarily, Canva is intended for use via a web browser, so you don’t need to download anything to start using the service. However, a desktop app is available if you’d prefer to use the service that way.
Unfortunately, you will need an internet connection regardless of how you choose to use Canva, as you won’t be able to access the tools when offline.
Illustrator, on the other hand, isn’t a web-based application and will require you to download and install it onto your chosen device. On the plus side, this also means you can access Illustrator whenever you want, without an internet connection.
However, the plus point of Canva is that it is not resource-intensive. It has very minimum technical requirements:
- Stable internet connection
- Any internet browser aside from Microsoft Edge
- Android 4.1 or higher
- iOS 10 or higher
- 150MB minimum memory
In contrast, Illustrator does require some advanced system requirements than Canva since it is a powerful piece of software.
You’ll need at least a mid-range device to run it properly. The exact requirements you’ll need depends on the device you’re using.
For instance, if you’re a Windows user, you’ll need at least a multicore Intel processor, and Windows 10. You’ll also need 8GB of RAM, and 2GB of hard-disk space.
For Mac OS, you’ll need a multicore Intel processor, 8GM of RAM, and 3GB of hard disk space, with at least macOS version 10.15. It’s also worth making sure you have a decent monitor resolution, so you can see your designs properly.
To learn more about Illustrator system requirements, visit this article.
Compatibility & Requirements – Winner: It’s a tie!
Overall, Canva and Illustrator tie for compatibility and requirements. They work across desktop devices (Mac and Windows), as well as various mobile devices (iOS and Android). However, both have one plus side and one downside in terms of requirements to run them.
The plus point of Canva is that it’s not resource-intensive since it’s primarily a web-based application but the downside is that you’ll always need an internet connection to use it.
On the other hand, Illustrator is resource-intensive, you’ll need at least a mid-range device to run the software properly but on the plus side, you can run the program even when you’re not connected to the internet.
To conclude the comparison of Canva vs Illustrator, I would say that it’s not about which one is better.
It’s all about what type of graphic design tool you’re looking for since they both are intended for very different users.
Canva is intended for non-designers to create quick and simple graphics with a drag-and-drop editor and thousands of pre-existing templates for any occasion.
In contrast, Illustrator is designed for those looking for professional vector-based graphic design software to create just about anything. It is the best option for creating custom logos, illustrations, digital printing, sketches, icons, typography, and other vector art.
So I would say, Canva is the right option for you if:
- You’re a beginner in design with no prior knowledge looking for an extremely easy-to-use web-based graphic design tool for making quick graphics such as social media posts, blog posts, cards, thumbnails, desktop wallpapers, storyboards, and other similar design types with thousands of pre-designed templates.
- You don’t mind extremely limited customization options compared to Illustrator.
- You want easy-to-use features and access to millions of stock photos, videos, audio, and graphic elements.
- You’re low on budget.
- You have a stable internet connection.
- You want to work on your design in real-time with your team members.
On the flip side, Illustrator is the right choice for you if:
- You’re looking for the industry-standard vector graphics app for creating custom logos, drawings, icons, typography, and illustrations for print, video, web, and mobile.
- You’re a professional graphic designer or happy to commit time to learning graphic designing and using Illustrator.
- You need advanced features, tools, and customization options to design just about anything.
- You need a graphic design tool that runs even without an internet connection.
- You’re not budget-conscious.
- You want a massive library of integrations and plugins.
Hopefully, now you know which one is the right choice for you between Illustrator and Canva.
If you still have any questions or doubts, please let me know in the comments!