Canva vs Adobe Illustrator

IllustratorHow presents



Adobe Illustrator

I’ve been doing graphic design for more than 10 years and I’ve always used Adobe Illustrator but in recent years, I use Canva more and more because some work can be done more efficiently on Canva. 

Today I use both Adobe Illustrator and Canva for different projects. for example. I use Adobe Illustrator mainly for professional and original designs like branding design, making logos, high-resolution artwork for print, etc.

Canva is awesome for making some quick designs or even simply looking for a stock image. For example, when I need to make a blog post feature image, presentation, or Instagram post/story design, I wouldn’t even bother opening Illustrator. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Canva is not professional, but you’ll get my point after reading this article.

In this article, I’ll share with you some of my thoughts about Canva and Adobe Illustrator. I really love both, so there’s no bias here 😉 

What’s Canva best for?

Canva is a template-based online platform where you can find templates, stock images, and vectors for almost any type of design you need. Presentation design, poster, business card, even logo templates, you name it. 

It’s good for making blog images, social media posts, presentations, or anything digital that changes often and doesn’t need high resolution. Notice that I said “digital”? You’ll see why later in this article.

What’s Adobe Illustrator best for? 

The famous Adobe Illustrator is good for many things, anything graphic design really. It’s commonly used for making professional logo designs, drawings, illustrations, branding, typography, UI, UX, print design, etc. 

It’s good for both print and digital. If you need to print out your design, Illustrator is your top choice because it can save files in higher resolutions, and also you can add bleeds.

Canva vs Adobe Illustrator: Detailed Comparison

In the comparison review below, you will see the differences in features, ease of use, accessibility, formats & compatibility, and pricing between Adobe Illustrator and Canva. 

Quick Comparison Table

Here’s a quick comparison table that shows the basic information about each of the two software.

              Canva        Adobe Illustrator
Common UsesDigital design like posters, flyers, business cards, presentations, social media posts. Logo, graphic vectors, drawing & illustrations, Print & digital materials
Ease of UseNo experience is required.Need to learn the tools.
AccessibilityOnlineOnline and Offline. 
File Formats & CompatibilityJpg, png, pdf, SVG, gif, and mp4Jpg, png, eps, pdf, ai, gif, cdr, txt, tif, etc
PricingFree Version
Pro Version $14.99/month
7 Days Free Trial
$22.99/month for individuals

1. Features

It’s easier to create a good-looking design on Canva because you can simply use the well-designed template and change the content to make it your own. 

Having these ready-to-use templates is Canva’s best feature. You can get started right away with a template and create beautiful imagery. 

You can also create your own design using the existing stock graphics and images. You can click on the Elements option and search for a graphic you want. For example, if you want some floral graphics, search floral and you will see the options for photos, graphics, etc.

If you don’t want your design to look the same as other businesses that use the same template, you can change colors, and move around objects on the template, but if you want to add a personal touch like creating freehand drawings or vectors, Adobe Illustrator is the go-to because Canva has limited drawing tools. 

Adobe Illustrator has the famous pen tool, pencil, shape tools, and other vector tools to create original vectors and freehand drawings

Besides creating illustrations, Adobe Illustrator is widely used for creating logos and marketing materials because there’s so much you can do with the font and text. Text effects are a big part of graphic design.

For example, you can curve text, make text follow a path, or even make it fit in a shape to create cool designs. 

Anyways, there’s a lot you can do to text in Illustrator but in Canva, you can only choose the font, change font size, and bold or italicize it. 

Winner: Adobe Illustrator. There are much more tools and effects you can use in Adobe Illustrator and you can be more creative and original in designing from scratch. The down part is that it’ll take you more time and practice, whereas in Canva you can just use templates. 

2. Ease of Use 

Adobe Illustrator has so many tools, and yes they are useful and easy to get started, but it takes time and practice to be good. It’s easier to draw circles, shapes, and trace images but when it comes to logo design, that’s a different story. It can get very complicated. 

Let’s put it this way, many tools are easy to use, take the pen tool as an example. Connecting anchor points is an easy action, the hard part is the idea and choosing the right tool. What are you going to make? Once you get the idea, the process is easy. 

Canva has more than 50,000 templates, stock vectors, and images, so you don’t need to design from scratch. No tools are required, just choose the templates. 

Whatever you’re making, just click on the project and a submenu will show with options for sizes. For example, if you want to make a design for social media, click on the Social Media icon and you can choose a template with the preset size. 

Quite convenient, you don’t even have to search for the dimensions. The template is ready to use and you can easily edit the info of the template and make it yours! 

If you really don’t know where to begin, they do have a quick guide that’ll help you get started and you can find free tutorials from the Canva Design School

Winner: Canva. The winner is definitely Canva because you don’t need any experience to use it. Even though Illustrator has many convenient tools that are easy to use, you’ll still need to create from scratch unlike Canva, in which you can just put together existing stock images and choose preset quick edits.

3. Accessibility

You’ll need the internet to use Canva because it’s an online design platform. Without the internet, you wouldn’t be able to load stock images, fonts, and templates or upload any photos to Canva. Basically, nothing works and this is one downside of Canva. 

Although you do need the internet to use any functions of Apps, Files, Discover, Stock&Marketplace on Adobe Creative Cloud, Adobe Illustrator doesn’t require internet access. 

Once you installed Illustrator on your computer, you can use the software offline, work anywhere, and don’t have to worry about connection problems. 

Winner: Adobe Illustrator. Although now there is wifi almost everywhere today, it’s still nice to have the option to work offline, especially when the internet is not stable. You don’t need to be connected to use Illustrator, so even if you’re on a train or a long flight, or the internet crashed in your office, you can still do your work.

I’ve already been in situations when I was editing on Canva, a network problem occurred, and I had to wait for the network to function to resume my work. I think that when a program is 100% online-based, it can cause inefficiency sometimes. 

4. File formats & compatibility

After creating your design, whether it’s going to be published digitally or printed out, you’ll need to save it in a certain format. 

For example, for print, we usually save the file as png, for web images, we normally save the work as png or jpeg. And if you want to send a design file to a teammate to edit, you’ll need to send the original file. 

Digital or print, there are different formats for opening, placing, and saving in Adobe Illustrator. For example, you can open more than 20 file formats such as cdr, pdf, jpeg, png, ai, etc. You can also save and export your design for different uses. In short, Illustrator is compatible with most of the commonly used file formats. 

When you download your finished design on Canva, you’ll see different format options to download/save your file from the Free or Pro version. 

They suggest you save the file as PNG because it’s a high-quality image, which is true and that’s the format I usually choose when I create something on Canva. If you have the Pro version, you can also download your design as SVG. 

Winner: Adobe Illustrator. Both programs support the basic PNG, JPEG, PDF, and GIF, but Adobe Illustrator is compatible with much more and it saves files in much better resolution. Canva has limited options and if you want to print, you don’t have the option to edit the bleed or crop mark on the PDF file. 

5. Pricing

Professional graphic design programs are not cheap, and you’re expected to spend a couple of hundred dollars per year if you’re really committed to being a graphic designer. There are several different membership plans depending on your needs, organization, and how many apps you want to use. 

Adobe Illustrator is a subscription design program, which means there isn’t a one-time purchase option. You can get it at as low as $19.99/month for all apps with an annual plan. Who gets this deal? Students and teachers. Still in school? Lucky you! 

If you are getting an individual plan like me, you’ll be paying the full price of $22.99/month (with an annual subscription) for Adobe Illustrator or $59.99/month for all apps. Getting all apps is not a bad idea if you’re using more than three programs. 

For example, I use Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop, so instead of paying for them individually, $54.99 is a better deal. Still pricy I know, that’s why I said it’s worth it for those who are really committed to becoming a graphic designer. 

Before pulling out your wallet, you can always try the free trial for 7 days.

If you’re looking for a program to make promotional materials for your business, maybe then Canva is a better option. 

Actually, you can even use Canva for free but the free version has limited templates, fonts, and stock images. When you use the free version to download your design, you can’t choose the image size/resolution, select a transparent background, or compress the file. 

The Pro version is $14.99/month ($119.99/year) and you’ll get many more templates, tools, fonts, etc. 

When you download your artwork, you also have the option to change the size, get a transparent background, compress, etc. 

Winner: Canva. Whether you choose to use the free or pro version, Canva is the winner. It’s not a fair comparison because Illustrator has more tools, but the important question here is what do you want to achieve. If Canva can deliver the artwork you need, why not? 

So $20.99 or $12.99? Your call. 

Final Verdict

Canva is a good option for startups that don’t have a lot of budget for advertising and marketing materials. It’s easy to use and you can still customize your design using the templates. Many businesses use it for making social media posts and the result is good. 

Canva sounds perfect already, so why would anyone choose Illustrator? 

Canva does offer a free version and even the pro version is pretty acceptable, but the image quality isn’t ideal so if you need to print out the design, I’d say forget it. In this case, it can’t beat Illustrator.

Adobe Illustrator has way more tools and features than Canva and it has all kinds of formats for either print or digital design. There’s no doubt that if graphic design is your career, you should choose Adobe Illustrator, especially when you are making a professional logo or branding design. 

Illustrator allows you to create original art instead of using templates and it creates scalable vectors while Canva only makes raster images. So finally which is one to choose? It depends on what you’re making. And why not use both just like I do 😉

About June Escalada
Graduated from Creative Advertising major, worked more than eight years as a graphic designer focusing in branding and Illustration. Yes, Adobe Illustrator is my best friend and I’m passionate about art and design.

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  • Tom

    Hi June
    That’s a really great explanation of the pros and cons of both. Is Canva able to provide a print ready file as you would get from Indesign or AI using the export function for pdf/x4 ?

    Thanks in advance

    • June Escalada

      Hi Tom,

      Yes, you can get print-ready files on Canva as well. Do you have the Canva pro version?

  • Mo

    Great article…thank you so much. I have been spending too much time trying to learn Adobe Illustrator – but I’m also learning After Effects to go along with Premier Pro and Photo Shop on which I am functional enough. You just so much the pressure off of me. I don’t do print and if I do, I will be okay contracting with someone not what I understand this.

    I just built a great image for use in an Intro / Outro annimation in less than 30 minutes…I would have spent more than three times that in Illustrator. Now, based on your infomration, I will focus my time on using Canva and start integrating from library of hundreds of photos. I already have Canva Pro on the annual plan so Illustrator can wait. I need it for building online ads, but I am not a designer.

    Cheer!! Thanks again.

    Do you design logos?

    • June Escalada

      Hey there! That’s cool. you’re learning a lot of stuff! After Effect works great with Illustrator, once you’re familiar with it, you’ll get Illustrator easily because I think After Effect is much harder.

      And yes, if you only need online ads, Canva should do the work 🙂

      I do design logos 🙂

  • Kay

    Hi June,

    I came across your site while doing research and found your article extremely helpful. Thanks for the detailed explanations on the difference between the 2 programs. Keep up the good work. I really appreciated your work and how you put your articles together.


    • June Escalada

      Hi Kay,

      Thanks for your kind words! Happy to hear you liked my article 🙂

  • Adrian

    Hi June
    Thanks for the great explanation. Just a quick question, can canva lets you create your own elements? Or can i create my own elements and use it canva ?
    Thanks in advance

    • June Escalada

      Hi Adrian, you can use the existing elements to kind of make up your own, but it doesn’t have vector editing tools and you can only create raster images in Canva.