A question I am often asked is, “Do I really need Adobe Illustrator to design cut files?”. The answer varies for everyone but in short, if you want to sell cut files, unlimited design potential, or if you will be designing completely custom cut files from scratch without importing other graphics, then Adobe Illustrator is the software for you. If you are designing as a hobby here and there, then Cricut DS, Silhouette Studio or InkScape will suffice.
In this article, I will go into the details behind why I use Adobe Illustrator to design my cut files in hopes this will help if you are still on the fence on which software to use.
Ability to produce completely custom graphics
I am finding that many believe that Cricut Design Space and Silhouette Studio already have everything to offer, and that they are able to make anything they want in these programs. But in these programs, we usually have to import graphics such as a silhouette of a bear such as the one seen here. What about a cut file for a box? Usually you purchase this from the Cricut or Silhouette libraries, or perhaps you find one online, but with Adobe Illustrator you can make your own. I find many people in the Facebook groups who are searching for people who can convert an image into an SVG. This is also something you can do in AI without limitations. You are able to keep portions of the photo while not keeping others.
The ability to use anchor points to manipulate shapes enables you to create any shape you want. This, paired with unlimited layering capability and the ability to use a graphics tablet to draw out designs means you’re really able to go the distance with your design.
Additionally, since you don’t have to import any previously constructed artwork and can instead create your own, you are able to sell whatever design you create without having to worry about copyright infringement. A huge plus! You can create cut files for your cutting business AND earn a passive income.
Faster design turnover
(Pretty image here, someone using graphics tablet maybe?,right align image) This is an important one for me. AI is faster than any other design program I have seen. There are built in keyboard shortcuts for just about all the functions, plus you can create your own shortcuts. These sound like minor things, but this functionality speeds up your design time and Adobe Illustrator is FULL of features such as these.
When compared to other softwares, such as Inkscape, Adobe Illustrator has essentially the same functions and is very easy to use. Once a complex software, Adobe is constantly improving and adding new functions that continue to get easier and easier to learn. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a learning curve - this is why I teach students everything they need to know about how to design cut files in my course. But once you have learned it you will get faster and faster at designing!
Time is the big advantage here. When you’re able to turn over designs more quickly, you’re able to produce more digital products and therefore make more $$!
The power to export
I don’t need to go too in depth on this one, but it’s vital and makes for a huge drawback in the other softwares. With Adobe Illustrator, you’re able to export to just about any format you need. Since this is a vector based-program, you can scale and export images to any size and format you need. Formats include (but are not limited to): png, eps, dxf, svg, jpg, and pdf. This is helpful for print, web, cut file or other uses! The other programs don’t do this, unfortunately. (I believe Silhouette Business edition can export to some formats but it is limited.)
After learning Adobe Illustrator, the sky's the limit. May I remind you that this is a major graphic design program so the design possibilities are endless. I design just about everything in AI, even outside of the cut file realm. Once you know AI, learning Photoshop and InDesign is a breeze in my opinion.
After learning how to design cut files in AI, you are ready to design logo, fliers, invitations, printables, apparel and embroidery designs, and much more. The best part is that you can make patterns, fonts, and any type of graphic yourself - completely from scratch now! Some believe this is the hardest part. I did for many years. I always wanted to know how to design clipart pieces and do the vector art, but it scared me! I was intimidated by AI and wish I had started here first before learning Photoshop, InDesign, or the other programs. Once you learn AI, you are golden and like I said, the sky's the limit!
I hope this post has been helpful and has shed some light on how AI is different from the other top cutting programs. Have a great week everyone!