Graphic Artist vs Graphic Designer | How To Find The Difference


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Graphic Artist vs Graphic Designer | How To Find The Difference

The role of a graphic artist vs graphic designer is normally mentioned in the same context as if they have the same meaning and disciplines – many of my first-time clients usually ask for a graphic designer, but after a consultation with them, I’ve often found they’re looking to find a graphic artist instead. Although the two creative types do share some similarities, they are very different in several ways, and each profession has its own distinct methods and purpose. So how to find the difference you ask? Let’s talk about it!

Basic difference between a graphic artist vs graphic designer.

What is the difference between a graphic artist vs graphic designer? It is easy to see how the distinction of these two professions can become blurred and how the differences can appear nuanced. After all, a graphic artist does use design principles to craft human anatomy and pictorial compositions, and a graphic designer draws out ideas through mock sketching and mind-mapping. Both the artist and designer use much of the same visual language of mathematics and geometry to structure their work. But, graphic artists focus on reality-based people, events, and objects to draw on feelings and emotions of the viewer. A graphic designer will focus on the composition or placement on a page layout involving objects, images, or design assets – still involving some emotion but it is to inspire a call to action, or to sell an audience on a brand.

A contrast in software.

Computer programs are used for the art-making during this time for both of these two graphics specialists, though some of the software apps are used by both creatives, they are used for different outcomes.


Adobe Photoshop is the essential software application on the market; it is a standard installation that you’ll find on nearly every hard-drive of a creative professional. The photoshop app uses raster technology to give the user an ability to manipulate photos, create gifs, or offer a realistic simulation of free-hand drawing and painting. Those features are perfectly ideal for a graphic artist interested in creating beautiful illustrations because raster graphics rely on a composite of tiny pixels (or bitmaps) that can be filled with marks, strokes, and colors to render a digital image. So if you were to minimize or expand the images past the size/resolution it was rendered in, you are essentially contracting and stretching the pixels within your image, which will pixelate and blur your imagery.

This is a nightmare for anyone who’s interested in using a logo in various sizes if it were in raster format. If you were to shrink it down to stamp on your business card or blow it up to stick on the side of a blimp – you would run a serious risk of losing the resolution, clarity, or edges due to improper format.

However, a raster form of digital rendering is not ideal for a graphic designer who is developing commercial work for web and print media. Although Photoshop is a fantastic sketching tool for a mock sketch presentation, a graphic design expert will use a software running on vector graphics to meet their goals.


Adobe Illustrator is the top vector graphics program for graphic designers on the market at this time. Like photoshop is for the creative visual artist, illustrator is built more for the designer than the artist. Vector graphics is the top solution for a designer over the pixel based raster format, as vector software relies on the algorithm of curvilinear-friendly polygons to render sleek images. So where does the term vector come from and how does it relate to polygons? Each angular point, or corner, of a polygon, is called a vertex. The plural form of a vertex is called vertices, which describes multiple corners or angular points. So artists and designers who use illustrator rely on the vector graphics since they’re able to create smooth lines and shapes for the design work, and it also eliminates all pixelation and blurred effects to raster images when the DPI resolution or the scale is adjusted. With that said, Illustrator is slightly more restrictive in how it is operated and it is more about mouse-clicking pen tools, moving magic wands, and connecting paths than the free reign of art creation that photoshop does so well.

So artists and designers who can use illustrator rely on the vector graphics for creating smooth lines and shapes for the design work, plus it will eliminate any concern of pixelation and blurred effects that you would get from a raster images if the DPI resolution or the scale is adjusted. In function, Illustrator clearly values graphic design over the free reign offered by photoshop and it is slightly more restrictive in how it operates. The program does give the ability for freehand drawing which immediately creates a vector path for each stroke, graphic artists can use this for clean trace line-work or the redrawing a cleaner version of a raster image for print. But as i said before, adobe illustrator can be used for both graphic artist and graphic designers, but the app is more interested in mouse-clicking pen tools, moving magic wands, and connecting paths for precision than free reign drawing and painting.


Adobe Indesign uses vector graphics just like Illustrator but the focus is on strictly layout design for books, marketing materials, brochures, mailers, business cards, and all other forms of print media. Indesign is geared directly to the graphic designer with no option for freehand drawing or painting. Still, both the artist and designer can still use this software with different aims in mind, the artist can create elegant designs to present their artwork for viewing. The designer can structure beautiful layouts which are appealing and clean for all forms of print.

Similarities and differences of the graphic artist vs graphic designer.

The more the subject is studied, the more we see how each role is distinguishable. The differences are pretty stark in some areas, but the similarities are so closely related that it is easy to blend them together since both focus on:

  • Digital applications in raster format and vector graphics to produce their creative art & design work.
  • Work that invokes some type of call to action for attention or sales conversions for a product or website.
  • Design ability for rich and effective presentations of their work at the highest quality.

As an analogy, let’s say that Graphics Art and Graphic Design are like the conjoined twins of creativity – joined at the hip with much of the same attributes and move in the same direction of creating visual communication, but there is a clear separation behind the thought process and purpose of each.

Now that you know the difference between the two professions, if you are looking to hire a creative artist or designer for your next project I can help you! To get started with your free consultation to describe your project needs and goals, all you have to do is fill out the contact form here.

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A professional graphic artist, designer, illustrator, and concept artist for hire who serves as the art outsourcing solution for a variety of industries. He also shares his expert knowledge through his blog, by delivering his brand of rich content in graphic design, concept art, illustration, logo design, storyboards, architectural renderings, book cover, drawing, painting, and much more. Learn More >

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