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Illustrator vs. Freehand


New Member
How do Illustrator and FreeHand compare?
Which is preferred and why?

Since I have no vector software yet, I'm considering all options.

Thanks for your opinions.


New Member
I learned on Freehand back in the mid 80's when it was owned by Aldus. It's an excellent tool, however, I think you would be better off buying and learning Illustrator. The tools in Illustrator are more refined and I think they are much more suited for drawing and tracing. I currently use Illustrator for creating art work and also some custom fonts that I did for a client. I also use Corel Draw as a layout tool. I think Corel is much better suited as a layout tool tha Illustrator. The drawing tools in Corel don't seem as smoth or as easy to use as Illustrators. It seem that it takes me two steps to do in Corel what I can do in 1 in Illustrator.

Of course these are my opinions and I'm sure you will find others that will tell you the opposite. I think that all the tools wil do a good job, if you have the opportunity to try them all it will eventually come down to personal preference.


New Member
Thanks for the feedback bullseye000.
It's good to hear these opinions from actual users instead of the promotional information that the company gives.

I'm leaning toward Illustrator or using the VinylMaster Pro software.

I guess with Illustrator, I still need a program to talk to the cutter also right?


New Member
Well here's my story. I have been doing pre-press artwork and screen printing since 1980. I started using Freehand and Illustrator in the mid 80's when they were cutting edge technology. I have a lot of time, not to mention artwork wrapped up in Illustrator. I began using Corel about 10 years ago when we bought out another company and the software came with the deal. I found that it became a useful layout tool and it, combined with Illustrator will allow you to open and modify just about any type of vector illustration. When I bought my cutter I just couldn't justify the expense of another program that was essentially a repackaged version of what I already had. My equipment supplier was quick to try and sell me Scanvec's Flexi 7. When I ran the demo it gives you the option of emulating Corels, Adobes or a couple of other programs pallet and menu layouts. Why bother when I could just use what I'm comfortable with and save myself the expense.

My cutter came with several plugins to use either Corel, Adobe, or both. So far they are working fine. Maybe when I start to do more vinyl I will consider something that's is more specialized, but for now I will stick with what I have.


New Member
Good Point

You have a good point bullseye000.

So far though, I do not have any vector based programs to use.
Since I do not have any working knowledge of one, and no investment in them yet, I thought it might be a good idea to get a program like VinylMaster Pro so I kind of have a whole package with one purchase. I still have not made up my mind though.

I just received my demo copy in the mail. It looks like it does everything I might need to do, but I always like to here from everyone.

I can never learn enough.


Illustrator versus sign program

I think that, in the end, it may pay to purchase Illustrator and learn to use it. It will take you much further than a sign program, which is just that. With Illustrator, you can go on, if you should choose, to design logos, letterhead, etc. and range far afield into design. It is a more sophisticated program than Corel, also. You will find you can enchange files with just about anyone in any design field if you have and use Illustrator. There are some good plug ins, like Cad Link, that are helpful for sign makers.


New Member
As Sharon said Illustrator is the print industry standard
as long as you produce all your own work you'll be fine with whatever works for you.
We do a lot of large format print for other companies & we know if it's in Illo it will probably print properly. Corel can be a nightmare to get to print anything from. You can design all sorts of great things but when you go to produce postscript from it sometimes turns to poo. Fonts missing, & how do you find out what fonts are sposed to be in the file after that initial warning?
Most print companies hate corel. Maybe think about that if you think you'll ever want to send print jobs out....


New Member
As a typography, print & web designer making a transition away from that industry towards sign and decal work, I can offer a bit of a different perspective to those programs, having worked with both of them relentlessly since they were in their v3 release of both programs.

They both have their virtues and downfalls, and one program, regardless of what it is, will never do every job better than the other programs. I am more comfortable with FreeHand, and have been for many years. I feel that it is a far superior program for typography control and alteration. Illustrator lacks too many detail adjustments and controls with type for me to be happy with it's type handling.

On the other hand, Illustrator is not only a suite product with Photoshop (which for me is a very valuable benefit), but it is a cleaner program with Bezier curves and object handling. Without getting too complicated, it does a few more things than FreeHand does with basic shapes. It is a very strong tool, but many times I find myself pulling my hair out working in Illustrator because there are things that you cannot control or change that FreeHand handles with ease.

I can do anything with FreeHand that my co-workers can do with Illustrator, and in many cases, much quicker and with less keystrokes or clicks. They are both very good programs (the best vector-based programs in my opinion), and export the same types of files. I go between the two with the same files all the time, though you need to export FH files as older AI files for Illustrator to read them correctly. Why, I don't know.

The black and white of it is, they will both work great for your needs. The best scenario is to have both, which I do. Don't get stuck on one program, you get pigeon-holed. Learn as many pieces of software as you can, it will only make you a more well-rounded craftsman.