The obvious answer is that I had no way of knowing that in the production of the book (since I never expected to self-publish), that transparencies would cause such a headache. But what I’ve learned in being an Illustrator for almost 2 decades now, is that the flexibility with Adobe Illustrator far exceeds that of Photoshop. So when time is the essence, as well as the ability of an illustration to be tailored to another use, well, Illustrator wins out.
First, let’s talk about scalability, using this very crude example of what happens when you try to blow up the size of a small picture originally created in Photoshop. We learned before that Photoshop stores the image as pixels in a grid. If the original picture was small, say 1 inch by 1 inch, and you set your document at 100 dpi, that means within that 1x1 inch square, you have 100 pixels of information. The more pixels you pack into that square, the better detail and more subtlety in color shifts and changes you’ll achieve. But you’ll also have a much bigger file to save!
Now, if you decide to make that picture 2x2 or 3x3 inches, you have to distribute those 100 pixels over a canvas that is now much larger than your original 1x1 inch canvas. So original pixels #3 and 4 that used to be next to each other now have empty space in between them.
What Photoshop then does is uses a clever algorithm to make up the pixel color in between each original pixel. So in this image, each original pixel is ideally placed in the center of the now much enlarged grid square. With all the empty space in between each original pixel, the algorithm looks at the next original pixel in closest proximity to the first one, and fills in each empty pixel space in between with a color that is also “in between” the colors of each original pixel. Looking at pixel #3, the color of each pixel moving left toward pixel #2 becomes lighter, to match the pixel color in #2. In moving right, the pixels in grids #3 and 4 are the same color, so, the pixels in between are also the same color. The algorithm is much more clever though, because it has to sample the original pixels in closest proximity in ALL directions. Hence, it “recreates” the shifts in color in this way.
But the algorithm isn’t perfect either, and therefore, often as good as the theory sounds, the results are not so pretty. Sometimes the result is muddiness, fuzziness, and just a lot of noise within the picture. Not so with Illustrator, which uses math formulas to store its information and is therefore not affected quality-wise when you want to scale up or down.
One point for Illustrator!
Next, we’ll talk about what happens when we try to change the image itself.