Photoshop vs Fireworks

Ever since the days of Macromedia I have always used Fireworks for my web design and Photoshop for photo manipulation. Lots of people swear by Photoshop for web design too, yet every time I have tried it I have ended up swearing AT Photoshop instead.

I have compiled some thoughts on both these products, good and bad. These are just my views and experiences but I would like to get your thoughts on it too, as I feel that considering the amount of people using Photoshop for the layout and design of websites I must be missing something somewhere.



As a photo manipulation package you cannot beat Photoshop. I love it, I love working with it, and I actually like the fact that it hasn’t drastically changed version to version. It feels comfortable.

When I turn to web design though, the story changes. I am so used to grabbing hold of my objects on the canvas and dragging them into place, like I was playing with objects on a desk. With Photoshop this task seems to be a bit more complicated. I have to look for my object on the layers toolbar, click on it, then I can drag it. If I want to drag another object out of the way I need to locate that too? There may be a shortcut to this, but I don’t know it.

If you are an organised designer you will name your layers as you go along. This makes Photoshop a LOT more manageable and saved scrolling through pages and pages of the layers lists all called layer1, layer2, layer3 etc.

Photoshop does win in certain web design areas though, such as text. Things like bullet lists can be mocked up quickly and easily. This is not possible in fireworks without an awful lot of messing.


I feel like I am a little biased in that I have been working with Fireworks ever since it was released, and I know it upside down and back to front. I live the way I can drag things around, work with objects as vector entities and knock together a site in half an hour. I don’t use it for generating code, I do that by hand, but as a web graphics tool I love it.

I love the slice tool in Fireworks. It is so easy to use and you have total control over the individual slice. This is not a deal breaker for me, but it works well.

Fireworks has some really useful vector tools. It also has a symbols panel. This is great if you use objects over and over again. Simply convert it into a symbol and add it to the panel. For UI design this is a real time saver and a definite advantage over Photoshop.

Fireworks is not without it’s faults though. On the Mac it seems to decide with the roll of a dice which fonts it is going to use. With Photoshop I activate and deactivate fonts and Photoshop picks that up (upon reload), but in Fireworks it seems to misplace certain fonts and I don’t know why.


After comparing the two I am left with the same view that I had at the beginning. Photoshop seems better for photo manipulation and Fireworks seems better for web design. Why then do so many people swear by Photoshop for web projects? I guess the answer lies in the fact that there are a lot of web designers who have come from a general design background and grown up with Photoshop. If you have taken years to master a tool, why bother to learn another?

I really would like to use Photoshop for web design projects but at the moment I feel it slows me down too much. That may be partly due to the product, but mainly because I am a lot more familiar with Fireworks. The purpose of this post was not to choose one over the other, but just to see why people use what they use and what strengths and weaknesses each product has.

I have only touched the surface with this post. There are a pleathora of options out there, Photoshop, Fireworks, GIMP, Coreldraw, Painshop Pro. Each of them have their own strengths and weaknesses.

What do you use for your web designs, and why?

10 replies
  1. Paul
    Paul says:

    I mainly use Photoshop simply because I’m familiar with it. It’s obviously rather powerful. To be honest, I haven’t given Fireworks a legitimate chance yet, but I probably should.

  2. Jim
    Jim says:

    @Paul: It will be interesting to hear what you think of Fireworks. Interestingly my font issues were resolved this evening by deleting my font caches. It’s a great product, but for some reason I still want to design in Photoshop LOL.

    Let us know how you get on if you do try Fireworks

  3. Rarst
    Rarst says:

    I am really bad with drawing stuff and using Paint.NET 🙂 Photoshop is too complicated for me and very expensive (yeah, I know that most of users pirate it anyway).

    Lately I was thinking that since I am way better with command-coordinate approach to images (some CAD experience) I should look into vector image editors. Thinking about trying Inkscape or something like that.

  4. Jim
    Jim says:

    @Rarst: You’re not kidding PS is expensive. I have boxed copies of both of these products as I use them for business, but I certainly would not fork out for Photoshop if it was just a hobby!

    A lot of people are using vector packages for web design now, especially for logo’s etc. It’s something I struggled to get into but makes sense if you think you may wish to scale your work at some point.

  5. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    You might want to check out Corel’s Paintshop Pro. I’ve been using this product for many years now and find that it incorporates the best of both worlds. You can drag objects around as you describe in FW, it doesn’t have any issues with fonts or font caching and by using a font organizer program, I have access to the over 2500 fonts stored on my computer(!)

    I’ve never used Fireworks, so really have no basis for comparison other than the items you’ve mentioned here. I *do* have Photoshop CS and find it’s not very user-friendly although I’m sure it does many things better than PSP.

    Another consideration is that while PSP isn’t free, it is under $100 — something you cannot say about either Fireworks OR Photoshop!


    • Jim
      Jim says:

      Good points there Margaret, and thanks for the comments. I have not used Corel draw for a good 15 years, so I am sure it has changed since I did. As for PSP being in a different price bracket, that is true and if I didn’t already have the discussed products it would be a strong contender.

  6. Jason
    Jason says:

    Just wanted to add my thoughts from a complete beginners perspective. I am ok wth DW, and flash, but photoshop just seems like its all in a different language. I obviously need to edit / create images to improve my designs using the above but like you say I just end up swearing at the screen and walking away. It sees to turn something I see as a hobby which i would like to get better at into a real chore. If you follow a tute to do some tacky 3d dice or something it seems to work but to just explore and i guess design with it seems impossible. Obviously Im new, inexperienced etc but I have seen seen some fantastic work done with PShop so Iam missing the point, but with flash & DW I feel I learn every time with pshop I feel stupid! just downloading fireworks now, watch this space!

    • Jim
      Jim says:

      @Jason: Thanks for the reply. I feel your pain regarding Photoshop. I have time and time again tried to use Photoshop for web design and each time I have gone straight back to Fireworks. If you like Flash then I think you will like Fireworks…. please let me know how you get on!

      I think Photoshop is amazing at photo manipulation, but seriously lacking in terms of web development. It’s a shame thet Macromedia and Adobe ended up the same company, as I would have loved to see Fireworks move forward. I feel it’s development is slowing down a little, just as all the Adobe products have over the years.

  7. diseño web
    diseño web says:

    Everything depends on the type of work that we are going to carry out. If it is a project Web because I advise to use fireworks by its multiple tools and the close relation with dreamweaver. But, if it is a project for impression would be due to use photoshop


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