photoshop creative

Review: Affinity Designer

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Reviews, by Mark White
March 12, 2018

A vector illustration software with an impressive bang for its buck

With Affinity Designer, Serif has created a vector drawing software that manages to rival the Adobe titan, Illustrator. With many of the same features as its Adobe counterpart, Affinity Designer enables you to create vector shapes and illustrations with impeccable performance.

The software isn’t bloated with unused tools and instead focuses on speed and agility, while also featuring some of the best loved vector drawing features such as the Pen Tool and custom shapes. The Shape library in particular is incredibly extensive and is ideal for creating abstract patterns and designs for use in your artwork. The dynamic editing of shapes and symbols means you can create really interesting geometric designs really simply. There are also the boolean functions – add, subtract, combine, divide and intersect. This is Affinity’s answer to Illustrator’s Shape Builder, where you can combine and subtract shapes to create more complicated forms. Whenever you select a tool, a corresponding contextual toolbar appears at the top giving you further tool customisation options. This includes some very helpful Pen Tool options for creating uniform curves.

The Pen Tool in Designer addresses many issues users have with the Adobe Illustrator Pen Tool. The grab-points in Affinity Designer as larger and therefore easier to pick up and rearrange, especially when using a tablet. When combined with a customisable Snap Function panel, it makes building and rearranging shapes a breeze.

Affinity apps come with what Serif calls ‘Personas’. These are essentially different modes within the app that enable you to work to a different specification. There’s the Draw Persona, which is the default for Designer and is used for vector drawing. Then there’s the Pixel Persona, which changes your interface for use in raster painting. This Persona contains many of the most useful tools from Adobe Photoshop, such as Smudge, Blur and Sharpen. This is especially useful because there is no trace image tool in Affinity Designer, so isolating scanned sketches will require some contrast work. Finally there’s the Export Persona, which is used specifically to output from your projects and is really useful for creating assets for later use in Photoshop or for web and app content. It’s a thoughtful addition to the user experience to be able to clearly alter your workspace to give you the precise tools you need to get your specific project done smoothly and enjoyably. The user interface itself feels familiar and intuitive, with many of the shortcuts from well known vector software.

With one app trying to do so many things for so many different audiences, it is likely that there will be some areas where the software falls short. The Eyedropper Tool for example, takes some getting used to. You are able to export your work to a variety of formats including PNG, JPEG, PSD and SVG. The transition from Affinity Designer to Photoshop is a little less seamless than from within the Adobe Suite, but will still offer the same use of Smart Objects. For someone using the app to complement their work in Photoshop, this is an ideal tool offering incredible design potential for a pocket friendly price. And it is the price of Affinity Designer that is an obvious bonus. For a one-off payment, you get incredible functionality as well as free updates and support from the Serif community.

The Verdict

9/10 – For price coupled with performance, Affinity Designer has no rival. It may fall short in some areas, but for most designers it fits the bill.