If you’re looking for a vector graphics software, then you might want to give Affinity Designer a try. Whether you’re new to graphic design or a freelance graphic designer on a budget, the features of Affinity Designer could meet your designing needs. After spending a year or so doing work with free and open-source programs such as Inkscape and Gimp, I finally decided to buy Affinity Designer in May 2019.
Now, as far as free programs go, Inkscape and Gimp are pretty powerful. But for me, they didn’t meet my needs in terms of functionality and speed. Since its first introduction back in 2014, the developers at Serif Labs have been rapidly making changes to Affinity Designer Below, I detail some of the features of Affinity Designer along with the reasons why I love this software and would recommend it.
The price of Affinity Designer is one of the things that caught my attention. For Windows and Mac users, Affinity Designer is $49.99. If you have an iPad, Affinity Designer is $19.99. This was a big deal to me because whether you decide to pay $49.99 or $19.99, you’re only making a one-time payment. That means there’s no yearly or monthly subscription you must pay to use the software. Also, you own the software once you pay for it. In addition, whenever Serif Labs makes any updates to Affinity Designer, you can automatically download the updates at no additional costs!
Within Affinity Designer, there are three different personas. Each persona allows you to work with both vector and raster items inside of the same application. There’s the Designer Persona, the Pixel Persona, and the Export persona. The Designer Persona is used for vector work. This is the persona I use the most. In the designer persona, you can create things such as logos, web designs, app designs, icons, and illustrations.
In the Pixel Persona, Affinity Designer provides you with tools that allow you to do some photo editing and add textures to your designs. This persona also acts like a traditional drawing and painting tool because it has a variety of paintbrushes and a flood fill (or bucket) tool.
The last persona is self-explanatory. When it’s time to prepare your files to send to clients, the export persona can tremendously help you in speeding up your workflow. You can export various parts of your work separately into what are called slices. In addition, the export persona lets you export your projects into the most common file types such as PNG, JPG, SVG, EPS (can be opened in Adobe Illustrator), and PSD (can be opened in Adobe Photoshop). It even has extra file types such as TIFF, GIF, and HDR.
Affinity Designer’s pen tool is located in the Designer Persona. The pen tool is one of my favorite features of Affinity Designer. It comes in handy when you’re tracing objects and need to make straight or curved lines. Also, you can draw with the pen tool too. The pen tool (in the context toolbar) contains several different drawing modes. You can use the pen mode (which is the default mode and draws shapes with smooth or sharp curves and nodes), smart mode (places nodes down when you click, thus creating nearly flawless curves), polygon mode (draws straight lines that have sharp nodes), and line mode (draws straight lines that end once you unclick them).
The node tool (in the Designer Persona) allows you to adjust curves and change nodes. You must convert your shapes into curves first before making any changes to them. Once you convert your shape to a curve, you’ll see an area called Convert in the context toolbar. This lets you convert nodes into sharp, smooth, or smart nodes.
Additionally, in the context toolbar, there’s an Action section for the node tool that allows you to manipulate curves. You can break the curve which opens the area of the selected node. The close curve encloses your shape by joining the beginning and the end nodes together. The smooth curve adds or deletes nodes to make them smoother. The join curve lets you join two separate curves, turning them into one curve. The reverse curve allows you to draw from the opposite end of a curve.
With the pencil tool, you can draw things the same way you would with an actual pencil and a sheet of paper. The pencil tool has a sculpt function which allows you to continue a pencil stroke instead of creating multiple curves. It also allows you to edit your pencil strokes.
In Affinity Designer, there are operations called Boolean operations. These operations are very similar to the pathfinder in Adobe Illustrator. The Boolean operations allow you to add, subtract, intersect, xor (combine), and divide overlapping shapes to create new shapes.
The appearance panel in Affinity Designer lets you add multiple strokes and fills to selected objects. It also allows you to change the order of the strokes and fills, and you can change their blending modes. Additionally, once you activate a stroke or a fill, you can go into the stroke panel or the color panel to edit them. To access the appearance panel, go to View. Select Studio. Then click Appearance.
With the history panel, you can go back a step or more if you make a mistake or don’t like what you created. Also, you can go to a specific moment in the history panel that you want to undo and change it.
Affinity Designer’s effects panel adds effects to different layers and objects. There are quite a few effects too such as Gaussian Blur (which blurs objects), 3D (gives objects a 3D effect using lighting), Outer Shadow (places a shadow behind an object), Inner Shadow (places a shadow inside an object), and Bevel/Emboss (adds highlights and shadows to an object). These are some of the main effects that I use, but there are plenty more effects.
Another helpful feature of Affinity Designer is the split view tool. If you draw a vector object and then add a pixel layer to it, the split view will let you preview (in real-time) what your vector and pixel layer will look like before you export your project. The left side preview is for vector objects, and the right side is for pixel objects. To access the split view, go to View. Click View Mode. Then select Split View.
Finally, the isometric and axonometric grids are another set of features of Affinity Designer that I love. The isometric and axonometric grids are good for anyone creating game designs, UI designs, mockups, logos, and digital designs. For more information on these grids click here.
So, whether you’re a graphic designer looking for a cheaper, yet powerful change in vector software or just beginning graphic design, I would highly recommend giving Affinity Designer a try.