My Adobe subscription was ending and I was left to make a choice. Renew or cancel. I already used Affinity Designer and I liked it, however for some things Illustrator is still one step ahead. I decided to dive in deeper and find out if I could make a switch and still produce work that I enjoy.
Spoiler alert…I made the switch. If you haven’t heard about Affinity Designer let me summarise it quickly. Affinity Designer is a professional graphics software, equivalent to Illustrator and it’s a one-time payment, no subscriptions. Check out their website here.
Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored post. I made this switch and loving it so much that I decided to share with you. Maybe you will be faced with the same choice someday and I wanted to share my own experience.
Also, I am not saying one is better than the other. I wouldn’t want you to haunt me if you make the switch and it’s not for you. It all depends on your workflow and what you need it for. Luckily they offer a free trial so you can go ahead and test it for yourself.
Now let’s talk about the fun stuff.
Couple of important points about Affinity Designer
Affinity is in no way like Procreate. It’s a vector drawing software and there is a learning curve to it as well as for Illustrator. However, the UI is much more user-friendly and if you are already familiar with Illustrator, the switch will be super easy. If not, there are tons of tutorials on their website and every day more and more people are making the switch so the number of youtube videos is also growing.
If you are looking for a quick way to vectorize your lettering from Procreate or from a scan by using live trace, you are still better off with Adobe Illustrator. There is talk that the feature will eventually come to Affinity Designer but not sure when.
That being said, if you are looking for an alternative for vector drawing your lettering with the pen tool, Affinity Designer might just be the right alternative for you.
This thing is blazing fast and doesn’t lag no matter how many effects you add to your work. It doesn’t load forever and so far I haven’t had any issues with crashing. Overall I had a very smooth experience.
One million + Zoom
Yes, you read correctly. You can zoom to the tiniest detail in your work and be absolutely sure everything is where it should be.
This is probably the biggest difference between Illustrator and Affinity. There are three different “workspaces” inside Affinity Designer. (Workspace might not be the right term for this but it’s the closest to what you have in Illustrator). One is for vector drawing, one for pixel work and the last one is for exporting your work.
For lettering that means that when you are done drawing your vectors, you can just switch to Pixel persona and add some textures or other raster effects without leaving the program. Very convenient, right?
Color picker works a little bit differently than the one in Illustrator. You can easily pick a color by dragging the picker (even outside of the software) and it shows you the latest used colors so you don’t have to save them manually in the swatches every time.
And another very cool thing about the colors in Affinity is that you can tell the software to pick your colors from an image. Just upload it and set the number of colors you want. It will automatically create the palette from that image. Easy peasy. The gradients are also much much nicer and there is a nifty little button in the color chooser where instead of changing the color opacity, you can add noise for a touch of texture to your work.
Pen tool works pretty much the same as it does in Illustrator, however, if you want to delete a point, the path will stay closed. You have to manually break the path if you want to open it. I personally prefer it working this way because there are rarely times I want to delete a point because I want to open the path and it fits good with my workflow.
One of the things that I really love about drawing vectors in Affinity is that pressing space removes all the points and anchors from the view, leaving only your artwork visible. As long as you hold the space, you can see your artwork as if you deselected it. This is such a tiny feature but when you are clicking and pulling points all day, you can really feel the difference in not having to do that one more click each time you want to see your artwork.
In Illustrator I had issues with moving the points by a really small amount (not including the arrow keys). I would have to zoom in like crazy and it would still snap to a mysterious grid even though snapping is turned off. In Affinity I am not having this issue and moving points is really smooth.
Another thing that is making my life easier is the selection of points. In Illustrator, if you drag over the points to make a selection it will select all the points you drag over, no matter which shape is active. Affinity, however, selects only the points in the active shape. When drawing letters we pretty much have a ton of overlapping shapes and this feature makes it a lot easier to make selections.
Here’s a quick peak at a process video I’m working on to show you how the pen tool works.
Pressure curve works similarly as the Width tool in Illustrator but you don’t have to use the clumsy tool to pull the width directly on your stroke and you don’t have to make a profile first and then use it on your stroke.
Affinity gives you the pressure curve graph where you can add points and move them around to your liking, all at the same time while watching how it affects your stroke. If you want to apply it to other strokes as well, you just need to click the save profile.
Masking shapes work just like clipping masks do in Photoshop. Why is this so complicated in Illustrator is beyond me. If you need to mask a shape just drag the layer below the shape you need to mask and that’s it.
There is a hidden cat tool. Yes, I’m serious. If you find it you can draw cats the same as rectangles or circles. I’m not going to tell you where it is because that takes all the fun out of finding it.
Affinity also launched its Affinity Designer for iPad app and let me tell you, it’s working amazingly. You have all the tools of the desktop version available to you and by using gestures, you have access to modifier keys which means you can pretty much do everything as on the desktop…on your couch while binging Netflix.
Things that I would love to see in Affinity Designer in the future
I don’t want you to think it’s all sunshine and roses so I also want to talk about some features that I would really love to see in Affinity Designer in the future.
There is no tool similar to Blend tool in Illustrator. That means if you want to make a drop shadow in your lettering piece you need to do it manually. And there is no playing around with it when you finish it. It’s the way it is and if you want it to drop more or to the other side you have to do it all over again. I am fine with this at the moment. There is talk about the tool being added in the future updates but it’s not known when.
Also missing in Affinity. The only way to cut the path at the moment is to break the point.
This is my biggest pet peeve. When overlapping shapes you can choose Alternate (Even-Odd) or Winding (Non-Zero) Fill Mode. If you draw a letter or a shape that overlaps in on itself, and later want to unite the shape, you are left with the punched out whole where the overlap is. I would usually draw another shape on top of the overlap and unite it again to fix it. I might be missing some option to fix this and if anyone knows a better way to do this please let me know in the comments below!
I hope you wont mind this huge blog post but it was important to me that I cover as much as I could. And if you are curious at all about the Affinity just test it for yourself and let me know how you like it!