Mac Affinity Designer – The Scores are in!

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If you are a graphic designer or creative of any sort, and you have not been in hibernation for the last year. You will have heard the stories about the MacAffinity suite from the guys at Serif. It has been available in beta for quite a while, with tutorials and pre-release reviews a plenty. Some have been heralding it as the Adobe Killer! Are they right to heap that much praise for programs that has until now only been in beta. But not only that, can a program that is currently being sold for less than £50 really even be a contender?

affinity photo

We’ve gone and purchased both Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo to test the theories, reviews and to see if they really do live up to the hype. We’ll be focussing this review on Affinity Designer with one on Affinity photo coming soon.

This isn’t going to be an essay of a review, more over a snapshot of some of the features, some of the drawbacks and a few of our muddled interpretations for good measure. So let’s get started!

Serif has been producing creative software for many a year, with it’s primary focus on the pc market with the ‘Plus’ suites – these include: Draw Plus (Illustrator Comparison), Photo Plus (Photoshop), Page Plus (Indesign), Movie/Video plus (After Effects) …. There are a few more but those are the main ones to be concerned with for the purposes of this review. For the best part these are ok, they simplify some of the processes of their Adobe rival programs…but, to be fair have often been consider by some as a starting block to move to Illustrator etc…. However, what they have started with the Affinity suite really is the beginning of something special.

I’m going to get the not-so-good news out of the way first as to be honest there really isn’t much of it, and to be fair to Serif the items that I will be pointing out are already on their hit list and will be addressed in updates coming soon (which, by the way, we have been told will be free forever!).

So what’s not so great?

  1. No press ready PDF functionality – before everyone gets on the high horse stating that it’s not even worth opening then, it does have a PDF print function that will allow you to save a PDF document at 300dpi plus. That being said though there is currently no functionality yet to add bleed, display trim lines etc… Those of us experienced enough though, can get round this by creating documents where this is all manually added and allowed for. Affinity have got this at the top of their list to get in there and it will more than likely appear in conjunction with the release of Affinity Publisher.
  2. No Glyphs – Unfortunately there are no glyph options for your fonts. Whilst for some, they will be pulling out their hair on this, others probably wont even notice. As with the no trim/bleed scenario described above, for those of us with enough experience we could still create the glyphs we need whilst waiting for this to be added.
  3. No Auto Trace – Not a biggie for us, but for quite a few this could be a bit of a deal breaker.
  4. No Warp – At the time of writing this there was no warp facility within Affinity Designer. This we are told should be in the next couple of updates.

Well that was pretty painless! For some, the features that are missing will mean they will probably pass on this software. But, don’t be so quick to judge! Check out the plus sides, in most ways they blow illustrator straight out of the water.

And the good stuff?

  1. The UI – Taking a leaf out of the illustrator book they have gone with black as the main colour for the UI. However, rather than just going monochrome and offsetting that with the off white/grey that illustrator tends to go for, Affinity have colour icons for almost all of their tools. Not only does this help create a refreshing UI but your eyes can more easily hone-in on the tools that you require in your workflow.
  2. Personas – You get three different ‘Personas’; Draw Persona – This is where all of your Vector tools lie for creating your designs. Pixel Persona – This is where you get your full pixel preview and where you can edit the image using pixel tools. These tools include (but are not limited to): Dodge, Burn, Paint, Smudge and a lot more. Export Persona – An actual export UI. This allows you to slice your Design and take snap shots of it. It does live exporting not just to standard PNG and JPG but many more formats including retina images.
  3. Live preview of effects – Affinity Designer does everything in real time quite how it achieves this is beyond me? It just never seems to run out of grunt.
  4. 1,000,000 x Zoom – That’s right 1,000,000 x zoom! What more needs to be said?
  5. Extra Shape Presets – Rather than just the standard couple you get built in with Illustrator, with Affinity you get shapes like: Double Star, Square Star, Arrow, Donut, Cog, Cloud, Callout Rounded, Callout Ellipse, Tear, Heart, Pie, Segment, Crescent and more… these are a god send as each one of the shapes has its very own customisable settings. Gone are the days of creating compound shapes by using your Boolean tools.
  6. Live Vector Masking – To be honest clip masks in Illustrator are very similar to this. But where Affinity trumps this is by making your vector masks live. By simply grabbing one of your layers in the layer control panel and then placing it on top of another layer, it will create a vector mask.. but one that you can move around live with your mouse and see what effects it has on your design.
  7. Gradients and Drop Shadows – This is my personal opinion… Affinity kicks Illustrators backside when it comes to gradients and drop shadows. To say that they are beautifully done is an understatement. They are so smooth; you can’t actually believe what you are seeing.
  8. Pressure Graph – a great addition to your line options is the built in pressure graph, allowing you to adjust the line width exactly how you want it. What’s even better is that you see the line change as the adjustments are made so you can get the exact effect you desire.

I could go on and on and on, but I think to be fair to you I have kept you for long enough.

Affinity Designer may not yet be perfect, but it is bloody close! In many ways the guys at Serif have really developed something with Affinity Designer that should have the Illustrator team worried. I say worried…. I mean terrified! As once a few of the little niggly bits are sorted, this program will rock the creative world.

Don’t forget that Serif are planning to release more programs in the Affinity suite…Adobe – WATCH OUT!

Try Affinity Designer for your design business today at 

  • Love you Serif, now make it for the PC and rival Xara too.

  • Love you Serif, now make it for the PC and rival Xara too.

  • Nice review, Ben! Thank you! We’re certainly going to be working really hard over the coming years to make sure we live up to the expectations of our customers – and we’ll always be receptive to feedback too, so just let us know when we get something wrong and we’ll fix it! You’ll have to let us know what you think to Photo when you get chance! MattP (Affinity Designer Project Manager and Lead Developer)

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0333 335 9988
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