Affinity Designer – The Best Mac Illustrators Application

This is the illustration App I have been looking for

Since I changed over to the Mac from Windows about eight years ago I have been looking for something that was as good as CorelDraw. I was something of an expert with CorelDraw, having used it for about 12 years on a daily basis and I was disappointed there was nothing really like it for the Mac. Well, there is Adobe Illustrator, but after using it I was a little bit disappointed with the ease-of-use. It was possible to do many of the things I was able to do with CorelDraw, however it was always much more difficult. I looked at Vector Designer and Intaglio and more recently another one called Candy Apple and none of them really did it for me. I have heard good reports of this application called Affinity Designer which has just become available and I have to say that I am really quite impressed.

Affinity Designer – A Good Place to Work

When you are spending a lot of time within an application you want to see that it is well-designed and intuitive for your use. You don’t want to have it looking like one of these horrible open source applications that are often powerful but extremely ugly. For this reason I really like using Pixelmator for working on bitmap images. Affinity Designer in some ways has a similar look to Pixelmator and I like that. I quite like it that I can use the application where it takes up the whole of the screen in one working space and if I want to I can change to having parts of it all separated on the screen. So you might have one drawing in one window, the toolbars in another, the layers palette somewhere else and so on.

First impressions of Affinity Designer

The first tool that I tried out was the line drawing tool and it’s worked as I expected with the creation of lines using Bezier curves. I quickly found out that if I held down the command key then I would also be able to edit the nodes I had created individually and then still go back to finish completing the line. Brushes can be applied to the line to totally customise how that line looks in the drawing. There are a few keystrokes that you need to learn for modifying what happens with the tool as you use it. It is not too difficult for you to change your line by turning it into a closed shape. As you might expect when you are using a new application for the first time there are things to get used to and I am still working on how to create gradient fills. I have learnt how to duplicate objects and to do power duplication. This is where you can make one duplicate and makes changes to it, such as rotation and scale and then do multiple duplicates which also duplicate the changes that you made.

bezier Tools in Affinity Designer

Good views in Affinity Designer

I’m highly impressed with the level of zoom that you get with this application. This means you can go in and work on very small parts of your drawing, making very detailed and complicated art works. There are three types of view that you can use – Pixel View Mode, -Retina Pixel View Mode and Outline View Mode. (I found a fourth which I mention later.)

In my initial time of discovery with Affinity Designer I’m not noticing a huge difference between the first two of those Pixel Views although if I start working with some bitmaps on there as well, maybe I will see more. The Outline View Mode is a wireframe mode which is very handy when working on vector drawings and something you would expect to find in this type of application.

There are menu items and keyboard shortcuts that you can use to change your view of your drawing quickly. Such as using cmd+0 to zoom the drawing to fit the screen. Or you can use cmd+shift+0 to zoom to a selection. There are plenty of other zoom views based on a percentage of the actual size you can also take advantage of.

Manipulating objects onscreen

A Vector object
It is the usual story with objects you have in your drawing where you have a set of nine points on a rectangle bounding box which surrounds your object. You can use the points at the sides to change the shape of an object making it wider or taller. The points at the corners allow you to change the height and width at the same time. If you hold down the shift key it will constrict it to the same proportions. Basically, with Affinity Designer you have just about all of the usual requirements for doing what you need to with your shapes. I have found that there is one thing missing I would have expected to be there, even in a first version of a vector drawing application. When you rotate an object, at the moment you can only rotate around the centre point for that object. I wrote a message to the developers asking why it wasn’t possible to move the rotation point to wherever you wanted it in relation to the object. I was impressed that they got back to me quickly to say that it is something on the list to be included in the application as soon as possible. I like the way that I can have as many objects as you want on a layer. This means you can set the blending for a group of objects at the same time when there on the same layer.

Over on the right hand side there is an info panel and you can use the drop-down on the layers to see all of your objects. This makes it very easy to select a specific object, even if it is behind others and you can’t see it in your design. Then there are tools which allow you to move an object forwards and backwards in the drawing. So you can set whether an object is at the front or at the back, or somewhere in between. You can name all objects if you want to help you keep track of them.

Lots of tools to play with in Affinity Designer

In the toolbox you have all of the tools that you need for creating vector designs. There is the Move tool which gives you your basic manipulations. Then there is the node tool which lets you change the shape of an object by moving nodes and bezier nodes if there are any. You can change a node which is set for a sharp change in direction of the line, to a node which will give you a curve. Nodes can be either sharp, smooth or smart and with these you can make a line or a shape do whatever you want.

Using bitmaps in your vector design

All of the vector design applications now have facilities for using bitmaps alongside vectors. This application is no different in this respect. You can use the bitmap placement tool or you can just drag and drop images onto the canvas.

Using text on your Affinity Designer graphic design

You have a choice of using Art Text or the Frame Text Tool. Art text is for a short amount of text, while the frame text is what you will use for paragraphs. The art text you can manipulate the same as you would any other shape. The paragraph of text fits within the rectangle and you have more options of setting how that text fits within that frame. So you can go for left justification, or centre, right or fully justified. In fact, there are even more things you can do with the text than that. Open up a dialog window to see all of the options.

I did find it a little bit weird that when I zoom right into the text it has the look of bitmap jaggies, even though it is a vector object. When manipulating the shape I had to go to the wire frame type mode to get a workable view of the text. But then I found that there is a fourth view mode that is not available with the icons at the top of the drawing, even though it is available from the menus. Going into Vector View shows the text off in all of its vectorised glory.

Affinity designer is an excellent graphic design application

I really enjoy using this application for creating vector graphics. It is completely amazing in its first incarnation as a new application. The developers do have a list of things to add to the app. What is already a fantastic, brilliant illustrator’s application, can only get better. Look out Adobe Illustrator you now have some real competition. The price of the application is reasonable at €45 and in the advertising for the application it is mentioned many times that it is a one-off purchase. Affinity designer is directly challenging Adobe Illustrator for which you have to pay monthly and will end up costing you more. I have already stated that I am impressed and delighted with Affinity Designer and I give it the Mac20Q seal of approval.


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