Pros / In addition to providing professional-grade graphic design tools, this software is the least-expensive one we tested.
Cons / There is no image-trace feature.
Verdict / Serif Affinity Designer’s wonderful features and mix of pixel and vector tools make it one of the best graphic design programs on the market, and its low price makes even more attractive.
Over the past few years, Serif has been creating its own versions of software that rival Adobe’s Creative Suite. It started with Affinity Photo, a photo editing program akin to Photoshop. That was shortly followed by Affinity Designer, a vector-based graphic design program similar to Illustrator. Now, the company is working on Affinity Publisher, a desktop publishing software like InDesign.
Affinity differentiates itself from Adobe in a variety of ways, perhaps the foremost being affordability. Whereas most of Adobe’s programs require costly monthly or annual subscriptions, Affinity keeps all of its programs as one-time payments, with the highest software price being only about $50. Affinity Designer sells for $49.99, which is very inexpensive for a quality graphic design program. Unfortunately, Serif doesn’t offer trial versions of its programs, so there’s no way to test Affinity Designer before buying it.
Affinity Designer is one of the best graphic design programs for illustration tools. It offers a pen tool, a library of brushes, and the ability to create custom brushes and adjust stroke options to give your lines and vectors your desired look and feel. When we connected a Wacom tablet to a computer, we were happy to find that the brushstrokes responded well to pressure sensitivity. We found the gradient and opacity features easy to use, and we could add custom guides to a brochure to keep in mind where the folds would be.
The one illustration tool we wish this software had was image tracing, which automatically turns a raster image into an editable vector. You can still hand-trace an image using the pen tool and create your own vector, but that takes more time. Based on info from Affinity’s user forum, it appears that Serif hopes to add an image-trace feature to the software in the future.
Photo & Image Tools
Similarly to Illustrator, this software was designed more around vector tools than pixel tools. But Affinity Designer has something Illustrator lacks: Pixel Persona, a separate tab that allows you to work with pixel brushes and a few other pixel tools within this vector-based software. Pretty neat, right? That means you can do a little digital painting and limited photo touch-up from within this vector program without needing to switch to photo editing software.
There are only six photo filters. Although that’s more than what Illustrator offers, it’s a much smaller selection than the other programs we tested offer. Additionally, there are only 17 basic premade templates, whereas some other programs offer hundreds of templates.
This software includes content-aware scaling, masking tools and perspective-based editing, but if you want in-depth photo editing tools, you’ll need to use Serif’s photo editing software, Affinity Photo. Similarly to Illustrator, Affinity Designer does not offer color correction, noise removal or automatic lens correction. It also lacks panorama stitching and an HDR creator because Affinity Designer focuses on vector tools and not on pixels and photos.
When you’re ready to print your creations, the printing setup will help you make sure your designs come out correctly. The program warns you when something might print poorly, and you can even add printer’s marks to make it easier to cut out your printed project. The one thing we weren’t thrilled about was that we couldn’t find bleed setup options. This is a very important feature for professional designers, as it helps to ensure that every area of the final printed product has ink instead of white strips.
Help & Support
Affinity Designer’s user forum is very active and regularly features responses from Affinity employees. You can ask questions and get answers from either fellow users or Affinity reps. You can also contact the company via email or phone. For additional aid, look up one of the many video tutorials to learn tips and tricks.
Affinity Designer works with many popular file types, including JPEG, PNG, GIF, TIFF, AI, BMP and RAW. However, this software doesn’t work with PSD, TXT, DOCX, SWF or XLS files. While it’s not likely that you’d use those last five file types, it’s nice to have the option. Other programs we tested could handle those file types.
Affinity is available for both Mac and PC, as well as for iPads (in case you like to do your graphic design work on a tablet). Hopefully, it will become available for Android tablets in the near future.
Affinity Designer is one of the best graphic design programs on the market. It combines professional-level vector features with basic photo editing tools, giving you a lot of creative freedom within one program. We loved how well it worked. It doesn’t offer some of the tools you’d get from Illustrator, like image tracing, but it’s still an impressive, low-priced software that’s a good choice for professionals and beginners alike.