Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator: which is better?


Adobe Illustrator is hands down one of the best design apps you’ll find. Since its release over 30 years ago, it has become the industry standard for vector graphic design. But it also has plenty of worthy competitors, including CorelDRAW and Sketch. They may not be able to overthrow the defending champion, but some of these alternatives have gained loyal followers.

Affinity Designer has been making waves since joining the fray. Although it is much cheaper than Illustrator, it is packed with similar features.

But can he really compete? When you pit Affinity Designer against Adobe Illustrator, does Affinity Designer really stand a chance?

The Suitors: Affinity Designer vs. Adobe Illustrator

Adobe illustrator is part of Adobe Creative Cloud, an extensive suite of apps for professionals and hobbyists. It shares this honor with Photoshop, Premiere, Lightroom and After Effects. Adobe has dominated the authoring software market for years and it’s hard to see that change anytime soon.

affinity designer interface

Affinity, meanwhile, first appeared on Mac in 2014. But it comes from Serif, a UK software company that has been making design software since the 1980s. Affinity Designer, Serif is responsible for Affinity Photo and Affinity Publisher.

Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator: price

The most obvious difference between Affinity Designer and Adobe Illustrator is the cost. At full price, Designer costs $ 49.99, and that’s for a lifetime license with free updates. Best of all, it’s regularly reduced by up to 50 percent, often reaching just $ 24.99.

With Illustrator, like most Adobe products, you have to pay a subscription. Stop paying and you lose access to the software. The price varies depending on the apps you want and the pricing tier you choose. The cheapest individual Illustrator license is an annual prepaid plan that costs $ 239.88 per year, which comes to $ 19.99 / month. The rolling plan costs $ 31.49 / month.

Adobe Illustrator pricing

In Illustrator’s defense, its subscription includes apps for macOS and Windows. Designer, in comparison, has separate licenses for each operating system, so you have to buy it twice if you want to use it for Mac and PC.

Winner: Affinity Designer wins it by a mile. Even at full cost, it’s cheap and you’ll never have to pay again.

Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator: Interface

Affinity Designer and Adobe Illustrator both have pretty cluttered interfaces. It is simply because they contain so many features. There are tons of tools, menus, toggles, and more that you can use while creating images. And it’s easy to remove and rearrange panels in Designer and Illustrator, to get the interface just the way you like it.

The biggest difference is probably that there is a lot more of everything in Illustrator. Because Designer has a little less functionality, it may seem like it has a more intuitive interface. But they are actually quite similar. The menus are structured slightly differently, but most of Illustrator’s keyboard shortcuts also work in Designer, and the toolsets look the same.

windows in affinity designer

A small advantage of the Designer interface over Illustrator is the color. Illustrator’s tools and menus are all monochrome, while Designer has colored icons. This seemingly minor difference can make it much easier to find what you’re looking for when you’re at the heart of a design.

Winner: Affinity Designer, but only by a small margin.

This is an area where Adobe’s experience is highlighted. When it comes to tools in Affinity Designer versus Adobe Illustrator, there is clearly a winner: Adobe.

It’s not that Designer is light on tools. It’s just that there are more tools in Illustrator, and some of them make a huge difference when trying to create vector graphics.

Related: Affinity Photo vs Photoshop: Which Should You Choose?

One of the most important is Illustrator’s shape creation tool. This allows you to create complex shapes from simpler shapes, using an intuitive click-and-drag method. By comparison, everything Designer has is something equivalent to Illustrator’s Pathfinder options. These allow you to select two or more shapes and then click a button to do things like combine or subtract parts of them.

illustrator shaper creation tool

Designer also lacks something like Illustrator’s Auto Trace tool, and you also can’t apply warp or warp effects. But these aren’t the only features it lacks compared to Illustrator. Serif is adding new things to Affinity Designer all the time, but it’s definitely indented here.

Winner: Adobe Illustrator. If you switch from Adobe software to Affinity Designer, you are probably going to miss a few things.

Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator: compatibility

There are several ways to approach the issue of compatibility. First off, Affinity Designer and Adobe Illustrator are both available for macOS and Windows. There are also mobile apps for both, but they are very distinct products.

Another important facet of compatibility is file type support. What kind of vector files can you work with in Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator? Both can import and export a wide variety of file formats, with Illustrator taking slightly more charge.

file types in Adobe Illustrator

Notably, Designer can open Illustrator’s AI file format, but Affinity’s file types do not work in Illustrator or elsewhere. And you can even import Illustrator brushes into Designer, even if they need to be converted. Illustrator also supports concurrent formats: it can open files from CorelDRAW and save AutoCAD files, for example.

Winner: It’s a tie. Both applications support the majority of common file types and can run on multiple operating systems.

Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator: learning curve

If you are not familiar with vector design software, it would be difficult to just choose Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer and start using it. To get the most out of either program, you need to read and watch tutorials.

For much longer, there have been many more online resources for Illustrator. These included Adobe’s own tutorials and how-to guides, but there are countless more all over the web, from professionals and hobbyists.

illustrator tutorials on adobe website

Serif also provides his own guides, and it also has a growing community. But as you might expect, the number of tutorials for Designer is paltry compared to Illustrator.

What Affinity Designer has going for it is that it is not as feature rich as Illustrator. That might make it a little less confusing to begin with.

Winner: Adobe Illustrator. With both apps, you have to do the right thing. But as the industry standard for vector design, there is much more guidance for Illustrator.

Affinity Designer vs. Adobe Illustrator: Overall Winner

As much as you might want to root for the outsider, Affinity Designer falls short of Adobe Illustrator in several key areas. Considering the big price difference between the two, that’s to be expected, but some of the missing features are essential for many designers.

adobe illustrator interface

If you can live without these things, however, the massive financial savings are hard to ignore. Using Affinity Designer for a lifetime costs about the same as a single month of Adobe Illustrator. For hobbyist designers on a budget, Designer makes infinitely more sense.

But in the end, Illustrator is the best software. It does more, it is better supported, and it makes working with vectors easier. If you’re happy to pay for the subscription, you won’t be disappointed.

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