Creating images, whether it’s a work of art, a logo, maybe even a simple icon, can be quite a complex operation. Consequently, the best graphic design software often has a price that reflects this.
There are of course always exceptions, and one of them is the subscription-free Affinity Designer.
With the arrival of a massive version 2.0 update, let’s take a look at what makes the creative design tool work…
Serif Affinity Designer 2: Pricing and Plans
- Affordable, subscription-free cross-platform tool – what’s not to love?
Affinity Designer is thankfully cross-platform, with versions available for Mac and Windows. You’ll also find an iPad option, but that’s not the focus of this particular review.
Affinity Designer is compatible with Intel and Apple M chips for Mac, and a 64-bit processor for Windows. Each platform requires a minimum of 8 GB of RAM (the more the better, as with all applications), and between 1 GB and 3 GB of storage space upon installation.
It’s extremely attractively priced at $70 / £60 – although to celebrate the new release, you can pick up a copy for just $41 / £36.
And no, it’s not a subscription, but a one-time payment. When you consider that Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator each cost $21 / £20 per month with a creative cloud subscription, the savings become apparent extremely quickly.
There is also a new “universal license”, grouping Designer with Affinity photo and Affinity Editor. You can then use them on both Mac and Windows devices. It also includes iPad versions of Serif’s graphic design, photo editorand DTP software.
All of these can be yours for $170 (or $100 / £90, as long as the celebration discount is valid). If there’s a downside here, it’s that existing users don’t get a discounted upgrade path.
If you’re curious about what’s on offer but don’t want to shell out the cash just yet, Serif also offers a 30-day free trial for Mac and Windows.
So this software is affordable, but that’s only part of the story. How good is Designer when it comes to composing images?
Serif Affinity Designer 2: interface and tools
- An improved and refined interface with many new features
Since Affinity Designer 2 is just out of the box, it makes sense to focus on what’s new and different.
First is the Document dialog, which gives you access to templates, swatches, and preset canvas sizes. There’s also a handy “Recent” section, which is a great way to locate documents you’ve been working on.
A cool feature is the preview of the document you generate. Whether it’s one of the sample sizes or a custom design, you’ll see a representation of it in the top right of the window, with margins and bleeds.
As for the interface, although it looks like the previous version, it has been tweaked in many ways and all the tool icons have been redesigned. But it shouldn’t take you long at all to get back to it. One of these improvements is to the Layers panel, which now displays a default object type. This lets you see at a glance if a layer is a curve, raster, group, adjustment, etc.
You’ll also find lots of powerful new tools, and we’ll explore some of our favorites.
- Interface & tools: 4.5/5
Serif Affinity Designer 2: vectors and rasters
- It’s like having two interfaces in one app – in a good way
Affinity Designer is a remarkably interesting program, as it tries to mix vector shapes with raster graphics.
To do this, he uses what he calls “Personas”. You have the ‘Designer Persona’, where you work with vectors, but you can switch to the ‘Pixel Persona’ at any time, where you have access to all the usual raster tools.
Somehow it feels like we have Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop in one application, although to be fair Affinity Designer looks a lot more like a vector tool than anything else, and the overwhelming number of new features on the vector side of things for version 2.0 totally reinforce that impression.
Serif Affinity Designer 2: Creating Shapes
- A Great Versatile and Powerful Shape Builder Tool
Affinity Designer 2 introduces a tool that has been requested for years and that the previous version was sorely lacking: a Shape Builder.
The way it works is very elegant and simple: create overlapping shapes, then activate the tool and have it remove certain sections of your design or blend others. In no time, you’ve created a complex shape from a series of basic shapes.
The interpretation is excellent, visually clean and easy to understand, and it will take no time for anyone to master it, which will greatly speed up your designs.
Serif Affinity Designer 2: mesh and wrap
- A fantastic range of warping tools
The new Warp Tools are perhaps even better than a Shape Builder. This was yet another highly requested feature, now part of this latest release. It lets you warp shapes or grouped layers using vectors, and it’s incredibly easy to use.
Creating curved text, for example, was a challenge with the previous version, but now complex changes and modifications are just a click and a drag away.
Mesh is perhaps the highlight of Warp. When activated, a grid is placed over the selected object. Dragging the dotted points along the grid distorts the object below. You can add more points anywhere on the grid to refine your edits.
If you apply these warp edits to a layer group, adding another object to that group will instantly apply your warp to it. It is incredibly intuitive and easy to use.
Once you’re done, you can convert any deformation to vector curves, if you like.
Serif Affinity Designer 2: Creative Workflow Tools
- So many wonderful additions greatly improve your workflow and creativity
This upgrade contains many new and improved features. However, honorable mentions go to a new type of wireframe view, called X-Ray mode. It doesn’t replace Wireframe, but it’s a new addition to your options list. When working with complex images, this can make it easier to distinguish one curve from another. Always practical.
The Knife tool is also a lot of fun. As the name suggests, you use it to drag an object by dragging it, allowing you to customize a generic shape in seconds, again, all with vector dots.
Below the color picker is now the style picker, which can be a huge time saver, allowing you to effortlessly copy the style or an existing object by clicking on it (you can also select the parts of the style you want to transfer and which one to delete), and copy it to another, simply by clicking on it. Effortlessly.
The new Quick Grid lets you add multiple copies of the same shape in a grid-like pattern on your canvas. A great time saver.
If you work with AutoCad files, you’ll be pleased to know that Designer now supports these file formats, converting data into vector shapes and allowing you to modify them at will.
Finally, we’ll dive into the raster side of things to show that while vector tools are definitely where they are with this release, this section of Designer hasn’t been entirely ignored.
You’ll find many improvements with the brush tools in the “Pixel Persona”, including better tip precision, wet edge support, and the ability to see brushes as strokes or nozzle thumbnails.
The only thing that surprised and disappointed us on the Mac side of the equation was the lack of support for that operating system’s auto-save feature. It was a headache when version 1.0 came out eight years ago, and it feels like a frustrating omission now.
- Creative Workflow Tools: 4.5/5
Serif Affinity Designer 2: Dashboard
|Rates and packages||Affordable one-time purchase, no subscription||4.5|
|Interfaces & tools||Neat interface and tons of new tools||4.5|
|Vectors and raster||Feels like a combo of Photoshop and Illustrator||4|
|Formatting||Versatile and powerful||5|
|Mesh and chain||Large range of deformation tools||5|
|Creative workflow tools||Wonderful additions to boost workflows and creativity||4.5|