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Appreciation for Affinity - A Designer's Review

Posted on 25th April, 2016 in Illustration, Design

As designers, the Adobe Creative Suite has been dominating the graphics market for years. It is and has been the Holy Grail for many years and for the most part has been a well-earned title.

In terms of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, for me especially, there aren’t any other programs that I know (or I haven’t found yet!) that really compare. But recently from reading blogs and trying to get myself a little more in the loop with trends and the technology some designers use I have found that there are plenty of programs and applications out there that are giving the Adobe Creative Suite some competition.

Adobe, Still The Gold Standard

Let’s not get over excited or too far ahead of ourselves just yet. When you sum up what the Creative Suite actually offers and the amount of applications at your disposal it’s hard not to get your creative juices flowing, but in the same sense it is unlikely you’re going to use all of Adobe’s programs on a daily basis. The price of the Creative Suite has always been a problem for someone who is trying to get themselves into the business as they are quite expensive, even to just buy a single program. To counteract this, Adobe have a new monthly subscription format of purchasing the Creative Suite applications. It has had its critics, though to its credit does offer a more affordable way to get the Creative Suite. Other software programmes, like Microsoft Office, are also now offered on monthly subscriptions. There are a few applications that are emerging and reinventing themselves to put up a challenge to Adobe, particularly the core programs of Photoshop and Illustrator.

Here Comes Affinity

This is where Affinity (https://affinity.serif.com/en-gb/) comes into the picture. Affinity is a suite of professional photo editing and graphic design software. There are plenty of design applications out there that can offer different choices to Creative Suite and some will suit others better than Affinity for their design needs. But for my needs, Affinity offers alternatives for two of my most used programs, Photoshop and Illustrator, so that’s why I have chosen the Affinity software to compare rather than any other.

So what is Affinity? Well Affinity has an opening statement on the About page on its website that claims they are “Redefining professional photo editing and creative design” which is a bold statement to say the least. Going back with a little history, Affinity is made by Serif, a company that been developing and publishing software exclusively for Microsoft for nearly 25 years. They were established to develop low-cost alternatives to high-end software and seemingly have stayed true to this ethos in their latest ventures with Affinity Designer and Photo.  

In 2014, they departed from being solely PC-focused when they released Affinity Designer for Mac, which has slowly been gathering interest over the last two years. In late 2015, they released an update for both Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo which seemed to really get audiences talking, with Affinity Designer winning Mac App of 2015.

This seems to be the start as Affinity was exclusively for Mac but in 2016 they are looking to move the Affinity programmes onto Windows as well. Later this year, they are looking to release a beta for Affinity Publisher with launch projected in 2017. This seems to be the competitor to Adobe InDesign, which for me would cover all three of my main applications I use on a day to day basis. This was one of my concerns when I first looked into Affinity and I will be waiting to test the Publisher programme later this year.

Why not try some new software?

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The Affinity Suite

So let’s get to the core of Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo and examine them in a little more detail. We’ll start with the look and feel of both applications. They have a similar style to Adobe with the same tool and panel layouts along with setting up the layers which all designers are familiar with. In my opinion, the leap between Photoshop to Affinity is not as big as you may think it is, though they have put their own stamp on it. As with any software programme, this takes some getting used to but if you are willing to take the time then the rewards can be pretty good.

The speed of the programs are competitively fast which, again plays on the perception that Photoshop is old and clunky. This speeds allows you to build up images of hundreds of megapixels and still get incredible performance when you go to edit. This may not seem that dramatic to most but when trying to work to a deadline as a designer, there is nothing worse than your software not being able to cope with the editing you are putting the polish on a client project.

Affinity Photo
Being more specific to Affinity Photo, the program has recently won Best Imaging Software in 2016, as recognised by TIPA, the Technical Image Press Association, another notable accolade for the Affinity suite. Running and working with the software is made easier a as Photo has a very good compatibility with PSD files from Photoshop and other related files along with RAW files. 

Another big thing for Affinity Photo is a set of modules called 'personas'. These include the Photo, Liquify, Develop and Export personas, each of which has its own dedicated workspace. For example, when processing raw files, your first stop will be the Develop persona. The control panel has a wealth of tools arranged in tabs for Basic, Lens, Details, Tones and Overlays. Read through this review from TechRadar to get a more in depth look at the ‘personas’ and what they offer

Alongside its awards, easy transition from Photoshop, compatibility with PSD and other related files and its new easy to use and helpful ‘personas’ Affinity Photo boasts live previews and real-time editing, which is another thing designers will be familiar with. You are putting a blending option or adding a gradient and you have to click preview or accept and hope for the best. Live preview and real-time editing lets you to adjust your editing in real time without committing until you are happy with the outcome.

The very convenient split screen slider allows you to swipe across or split the screen so you can see what you image looks like before and after the adjustments. All in all, Affinity Photo is a great program in my eyes. I got the 10 day free trial and have been testing it out over this time. The learning curve, as with everything can be a little frustrating trying to get your head round the fact that it isn’t Photoshop and nothing everything works the same, but with a little patience and perseverance it can definitely become a good to tool for any designer. I have read a few reviews comparing the software to Photoshop and say it doesn’t look to fulfil everything Photoshop does but provides an image editing platform that designers can relate to and for me can be a substitute to an expensive subscription if it is a problem.

Affinity Designer
Affinity Designer has much the same features to shout about as Affinity Photo. Such as live previews and real-time editing, compatibility with relevant file formats and easy transition from Adobe programs with its similar set up. Affinity Designer really pushes through the boundaries with Illustrator and Photoshop by combining a platform that can be used both for vector imaging and for digital web design, allowing you to have everything in one place without having vector smart object links to Illustrator from Photoshop.

Paired with its speed (which is apparently a lot quicker than your Adobe programs) and the incredible zoom capabilities, Affinity Designer really gives you a great platform to make your creative drawings into beautiful vector pieces and to transform your sketched wireframes into stunning website designs.

The Price Is Right
Another big thing that Affinity pushes is the price point. The applications are only £40 each with no monthly subscriptions and so far all updates have been free. Whether that continues is yet to be seen but in my opinion, take it while you can. This is a massive change to the normal expensive price of the Adobe Creative Suite options. 

I read on a review that the price of one Affinity application whether that be Photo or Designer would be the same price of less than 5 months of an Adobe Photoshop Subscription. To be honest if the applications are as Affinity put “re-defining professional photo editing and creative design” then you would bite their hand off for £40 per program. If the price itself wasn’t enough temptation, then you can always get a free trial for 10 days to see for yourself. 

Summary
Both applications come with plenty of tutorials to hit the ground running with and they can be found on these pages : Photo Tutorials and Designer Tutorials and if you are still struggling, there is a online Affinity forum that you can ask any questions you might have.

Hopefully I have given you plenty of information to sink your teeth into if you are looking to have a go at another piece of creative design software. I think making the switch is all down to personal preference and how you use your design software. I’ll say I haven’t really used the Affinity software enough to come to a conclusion of “which is better” but as I said at the start, it’s nice to know that there is an alternative out there. Surely the fact that we are creative means we are curious about anything new and anything that could allow us to push ourselves creatively, so why not try some new software?

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