Before I dive in to the review of Affinity Designer software I want to start off by giving a brief history on vector drawing software and my experiences with it. I initially used a software called Freehand which was made by a company named Macromedia, and in my opinion it was perfect as a software. I loved using this program as it was very minimal, easy to use, and just not at all clunky, it had no extra junk you didn’t need just an excellent tool you could draw with. Macromedia may sound familiar to you, and thats because they were pretty big, they had products like Flash (it wasn’t originally an Adobe product) and other great tools like Fireworks and Dreamweaver. Long story short Adobe had their program, Illustrator, and they competed with each other. The thing is though, Illustrator in comparison was clunky, harder to use, and had a ton of extra stuff going on that made it kind of a pain. For this reason I loved Adobe for Premiere Pro and Photoshop but would never use Illustrator with such a far superior vector program in Freehand. A few years of using Freehand later, Adobe announced that they were buying Macromedia and taking all of their products and offering them all together with their products. This was to me great news and I thought to myself, great, Adobe will take the great parts of Freehand and make Illustrator better, but instead, they just shelved Freehand and did nothing to make improvements to their program. Fast forward a few Mac OS updates later and the old version of Freehand would no longer run and that was that, I was stuck using a far inferior product in Illustrator (it honestly made me stop drawing as much as I just disliked using it that badly). Now couple in the crap product with the change to Adobe CC and having to pay $20 a month for Illustrator and it was like adding insult to injury. I mean after using it for the average life of a computer, five years, you are paying $1,200 for a single piece of software, that is just insane, especially if it is one that you don’t particularly like, or in my case, hate. For a while there all hope was lost and there was nothing you could do but use poorly made free software that really wasn’t even as good as Illustrator or pay for using Illustrator, that is, until Affinity came in to the picture, and boy am I glad it did.
A company called Serif, who at this point had been developing Windows software for over 20 years, basically had the same frustrations as I did and set out to make a suite of products under the Affinity name (I am only reviewing Designer here but I will look at their other offerings later on) and their basic requirements were as follows:
- Lightning fast – in particular taking advantage of all latest CPU and GPU chipsets available
- Cover the core disciplines of photo editing, vector drawing and desktop publishing
- Use exactly the same file format between applications
- Have no bloat – utilize a concept of personas to organize the UI into different use cases
- Be unashamedly pro – core requirements like CMYK and 16 bit would be built in from the start and not allow wizards or anything else get in the way of a pro workflow
Their goals were very in line with what I look for in professional software which was great to see. Ok, now that you know some history lets dive in and review Affinity Designer. I wont make you wait any longer, Affinity Designer is amazing, it fully addresses all of the short comings of Illustrator and even some things that I didn’t even think of and makes them better. It is honestly superior if every way, speed, ease of use, layout, format compatibility, and most importantly price and pricing structure. You would think that a better product would be more expensive, well it isn’t, Affinity Designer is as of this writing $50 for Mac or PC and $20 for iPad (I could do a whole other review on the iPad versions but Ill save you the time, they are awesome as well so just get them, for $20 they are a steal). Yes you read that right, and more importantly, that is a one time price and you own it, no monthly charges to just rent a product. So how can you lose, it’s way, and I mean, way, cheaper, (three months of Illustrator and you have already paid ten bucks more that what you would pay to own Affinity Designer) and it’s a much better product.
So what makes Affinity Designer better? Well, go back and read their company goals above, it’s basically that, they successfully hit all of those points and they hit all of the things that I was looking for: Powerful and capable software that is still simple to use, efficient and fast, no bloatware or extra useless features or windows, smooth drawing with vectors that are easily manipulatable (in Illustrator you sometimes get points and lines that have a mind of their own and just wont bend the way you ask them to) and most importantly software that I can own and not have to pay an arm and a leg for. Affinity Designer really does check all of the boxes for me and I recommend it 100%, in fact it is the only vector graphics software that I now use.
As I mentioned above, I also use the iPad version and love it (it was actually specifically designed for the iPad and makes great use of the Apple Pencil). Keep an eye out for future updates as I will eventually review Affinity Photo and when it comes out, Affinity Publisher (currently in BETA). I’m excited to see how the next too products compare, and honestly if they are anywhere near as good as Affinity Designer, Serif will be giving Adobe a serious run for their money!