Switching from Adobe Illustrator to Affinity Designer

I’ve been using Adobe for design work for as long as I can remember. When I first started creating websites, Photoshop was the industry standard. Looking back, it’s really hard to see why. I pay monthly for Photoshop and Lightroom currently, but they’re definitely photo editing programs (and that’s what I use them for), not fit for designing a website. I decided to look for an alternative, and I found Affinity Designer.

Adobe isn’t cheap

When I got a new laptop earlier this year, I was 99% sure that a fresh subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud was a no-brainer. Then, I saw the price. £50 per month! Even subtracting the £10 I pay for the Adobe photo bundle, it was a bit steep, especially in the unpredictable times of Covid-19.

I tried to justify the expense by 1) thinking of all the different software that comes with Creative Cloud, and 2) deciding I would switch to Adobe XD for my web design software, rather than paying for Sketch

Still, the math didn’t add up. I didn’t need all the software Adobe has to offer. I really only needed Illustrator for vector work and XD for web. And I didn’t want XD. I wanted Sketch, which costs a very reasonable £100ish for the first year, and £80ish for renewals (or you can keep the version you have, without updates, forever. Fair enough!).

I went looking for a cheaper solution and, luckily, I found it. Affinity Designer is a piece of software that’s (almost) on par with Illustrator. It also has a very reasonable price tag. Usually, it costs £50, but they’ve had quite a long-running (probably Covid-19 inspired) 50% off promo running, which means I got the whole thing for a one-off cost of £24. Bargain!

Making the transition from Adobe Illustrator to Affinity Designer

I’ve used Affinity Designer for a couple of projects now and have found the transition to be quite simple. Most of the tools work the same, and the few quirks were easy enough to iron out, especially with the help of the Affinity forum.

The only place if falls short is its lack of live trace functionality. In Adobe, this is a game changer. It allows you to take a raster image and convert it to a vector. Affinity have had many requests from their users to add this feature over the years, however at this time they say they only intend to add it if the functionality meets their high standards… and it doesn’t yet. 

All is not lost, however. There are third-party programs that offer this functionality. So does Inkscape, although I think it’s overkill to set it up just for this one thing. I ended up downloading Image Vectorizer from the App Store and so far so good. It’s had some issues vectorizing light colours, but if I provide a black and white image it does a great job. Then, I simply add the colours in Affinity Designer.

Affinity for everything 

The Affinity suite also includes two more Adobe alternatives: Affinity Photo and Affinity Publisher. These are meant to replace Photoshop and InDesign, respectively. 

One aspect of the Adobe programs that I really enjoy is the ability to sync my Lightroom files between my laptop and my mobile devices, and, for me, that’s a good enough reason to stick to Adobe on this one. But I have also purchased Affinity Publisher, as InDesign is a program I use sparingly but appreciate having around. Although they don’t have the functionality for interactive forms which is disappointing!

Two of the Affinity apps are also available for iPad, although you do need to buy them separately from the desktop software. You can get Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer for iPad right now, while Affinity Publisher for iPad is due to be released this year. This is speedier than Adobe who have Photoshop on iPad and have announced that Illustrator is coming “soon.” That said, Adobe has quite a few products, many of which are more mobile-specific. 

Team Adobe or team Affinity?

It’s safe to say I’m converted! I got to keep my beloved Sketch for web projects, and I got a good piece of software that gets the job done, for a decent price that most people can afford.

I think it also proves that skills are transferrable and the software is less important than people think! So if you’re a beginner in the design space and want to experiment without breaking the bank, I don’t think learning Affinity Designer will hinder you at all if you one day end up using the Adobe ecosystem. 

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