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Why I think you should consider switching to Affinity Designer

almost 3 years ago from , Product Designer @ Dribbble / Maker

To summarize, here's a list:

  • $50 price tag - no shitty SaaS model
  • Switch between vector, pixel, and export modes - hell yes
  • Asset Management - reuse elements with ease. See it in action
  • Symbols - basically the same as sketch but with more advanced options. See it in action
  • Constraints - Affinity's version of auto layout - This existed before the auto layout plugin in Sketch everyone keeps yapping about. See it in action
  • Over 1,000,000% Zoom - no joke
  • Instantly undo/redo over 8,000 History steps
  • Shareable Color Palettes across the application, the document, and export as a file. See it in action
  • Real-time gradients, effects, blend modes and adjustments - This is more useful than it sounds
  • Autosave & Snapshots
  • Extremely similar key commands as Adobe products

Everyone will probably nag at the lack there of plugins and that's fine. Affinity Designer comes bundled with so much functionality I don't feel plugins are a good end game personally.

I've become a fan boy of Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo. I'm not affiliated with them at all. I just want to spread the word of this software. It's pretty nuts everyone is stuck in Sketch-land when all this potential is available for both Mac and PC.

*Also, I still use Photoshop, Illustrator, and Sketch in my workflow. Affinity is just leading the race for me.

36 comments

  • Weston VierreggerWeston Vierregger, almost 3 years ago

    I've come out in support of Affinity in the past on DN, and I love using it... however, I have found lots of pros and cons compared to Adobe/Sketch. Here's a semi-definitive rundown of those...

    I can definitely see how the plug-in/3rd-party-app-integrations ecosystem could drive people away. With Sketch, whatever Bohemian doesn't include can theoretically be added to Sketch by the users which is great. I like Auto Layout and Craft as much as anyone else. There's nothing stopping Affinity from getting this sort of feature later, but it's not there right now and that hurts a little bit. The silver-lining is that Affinity doesn't need these kinds of plugins, because the features are already there.

    Compared to both Sketch and Affinity, I've found Adobe to be much more rock-solid in terms of bugs and stability. Sketch has a problem of looking and feeling very "light" most of the time, while other times it literally slows to a crawl for me for no real reason I can discern. Similarly, Affinity is generally blazing fast (seriously) but is plagued by tiny bugs here and there. I am constantly grouping/naming/organizing my layers and I still find this process in Affinity to be a massive annoyance (e.g. for me, naming my layers constantly bugs out and un-focuses the input box - this might be a macOS Sierra-related bug however). Adobe is very predictable, can handle very heavy workloads, and for the most part Just Works™.

    All that said, I still spend a ton of my time in Affinity. Out-of-the-box, it fills all the niches I need for both illustration and UI design better than any single other app out there. It feels the nicest. It's more a much configurable UI than Sketch, and more intuitive than Adobe AI/PS. One thing I absolutely hate about Sketch, for instance, is that I can't add a vertical-running tools panel next to the layers pane. Ideally, I would group all of the "Insert" tools into a icon list on the far right of my UI. With Sketch, you can essentially only add/remove stuff from the top bar... in Adobe/Affinity you can do pretty much anything to the interface you want. And don't get me started on the colors... Suffice to say, I very strongly prefer dark UIs and Sketch just looks horrible to me. I truly can hardly stand it.

    Then there's the cross-platform aspect. Affinity Designer is on both Mac and Windows. That's a capital-g Good thing. Handoff hasn't been impacted for me personally, since my company doesn't allow the use of "cloud" software such as Invision, Zeplin, et al because they don't meet security requirements (or secure, on-prem solutions are not worth the cost).

    And to make my longest post ever even longer, one last concession is this... as with everything else, it's going to be worthwhile to follow the crowd with tools like this. Use what you want, but just be aware that the UI/UX industry is pretty much Sketch-only at this point and it's basically use other tools at your peril. If my work has to live outside of myself, I'll have to resign to Sketch for that because it's what everyone else here is doing. However, after weighing all the tools I've got at my disposal, my heart is in Affinity Designer and I don't see that changing in the neat future.

    (Other kickass features include the many different grid types in AD, the typography tools, the Personas, the highly-configurable snapping tools, five (!!) different paste modes, import/export PSD and AI, split view, and so much more – in terms of pure creation-related function, nothing is even close to touching AD at this moment, not even Sketch + Plug-ins IMO)

    5 points
    • Andy Leverenz, almost 3 years ago

      Awesome feedback!

      I think we are aligned in thinking. Sketch + Plugins is great and all but aren't the plugins just making the app more like Illustrator/AF Designer? Kind of a contradiction. Anyway, I use them all still. Different clients and types of work require different tools.

      What I've found with AD is that I don't need to leave the app as often to tweak an image or create a new graphic of some sort. The personas and different toolings make me stay within the app thus make my time spent on a design much more efficient.

      When Sketch first came along everyone was hestitant to use it too but now it's all the hype. It's not living up to the hype for me and I've been using it for years now personally.

      0 points
    • Khang Than-TrongKhang Than-Trong, almost 3 years ago

      I'm a single user with both a Mac and PC. If I want to buy Affinity Photo + Designer, do I need 2 licenses or 4?

      0 points
  • Marc Olivier LapierreMarc Olivier Lapierre, almost 3 years ago

    I ditched Photoshop and Illustrator in favor of the Affinity duo last year and it's been a sweet ride. I'm also looking forward to Affinity Publisher as I'm sure it's gonna be great too. For anyone looking to get started with Affinity Designer, their workbook is a beautiful resource.

    But like you said, the lack of plugins is a killer for a lot of people, myself included. That's why I don't see myself leaving Sketch anytime soon but I have high hopes for Affinity's future, so who knows what will happen!

    4 points
  • Florian GrauFlorian Grau, almost 3 years ago

    I am a huge fan of Affinity Designer, because of its unparalleled level of polish - even though I still prefer Sketch for screen design stuff.

    Last week, however, I did my first (more) serious print project in AD and noticed, that the Export Persona still uses pixels as unit even when the document is set to millimetres. When working with artboards this results in unequally sized slices and therefore unequally sized PDF exports.

    This appears like a conceptual error to me, which kind of gnaws on my confidence ...

    3 points
    • Andy Leverenz, almost 3 years ago

      I did not realize this. I'll have to check out the same type of scenario and see if it does the same for me. There are some quirks for sure with it but think about how many Sketch and Adobe has as well. We've all just learned work arounds and that workaround becomes our process.

      0 points
  • Vasiliy LeytmanVasiliy Leytman, almost 3 years ago

    What about compatibility with Sketch and Photoshop? When you say make an app layout in Affinity Designer, how do you share it with programmers?

    2 points
    • Kemie GuaidaKemie Guaida, almost 3 years ago

      You can import psds with no problem. Can also export psd, but with limitations. I haven't switched to affinity for UI work (yet), but when working with sketch I hand over a .pdf with specifications and any assets exported.

      1 point
      • Rhys MerrittRhys Merritt, almost 3 years ago

        that right there is enough for me to not even consider trying Affinity.. Hand off to developers using Zeplin or Invision is fantastic, and it's a BIG part of my job.

        4 points
        • Andy Leverenz, almost 3 years ago

          Valid point but I bet before long those platforms will support Affinity Designer.

          1 point
          • Greg Warner, almost 3 years ago

            As soon as they do, I'll be much more tempted to use Affinity for everything! Main thing holding me back. Currently using it for all asset creation, and it's a joy. :)

            0 points
      • Ettore TortoraEttore Tortora, almost 3 years ago

        One of the limitations is that when you export a PSD the fonts get rasterized and cannot be edited, which is awful for me.

        0 points
        • Andy Leverenz, almost 3 years ago

          This is true and I realized that right away. Unfortunately, the way Photoshop handles text Affinity can't do 100% export of a PSD but it can still do most of the heavy lifting not to mention you can export to a huge number of other file types.

          0 points
    • Andy Leverenz, almost 3 years ago

      It used to be the same problem with Photoshop. Developers would need to own a license to open design files. I think at $50 this isn't a huge issue but in terms of hand off to a third-party app like Zelin or Invision there's no support yet. I think there might be in the future.

      0 points
      • Andy MerskinAndy Merskin, almost 3 years ago

        The lack of plugins and an open file format (like Sketch now has), it's going to be difficult for Affinity to compete there I think.

        0 points
        • Andy Leverenz, almost 3 years ago

          Very true. I'm not so sure that's their goal. Plugins are great but sometimes they are lack luster to me. Think of WordPress for example. (not sure if you're familiar or not) There's a ton of plugins. Most are crap. Many are great. Finding the great ones isn't always easy. So, rather than spending time hunting I'd rather use software that works sans plugins.

          0 points
  • Vladimir BabicVladimir Babic, almost 3 years ago

    I'm using affinity designer as an alternative to illustrator. I still edit photos in photoshop and design in sketch but for some vector stuff like logo and icons affinity designer is the best.

    1 point
  • William HutterWilliam Hutter, almost 3 years ago

    There's still one thing that's keeping me away is AD doesn't have a proper Free Transform tool like the one in PS. I can't freely skew, rotate, perspective like I do in Photoshop and that drives me crazy!

    0 points
  • Hanu ManHanu Man, almost 3 years ago

    Figma!

    0 points
  • Ted McDonald, almost 3 years ago

    I bought Affinity Designer, and I enjoy it, but I will continue to use Sketch. Affinity Designer tries too hard to be an Illustrator replacement, and that comes with the same unintuitive aspects of Illustrator.

    That said, it is still a great program. Extremely polished and performant.

    0 points
    • Andy Leverenz, almost 3 years ago

      Valid points here. It is very similar. But it's also not Sketch. In the end, it doesn't matter what you use. I've just been really liking it myself.

      0 points
  • Kyla Medina, almost 3 years ago

    Auto-layout does more than just constraints. It also keeps things distributed with it's stacks feature which I can no longer live without.

    0 points
  • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, almost 3 years ago

    Real-time gradients, effects, blend modes and adjustments - This is more useful than it sounds

    What do you mean by this? Thanks.

    0 points
  • Nick NobleNick Noble, almost 3 years ago

    I like everything about it EXCEPT those keyboard shortcuts. Adobe shortcuts are some of the most unintuitive, bonkers, contradictory and anger inducing things in any software I deal with on a daily basis and it's actually one of the main reasons I've stuck with Sketch.

    0 points