Affinity Designer Released for Windows Vector Illustration

It has been quite a week for Windows users, thanks to Serif. First it launched a beta of its Affinity Photo image editing program, the Macintosh version of which has been well received. And now it has released a final version of Designer, its Adobe Illustrator alternative, which was also first available to Mac users. Both Affinity programs are priced affordably at $50, so together they offer the tantalizing prospect of replacing Illustrator and Photoshop for a one-time price of $100, as opposed to the hundreds per year you'd need to shell out for two Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions. Upgrades to the Affinity programs have so far been free but it's unlikely that will last forever. Still, it's something worth checking out, even it's to only have tools available on a range of devices that play well with Photoshop and Illustrator files.

Serif claims Designer is "the fastest, smoothest, most precise vector graphic design software available" and out of the gate came with the usual vector tools, layer handling, mixed-media raster tools, 16-bits per channel support and professional color models. Serif was wise to set the bar high and keep the needs of design pros in mind, and this emphasis shows up in many places, not least of which is Designer's speed, along with things like virtually unlimited zoom, extremely smooth gradients, real-time pixel preview, export to multiple resolutions, instant undo history, real-time embedded document editing, live filter effects and non-destructive booleans.

The subsequent point releases added significant functionality, such as text on a path; a corner control tool; a pixel alignment mode; improved PSD, PDF and SVG import/export; the ability to exchange imagery with Affinity Photo while the same file remains open; OpenType, typography and text performance enhancements; improved PSD handling and import of PSB files (very large Photoshop documents); customizable 2-axis and 3-axis grids (isometric) with snapping; a polygon creation mode; support for per-channel blend ranges and per-object blend gamma with customizable ramp; and more-accurate color management and color picking. The program was also made available in German, Spanish and French editions.

Version 1.4, released in December 2015, provided an emphasis on professional print output, thanks to Pantone support, along with end-to-end CMYK and ICC color management, the ability to open, edit and output PDF/X files, set overprint controls, use spot colors and add bleed area, trim and crop marks. Artboards are all the rage and Designer accordingly allowed users to create an unlimited number of different design variants and sizes within a single document. Users could group artboards, place artboards within artboards and create them from any shape, with full control over what artboards to output and with what settings. Other improvements included a rotatable canvas; customizable keyboard shortcuts; global colors; new typography controls; improved import and export of PSD, PDF, SVG and EPS formats; and the addition of Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian) and Japanese language versions.

Version 1.5, released in October, added symbol functionality, with multiple instances of an object permitting quick changes to all of them, a welcome, although belated, feature addition. Constraints made it possible to control the position and size of an object relative to its container, which Serif said lets them perform in a "pseudo-responsive" manner, handy when creating mockups. A new Assets panel allowed user to store commonly-used design elements and drag them onto a document. Snapping was been given a boost thanks to automatic gap and span snapping, as well as geometry snapping. Also new was document-wide text styles; a new Color Picker tool; improved PSD/PDF/SVG compatibility; and the ability to automatically generate a palette from an image.

So now Windows users have three very capable vector illustration programs to choose from: CorelDRAW, Xara Designer Pro and Affinity Designer. Good times! More information and a demo version of Designer is available on the Affinity site. Regularly priced at $49.99, Designer 1.5 is currently available for $39.99.