Affinity Photo Offers Windows Users a Compelling Alternative to Creative Cloud

Veteran software developer Serif had been producing a range of Windows graphics and publishing applications for many years but saw an opportunity when the Adobe Creative Cloud service was launched to provide a subscription-free alternative. So it decided to create a mini-suite under the Affinity brand consisting of image editing, vector illustration and page layout applications, initially just for Mac professional users. As Tony Brightman, head of Affinity development, said at the time, "We directly targeted professionals when we dreamt up the Affinity range, making performance, reliability, pro-level tools and a slick workflow our top priorities."

After a lengthy beta Affinity Designer was the first out of the gate, launching in October of 2014. Subsequent updates have solidified its position as a serious alternative to Adobe Illustrator. The second application, Affinity Photo, was released in July of 2015. Serif apparently labored for four years to create an image processing engine that could meet its feature requirements, which include end-to-end CMYK, 16 bits per channel editing, LAB color, RAW processing, adjustment layers, customizable effects, live blend modes, sophisticated selection refinement, retouching tools, lens corrections, ICC color management and claimed "fantastic" Photoshop PSD file format and 64-bit plugin compatibility, along with an uncluttered workspace and a common file format with Designer. The first release provided peppy performance and a few slick twists, such as frequency separation editing (a popular Photoshop technique), live blend modes and so-called intelligent fills. Later releases have built on these strengths.

In June of this year Windows users were treated with a beta version of Designer, which shipped in November. We've been working with the Windows 1.5 version of Photo, which recently shipped and matches the Mac version feature for feature, which is in itself refreshing. The verdict? With Designer and Photo, Affinity has provided many Windows-based creatives with a viable alternative to a Creative Cloud subscription that includes Photoshop and Illustrator.

Version 1.5 is a major upgrade, with some of the new functionality including advanced HDR merge for producing full 32-bit linear color space images; improvements to PDF and PSD import and export; focus stacking to bring depth to multiple combined images; batch processing; and a new way to edit 360-degree images. The complete list is worth checking out. Photo is available at one-time cost of $49.99 ($39.99 until December 22), the same price point as for Designer. More information and a trial version is available on the Affinity site.

In closing, here's some simple math: a year of subscriptions to Photoshop and Illustrator will set you back $360, while Photo and Designer will add up to $100, with upgrades so far having been free. Is the Adobe solution really worth the extra cost to meet your particular needs? We can't answer that question but at least now you have a cross-platform alternative. And with page-layout application Affinity Publisher on the way, 2017 should be a very interesting year.