(Originally posted June 10, 2020)
I’m a professional graphic designer and I don’t use Adobe Illustrator.
If you know about Illustrator, this might surprise you. It’s certainly surprised some of my clients and other creatives I know.
Most of these clients and creatives have never heard of the software I do use every day – Affinity Designer. There’s no time like right now to discover Affinity Designer, as Affinity are offering a free 90-day trial of their desktop software.
Once you decide to buy Affinity Designer outright, you’ll save 50% at the time of this writing, bringing the cost for this leading-edge graphic design software to just $35. Canadian.
That’s $35 total. Forever.
I don’t get any kickback from this recommendation. Except for the joy of knowing I’ve shown the light to another creative soul.
Low price is the first reason I use Affinity Designer.
When I started using Affinity Designer I was a hobbyist. I wasn’t making much money from graphic design so keeping costs low was critical. I imagine many of you are in the same boat. Maybe you are a small business owner who needs to make a flyer or poster from time to time, or an artist who needs to design a Facebook Event banner or social media post.
Adobe Illustrator, the reigning champion of “vector design” apps, is expensive.
It will cost you the same as Affinity’s current sale price, for one month. Then it will cost you the same next month. Then again and again to infinity. You will never own Adobe Illustrator. I hate this business model but sadly it’s become the norm for software companies.
If you are a big firm or company, you can roll this cost into your operations. If you subscribe to the entire Adobe Creative Suite you’ll save a fair amount on the bundle. But this doesn’t change the fact that you can own a rival product for a single small payment.
Adobe has always made pro-level software at pro-level prices. When I started out as a designer in the early 2000’s I bought secondhand Adobe software on eBay and it cost me hundreds of dollars. A new copy of their suite would cost well over a thousand. But I’d still rather pay that once than lock into a lifetime subscription.
But you get what you pay for, right?
I Actually Prefer Affinity Designer to Illustrator.
I think Affinity Designer is a better program than Adobe Illustrator. There, I said it.
This isn’t a review, so I won’t get into the weeds, but here are my main pros and cons.
Both apps are “vector illustrator” programs. Adobe Photoshop is best at editing existing images, like photos, and creating photo collages and complex digital artwork. Adobe Illustrator is best for creating flyers and posters, drawing out logos and t-shirt designs from scratch. These two types of program are called “vector” – where you create a serious of points and lines that the computer fills in for you, making and image infinitely scalable without losing quality – and “raster”, where you work with a set number of “pixels” in an image and lose quality and or gain file size when you make an image bigger.
If an image has solid lines and colours and graphical shapes, it’s likely a vector. If it looks like a photo or a painting, it’s likely raster.
Affinity Designer Combines Vector and Raster Graphics Into One Program
While Photoshop (and Affinity’s alternative, Photo) can do MUCH more with a raster image, Designer includes some basic raster editing tools that Illustrator does not. This makes for a very fast workflow that eliminates my need, most times, to jump between two different programs, as I’d have to in Adobe. When I do have to make those jumps, things are much more seamless and fast with Affinity.
Affinity is Fluid and Fast
Once I got used to the flow of working with Affinity apps, Adobe’s offerings feel ancient. The UI is clunkier and things just move slower. Especially once you factor in Adobe’s uber-annoying “creative cloud” that tethers every single app to the internet in the most obnoxious ways.
Affinity Runs Everywhere
Adobe has a ton of different apps on iOS that take pieces of other Adobe products and translate them to the mobile experience. Affinity simply released Affinity Designer on iPad with most of the same features and functionality as Designer on Mac or Windows. And they did it YEARS ago. Adobe is still running to catch up.
Affinity is Nimble
Overall, I prefer the smaller team behind Affinity to the monolith software giant that is Adobe. Support feels closer at hand. There is a great user community. Products are updated more quickly and set trends rather than catch up to them. Adobe has felt like an aging best for years now and I wish I could say they are on their last legs.
Hold Up … Adobe Illustrator Isn’t Going Anywhere 😢
I actually had to pay for an Illustrator subscription for a few months this year because my clients needed to work with my files after I designed them and Adobe won’t let other companies save to their file format. There is no way to create an Illustrator file in Affinity Designer. For the time being, subscribing and unsubscribing for the clients that need Illustrator edit-ability is my only option.
It’s a costly option without enough benefits for me as a designer.
In my short run with Illustrator I can tell you that the program offers some great options advanced graphic designers will appreciate, like unique ways to fill in shapes and unique options for outlining said shapes. Illustrator also has a feature called Auto Trace that lets you turn a drawing into a vector. I wish Affinity would add that, but there are workarounds.
In my perfect world my clients would fall in love with Affinity Designer as I have and I would simply send them Affinity files when they need to change the names on their business cards. We’d all save a lot of money and live happily ever after.
Let me know what you think of Affinity Designer and what you end up making with it.