Using Affinity Designer for iPad

5 minute read

Tools

Whilst Adobe are finally fulfilling the need for Photoshop on iPad, the first phase will only have a smaller set of core features. Although the rest are planned to come later, that still leaves illustrator and indesign nowhere to be seen.

In contrast to Adobe slimming down, one of the most impressive things about Affinity designer for iPad is how surprisingly extensive the tools are. With iPad you would typically expect slimmed down versions of software just purely to be able to run properly. However Affinity Designer somehow manages to give users near enough the same options the desktop version would. Others may feel differently, but I personally didn’t notice anything missing from my normal workflow.

 

Personas

Another really brilliant feature is the ability to switch between personas, allowing you to switch between vector and raster modes within the app, and eliminating the need to switch between other apps and software if your process requires it.

Vector persona - Does what it says on the tin. All your necessary tools for vector based drawing.

Pixel persona - Raster based editing and tools. This is great for mapping out ideas - something I would have usually done in Procreate, hand drawn or made up in Photoshop first. The selection of brushes is also great, there’s a vast number to choose from - whether that’s for sketching or adding texturing to your work.

 

Exporting / Importing

Affinity Designer offers a vast range of export options - whether that’s web or print, or exporting single layers and slices.

However, whilst you can import, you can’t export in an AI format (but more on that later).

 

User Interface

If you’ve only ever been an Adobe user, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy the transition is between Illustrator and Affinity Designer. I’m by no means the most experienced and was a little apprehensive about having to relearn how to navigate everything. This really wasn’t the case. 

As I mentioned in my review of Procreate, I find it far easier to draw directly onto a screen rather than drawing on a tablet to translate to desktop. I feel the same way about Affinity designer. 

The UI itself is very intuitive too. For example, a nice feature is that the toolbars automatically hide if you start to draw over part of the canvas they cover. Equally, however simple, there is a tooltip button that you can tap to reveal the name of every tool and menu on the app. It’s a great resource if you just need a quick overview, and it’s located in the bottom right of the screen for every time you need a refresher.

The tooltip button

Affinity Designer vs. Adobe Illustrator

Whilst a minor niggle in the grand scheme of things, this is a big inconvenience personally using Affinity Designer. Having just sung the praises of the vast number of import / export options, unlike Procreate which allows you to flawlessly export files as .psd’s, Affinity Designer isn’t ready to play ball with Illustrator. During one of our latest Hackathons, having produced a design on iPad - I needed to export and make some final adjustments with existing resources. I also needed to be able to share it with the team as an .ai file. Whilst I could open and edit the file, it was a bit of a mess. I had to go in and spend unnecessary time fixing elements like gradients and groupings. Whilst this was relatively minor, the design I’d created was pretty simple so I’d imagine it’d be far more frustrating with something more complicated. It's also still enough of an inconvenience to put me off using it for shared projects. Especially one as time sensitive as a Hackathon. 

Like most agencies, Adobe software is core to our working practises. However, if you don’t have the need to share .ai files in a team environment, I really can’t find issue with it.

 

Summary

Overall it’s really difficult to fault Affinity Designer for iPad - it’s definitely worth the praise that’s heaped on it. And at £19.99 as a one off purchase (no ongoing subscription necessary) it’s a lot of bang for your buck. 

Great for remote working with a full fat feature list - one for everyone’s design artillery, whether beginner or professional.

If you fancy giving it a go but aren’t sure where to start, Affinity have a great number of tutorial videos on their website to give you an overview on using the app. I’d recommend the tutorial on Gestures as a necessity.