Affinity Designer

It was about a year ago that I needed to update my one machine’s software and was daunted with the industry’s standard, Adobe software, absurd new licensing system.

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Screen time is a fact of life for pretty much most kids these days. While there is a very clear definition between ‘good’ vs. ‘not so good’ screen time (1), the fact can’t be ignored that for most aspects of everyday life, exposure to, or use of, screen, is now a way of life

Drawing and colouring (with paper and pencils) for most kids is an important step in their development and for some, becomes something they continue with as they develop a creative/artistic side to their interests. While the use of what I like to call ‘analogue’ tools should never be replaced, there will come a point that kids will want to take that creativity to the digital space as a natural progression (2).

In our house it’s been easy, our home based design studio has all the tools we needed to service clients; from printers to software, we have everything one would expect from a professional workspace. For most parents though, knowing how or where to look when trying to address their kids growing creativity becomes problematic, especially if they themselves do not work in creative fields. MS paint and the like are fun as basic ‘toys’, but if your kids want something more…?

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Designer makes use of OSX’s split screen technology; brilliant when editing vector illustrations

It was about a year ago that I needed to update my machine’s software and was daunted with the industry’s standard, Adobe (Photoshop, Illustrator etc.), absurd new licensing system. Already over 6k worth of fairly recent software (and subsequent 1.2k in upgrades) was rendered intentionally obsolete by this money grab and while my other half had a new transportable Adobe license through work, I was left using software a few years old. While not generally a problem, the suite of Adobe software we had performed horridly, even on a brand new machine. Slow to load, bloated and needlessly complex – I actually identified some of the Adobe software as being the culprit for the machine’s sluggish performance! Call me a conspiracy theorist but I think this is all intentional, forcing the upgrade path to the new licensing system which will keep you pegged to Adobe software indefinitely. Either way, for any parent wanting to help their kids out, signing up to a subscription service is simply not a viable option…. hell, for someone who needs the software but does not use it full time, I found it unviable.

I certainly was not having a bar of it and if it were not for Pixlemator, which I had used as a lightweight Photoshop substitute for some years, becoming very buggy (to the point of being almost unusable), I would never have gone looking for alternatives.

Enter Serif Labs.

After some looking around for ‘affordable’, yet capable, substitutes to both Adobe’s Photoshop and Illustrator, I came across Affinity Designer by European based Serif Labs. While there are actually some quite good open source alternatives to Illustrator (not so much for Photoshop), what got my attention was the once off price tag of AU$70; what kept my attention was the full suite of professional level features it offered. For what I needed it for at the time, AD was not only enough but more than enough and not too long after buying AD, Serif released Affinity Photo which, as the name suggests, is the Serif counterpart to Photoshop.

While I am not going to do a technical review of either of the packages, there are plenty out there, I have been using both Designer and Photo in a professional capacity for a while and can easily say that both are 99.9% as anyone would ever need. The only noticeable gripes one comes across are from seasoned, dyed in the wool, Adobe based professionals, saying that the Serif packages do not have this or that feature as per the Adobe equivalents. While this is reasonable, especially if you have been using Adobe’s packages most of your working life, it needs to be remembered that Serif’s offerings are a few years old at best, not decades. This speaks volumes about just how capable the Serif packages are; further proven to myself recently as I have really dived into Designer, working on my project – I can say with no uncertainty that it is a truly amazing bit of software.

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Designer’s multiple work ‘persona’s’ allow you to work on both vector and pixel formats at the same time – the accuracy of vector and the painterly of pixels.

To any parent looking for software that’s more than a ‘toy’ to help their kids take their creativity into the digital space (and give them something to sink their teeth into), one can’t go past Affinity Designer on both price and capability. I personally would recommend Designer as the do all package and while it’s well more than enough for kids to explore, it is in every way a fully blown professional package, meaning it could serve the budding creative well for a very long time, if they decide to take the path to becoming a creative professional.

Affinity Designer and Affinity photo are available on Mac and PC – Photo is also available for iOS (iPad).

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A very worthwhile addition… the Affinity Designer Workbook.

1. American Pediatrics recently revised their definition of screen time, to differentiate between time spent using a screen for educations/learning purposes vs. non-interactive entertainment.

2. Digital media should never be seen as a direct replacement for ‘pencil’ and paper – ultimately both work hand in hand.

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