A Detailed Review of Affinity Designer on Mac OS - Part 2

A Detailed Review of Affinity Designer on Mac OS - Part 2

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Affinity Designer Review - Part 1

Hello, dear friends! Now I’m going to tell you about the working panels of Affinity Designer. In general, everything is nearly the same to Illustrator. There is a couple of ambiguous moments, and also a couple of great comfortable features that competitors don’t have at all. You can turn on/off all or some exact features in the “View->Studio->...” menu

 

Draw persona


Layers

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From top left to right: layer opacity, blending mode, mixing ranges, layer locking. The opacity of a layer can be changed from 0 to 9 (as in Photoshop or Sketch), so there’s no need to visit the panel to do it. There are also keys for locking a layer.

From left to right at the bottom: auto layer selection, masking, layer settings, effects, new layer, new pixel layer, delete layer.

Auto layer selection: if it’s selected, select a layer by clicking on the canvas; if it’s not selected, do it on the panel. I also want to note that this works with layers that contain objects. Inside the layer, those objects are always selected by clicking on both the canvas and layers.

The “Mask” option works just like the “Clipping Mask” from Adobe, but it appears not above one layer, but above everything below. There is also a pixel one, so you can use a brush.

“Adjustments” is a layer with different settings:

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In fact, these are the usual windows for setting colors, levels, channels and other things. They appear as a layer, so you can move and edit them like any other layer at any time.

For example, the "Selective Color" settings:

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The layer effects are usual

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The “New Layer” button adds an ordinary vector layer.

“New pixel layer” adds a layer on which you can draw in the “Pixel persona” mode.

Well, I think that everything is clear with the Trash bin.

Honestly saying, I haven’t understood the blend ranges. I don’t use this thing and haven’t seen it in other programs. It seems to me that it controls the layer “translucence”. Still, it’s not just a blending mode (Multiply, Overlay, Soft Light and so on), but something like both blending and transparency changing at the same time.

“Blend Options” window:

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Snapshots

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In this panel, you can save something like backup copies or different versions of one document. The buttons (from left to right): restore a snapshot, take a new snapshot, delete a snapshot, a new file from the snapshot. I think that it’s clear. You’ll be asked how to name a new photo when you take it. By default, Affinity Designer names snapshots by their creation time.

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History

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Everything is easy: you can return to some action by clicking on it or just sliding. Affinity Designer can save the history inside the document. For instance, you can open a file dated a century ago and all actions in its history will be “alive”. Click a special menu option to see it:

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Brushes

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In addition to the category choice and the variety of brushes, the panel allows you creating your categories and brushes, editing and deleting ready ones, importing/exporting (note that here’s a native format — .afbrushes)

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Transform


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You can select the object's anchor point (i.e find out the coordinates from the edges or the center of a picture), correct and “connect” the size, coordinates, angle and skew.


Navigator

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If you’ve ever used Photoshop or Illustrator, you will recognize this feature. It works the same to others. The scale slider has its 1000% maximum, but if you need more, increase it with the “plus” option, it has no limit. You can also use your keyboard or mouse to do this.

The Navigator has the “Advanced” mode (the top right menu). You can set viewpoints there. Expose the scale, save the “View Point 1”, then change the scale and save “View Point 2”. Now you can switch between these viewpoints in the Navigator. You can also set different names for them.

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It works this way:

Effects

The same layer effects, but in a separate panel. You can work with them either from the layers panel, or from this one.

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Styles

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Object Styles. You can select an object, save its style, then select another object and apply the first style to it. You can’t replace or update an already existing style. In fact, it’s not very useful thing for me as I can copy/paste object styles much faster with hot keys (Cmd+C -> Cmd+Shift+V).

The menu allows you to create your own category of styles, delete/rename categories, import/export styles (in the special .afstyles format), and make a new style from the selected object.

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Stroke


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Icons (from the top): without a stroke, a line stroke, a dotted line stroke, a brush stroke. Further, there are the parameters of connections, fillets and the stroke location.

The “Draw behind fill” checkbox includes overlapping the stroke by filling (if the stroke is in the center or inside the edge):


“Scale with object” is for changing the stroke size along with the object size.

The “Properties...” button opens the stroke settings panel. The stroke will switch to the “brush” mode. These parameters can be set only for brushes.

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There is also an interesting “Pressure” button. It opens the stroke thickness setting. There is a separate tool for it in Illustrator, and here it’s made in the form of a curve. It’s not very obvious how it works at the start, but you can get used to it.


Profiles can be saved, uploaded and deleted.


Colour

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Nothing unusual is here, except the “dropper”. To select a color (from an object on the canvas), drag the dropper onto it, then select a color as the fill/stroke.


There are 4 display modes: a wheel, sliders (RGB, RGB Hex, HSL, CMYK, LAB, Greyscale), a spectrum (called “boxes” for some reason) and a tint slider.

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There is also a point in the menu that allows you to add several colors to the swatches, basing on the current one. It is a very useful option as you can choose several suitable ones from a plenty of shades.

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Swatches

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The functionality of the panel is very similar to Illustrator.

Switch between filling/stroke with ‘X’.

The dropper is peculiar and seems to be not very uncomfortable. You may first drag it to the color, it will appear near the dropper, and then this color can be used for filling or stroke. Nothing happens after clicking on ‘I’ or ‘Alt’, if the brush tool is not selected. With it selected, ‘Alt’ can switch you to the dropper.

The “Recent” line shows us used colors in the current document. There are always black, gray and white colors.

There is a list with palettes below (my custom “Pale” palette is opened on the screenshot).

There are three types: the document palette, the program palette, and the system palette. The document palette is saved with the file and is not available anywhere else. The program palette is available in any document, it is a “general program”. The system palette is available from any program on the Mac in the colorpicker bar.

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The system colorpicker is a very useful thing. In particular, it is very handy to add colors once and use them in all your programs later. This way, I create some “common” palettes for Sketch, Pixelmator and Affinity Designer. Coders may use such palette in Sablime Text.

You can create global colors in the panel.

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A global color can be changed with the help of sliders or simply replaced with another one from the palette.

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There are built-in Pantone palettes:

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You can add colors, palettes, delete and rename them, create palettes from other documents, edit the swatches view, export/import palettes (in the native .afpalette format) in this panel.

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Every swatch has a context menu.

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Character

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I won’t write about the obvious parameters. They are the same for all programs. I'll better tell you about unobvious ones.

The font categories list. These are categories and smart folders from the system font program. If you change something, Affinity Designer will show the changes only after the restart.

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The font size. You can specify it in the document parameters (File-> Document Setup...)

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You have a chance to specify a separate color for the underline and strikethrough. By default, the main text color is applied.


If you press Cmd+Enter after entering text, it is immediately converted to curves. Press “Esc” to exit the text editing.

Affinity Designer can show you the final result of some changings, if you hover the mouse.


Paragraph

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I haven’t found how to turn a linear text into a paragraph. It seems to me that there is no such function in Affinity Designer. Therefore, choose whether to create a title or a paragraph.

The alignment can be found at the top.

1 – the “Spacing” group: stitch height, indent from the top, from the bottom, from the first line, from the left or right.

2 – the “Tab stops” group: indents in the text block after clicking “Tab”. By default, it equals 36 points, but you can specify your own settings.

In the example below, the first “Tab” will move the cursor to 10 px, the second one will move it to another 50 ones, the third is for another 200 px.

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There are also settings for the blocks after the indentation — alignment and signs instead of a space (a space, a period, an underscore, or a hyphen).

3 – The “Justification” group: this one will useful for aligning the text across the entire width (better use it nowhere else but in printing). From the top to the bottom, from the left to the right: the minimum distance between words, between characters, the desired distance between words, between characters, the maximum distance between words, between characters.

 

Export persona


Slices

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This feature contains all created automatically/manually fragments (I have “filename required” here). Each fragment type has its icon.

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Select the picture resolution for export, 1x, 2x or 3x, at the top of the panel. You can export all at once, if you tick all the fragments and choose “Export selected”, or one by one, if you click the “Export” button near the necessary fragment.

There is a useful “Continuous” checkbox below. Note that it works only after the first export. If you select this checkbox, all changes in the file will be automatically exported to the corresponding fragments.

So, you’ve drawn a sprite of icons, divided them into fragments, exported them once, then you go to “Continuous”. After that, if you edit something in the icons, the changes will be exported automatically. Anyway, there is an inconvenient moment… after closing and re-opening the file, the magic checkbox is disabled and you need to do everything once again.

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Export Options

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Everything is understandable from the parameters names. You can select parameters for different file fragments, if you have several ones. Here’s a great variety of options. Moreover, you can save your own settings.

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In order to create your own preset, select a built-in one, change something, and save it as a new preset (“Create Preset...”).

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Layers

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In the export mode, the layers panel allows you to select, enable/disable layers and create fragments. There are no other options. If a layer is exported, it’s displayed as an icon (to the left of the checkbox).

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Epilogue

That's all for now. Long story short, I have lots of positive impressions. Affinity Designer can be a great working tool. Perhaps, some of you will have to get used to some nuances after working with Illustrator, but there are not so many of them.


Author Eugene Reznik