I have enjoyed using Affinity Designer and it’s sister products Affinity Photo and the beta Affinity Publisher, but the lack of a trace function in Designer is a serious drawback. Compared to CorelDraw (£599) or the endless cost (and irritation) of Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer (£50) is fantastic value for money and there are no extras or pressure to use on-line ‘services’. So, why is it taking the developers at Serif EU such a long time to add trace?
Designer was launched almost five years ago and whilst Serif have never specifically promised to have a trace function users have always wanted it, and eventually gone elsewhere – Illustrator or CorelDraw. Inkscape (freeware) manages a trace function but Inkscape can be clunky and it’s interface a little daunting. The power of current computers is such that the trace function should be straightforward. Come on Serif!
Printing documents that are larger than A4 can be a pain. I find Windows to be way behind the mac in this respect, and most of the cheaper apps don’t have printer dialogue boxes that can handle this.
So third party apps would seem to be the way, but are there any? I tried Wrapcandy Poster – it crashed repeatedly; Easy Poster Printer£2.09 from Microsoft Store but it is a weak and feeble thing which does not print to the correct size. Gimp is supposed to be able to handle poster but it is difficult to work through, I couldn’t get a result.
Then, having wasted about 40 sheets of A4, (even printing both sides) I discovered that Acrobat Reader now has poster print ability. Not the best print dialogue box but it worked and produced an 18 sheet print that was the correct size. So two cheers for Adobe, who I have little time for, generally.
Affinity Designer, Photo and Publisher all lack the ability to print posters, which is a glaring omission.
I have been using Affinity Designer (AD) to correct and amend five files – plywood model boats and helicopter, which means opening the Adobe Illustrator .ai file, working on it then ‘Exporting‘ it in .svg format, AD can only Save in it’s own format, .afdesign. This is a weakness in the AD setup and doesn’t make much sense, to me. Files can be exported – just another way of saving – in a wide range of formats, so why not put that function under the Save drop-down? Also, files cannot be saved as .ai – Adobe Illustrator, which is after all the most common low-end vector app.
Those are minor niggles and don’t affect functionality. The lack of a Trace function is a serious issue and a quick check on the Affinity forums shows no signs of any upgrade in the near future. The AD support forums suggest using Inkscape, which is freeware and works pretty well, but has a rather awkward user interface, and this suggestion merely shows the weakness of AD in this important area.
The ability to Trace the outline of a bitmap – raster – object, and then convert it to a vector is one I frequently used in Illustrator and which was high on the agenda at college, it’s an an essential tool. The whole point of apps like these is to use vectors rather than rasters; accuracy, ease of scaling, small file size are among the advantages. AD has plenty of strengths, the user interface is second to none and the assistant, which runs quietly in the background is excellent. I hope Trace gets added soon.
I have been using Affinity Designer to draw the re-modeled plywood ‘copter, no problems at all although I am still finding my way around. One tool it does not have is 3D view or the ability to move objects around all three planes. This is a useful feature of Illustrator although it can be frustratingly difficult to use. Still, as I don’t subscribe to Adobe products any longer I must find another way.
There are some pretty good 3D apps around, Tinkercad is an on-line one that uses ‘primitives’, basic shapes which you can use to build up complex models; Mesh Mixer and Autodesk 123D are both free and powerful. But sometimes it is just quicker and easier to sketch by hand and colour with watercolours.
So having completed the 2D drawing and checked until my eyes were sore for errors, I sent it to Cut & Burn, laser cutters in East Devon.
I recently bought Affinity Photo, a graphics app that costs just £50 and will accept many Photoshop plug-ins. As with most software this means a learning period during which novel combinations of swear words can be heard echoing from Miller Towers. But thankfully this has been minimal with Affinity Photo, which is well designed, pretty intuitive, has all the tools and power I require and can do almost everything Photoshop does and some things better. I’m a quite experienced user of this sort of software having been publishing stuff since the BBC Micro days of the 1980s, on several hardware platforms (including the beloved Amiga 500 and the 1200). Affinity has emerged from the old Serif (parent) company and seems to have a similar fair-price philosophy.
So having tried it for a few weeks along with a freebie, the beta version of Affinity Publisher (a desk top publishing app) and been pretty pleased with the results I decided to dig into the usually hermetically sealed wallet and bought the third of the trilogy of apps, Affinity Designer.
The motivation for all this is financial, to get away from the rapacious Adobe and their over-priced products. Adobe have a near-monopoly in UK art schools and elsewhere, as well as with designers, photographers and artists, and a few years ago they began exploiting that to the max. They did this with subscription pricing which forces customers to pay them forever, and pay them plenty.
Serif have spotted an opportunity and produced three fixed price products which will do everything most users want, for less than one years payment to Adobe! Adobe are not the only ones at this racket, Microsoft exploit their monopoly with out any check even though other products, such as the free Open Office, perform just as well for most users. But it seems that the big companies and their lure of cheap software – cheap for the school – has got the educational institutions in a fierce grip somewhere below the waist. Time that grip was broken.
Affinity Designer is a vector drawing app and seems to have some cross-over functions into the raster graphic area. Like the other apps it is available for Windows, Mac and the iPad. I have a Win10 Surface Pro which I use with as a tablet and docked as a desktop, so I will be testing these apps with a pen as well as mouse/keyboard. Plenty of blurb on the Affinity site about Designer, but it is the things that are missing – there’s always something – which will be most revealing I expect. I will write more fully when I have tried it out.