Trace

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!

Boats

RoRo Ferry approx 20cm x 10cm

A trip through the rain to Basically Wooden in Devon to collect many laser-cut toy boats, ready for packaging and hopefully for some sales.  Sue and Andrew at Basically Wooden design, laser-cut and assemble fine objects for the gaming world, and some other items.  They have just made a new dice tower, really lovely.  They use quite a lot of fine, detailed engraving, something I have avoided with these toys.

Tugboat, Helicopter,Lifeboat and Trawler all about 20cm x 10 cm

My toy/models have moving doors and a working winch.  They are suitable for children over 3 (small parts), come with visual instructions, glue (not strictly necessary but makes a more permanent toy), and string for the winch.  I am selling on Etse and ebay , £11.95 each including UK postage, add £3 for postage worldwide.  Buy all five for £50, (plus £5 for shipping outside the UK).

 

Affinity Publisher

I just got the latest upgrade/bug fix for Affinity Publisher beta – still free.  I haven’t found any bugs and I am enjoying using it.  It has excellent file export choices including .pdf.  I found colour printout to be very good as well; although the colours of my Xerox laser can be a little over-saturated there are many possible choices in the print dialogue box.

Vectors

Working on a steampunk design for a helicopter, I have struggled the last few days to get a look that will translate to plywood.  The devil really is in the detail.  My plywood laser-cut toys are plain and unadorned but steampunk is not about clean lines.

Circle grid window

I spent a while this morning drawing this window in the style of an old diving helmet, here as a .png file (WordPress won’t allow vector files, if anyone wants a copy let me know and I will send).

Affinity Designer is perfectly adequate for 2D drawing like this.

Poster printing

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.

Affinity Designer failures

I have been using Affinity Designer (AD) to make instruction sheets for my plywood construction toys – a process which often seems more painstaking than designing the things themselves.

These are vector files – raster files become huge and slow – and were originally created in Illustrator using the 3D function.  But they original won’t open in AD because it wasn’t saved with an associated .pdf, AD can’t make sense of it.

So I took the 3D raster (.jpeg) and traced it using Inkscape then had a vector file I could edit in AD.  Whew.

The lack of a trace function in AD is a serious oversight on the part of Serif Eu. 

My files are laser cut, currently by Basically Wooden in east Devon and to be accepted by the cutter software they should be in .dxf – drawing exchange format, the most commonly used in Computer Aided Design (CAD), in AutoCad and AutoDesk.  These file types are used for CNC routers, plasma cutting, laser cutting, engraving and waterjet cutting, &c.  So for a vector drawing program to be useful it should be able to save in this form, unfortunately Affinity Designer cannot do so.  Once again Inkscape comes to the rescue, it can accept vectors from AD and save them in .dxf. 

But this comes at a cost: file sizes are changed, checks and adjustments must be made and all this adds time and complexity.  So I feel Serif Eu. need to get .dxf format added asap if they want to take on the big players. I’m looking forward to an upgrade.

 

 

Affinity Designer, Illustrator, Inkscape

Affinity Designer Export choices

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.