Helicopter – now on sale

Yours for just £9.95, introductory offer while stocks last.  This press-out version is supplied with pva glue.

3mm plywood, laser-cut and sanded on both sides, approx 20cm x 10cm. Instructions included.  Contains small parts so not suitable for children under 3.  Assembly may need adult assistance.  Free postage in the UK, £3 for the European Union.  

3xA5 plywood sheets

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.

 

Plywood Model Trawler

This model is one of four laser-cut boats which I will soon be cutting a batch of, ready to sell.  Having recently tidied up the .svg file of this boat – a trawler – using Affinity Designer I thought it would be fun to see if I could add a livery of sorts.  I have printed peel-off stickers before and used them for a helicopter, so I revised this set in Affinity Photo ready to print.

But why bother to do this then re-photograph the model when I can just add them virtually?  And as I am learning this software this is a good opportunity to try a little perspective distortion.  The livery is for my son’s lovely organic food shop, Field Fayre in Ross-on-Wye, England.  I actually prefer the models without stickers but they are a selling point, I hope.

No difficulty at all using the distortion/perspective tool in Affinity Photo, accessed through the Filters and I felt it was easier than Photoshop.  Now to check and tidy the three other boats .svg files, remove overlapping lines, unnecessary points and so on.  If you use a vector drawing app you will know what I mean.  No problems at all so far with Affinity Designer, just the usual learning curve  but on the whole I find it well structured and logical. I did struggle to change line dimensions from points to millimetres – change the Document – but that’s all.

 

 

Affinity and beyond

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.

Affinity Publisher beta, free for now

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.