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Adobe Illustrator vs Affinity Designer - A side-by-side comparison

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https://affinicasts.com/videos/adobe-illustrator-vs-affinity-designer

Coming from Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer can be a fantastic replacement to many of the features you've grown to love over the years from Adobe Illustrator.

Under the hood, Affinity Designer packs a powerful punch offering most of the things Adobe Illustrator offers but in a leaner approach.

While there is a small learning curve with regards to key commands, terminology, workflow, and more, I have found the transition quite easy in comparison to other design applications in the wild.

This video is a side-by-side comparison of some of the features both apps have and how they are alike and different. My hope is to showcase a bit about each. This video might open your eyes to some things that may have been keeping you from making the leap to the Affinity-Serif side.

If you have any questions or need help please comment below!

Below is a rough outline of all the things discussed in this video. There are plenty more features within each app but I have found these to be the most notable.

Terminology

General naming conventions are different within each app. The same concept exists for most things but there are some edge cases where one app outperforms the other in a variety of scenarios.

Switching from Illustrator or Designer to Illustrator takes a little getting used to but is a very easy switch for someone very used to one over the other.

Examples

  • Curves / Outlines
  • Node tool / Direct Selection Tool

General Settings

  • Illustrator
    • A lot more settings in general. Many go unnoticed to the novice designer. Often times you don't need to configure these settings unless you have strong preferences on how you like to work. Every designer is different so I think Adobe saw that as a way to make almost everything configurable.
  • Affinity Designer
    • Designer borrows a lot of configurations from Adobe Illustrator but it's definitely a leaner experience. You can customize a lot but not nearly as much which for some is perfectly fine.

Viewing Modes

  • Illustrator
    • 4 different shades of UI display from dark to light
    • Outline preview, Pixel Preview
  • Affinity Designer
    • 2 shades - Light and Dark UI
    • Pixel Preview, Outline Preview, Split view (compare vector to pixels etc..)

New Document Presets

  • Illustrator
    • Mobile, Web, Print, Film & Video, Art & Illustration
  • Affinity Designer
    • Print, Print (Press-Ready), Photo, Web, Devices (Mobile)

Artboards

  • Ilustrator

    • Artboard support with unique tools/settings for each
  • Affinity Designer

    • Artboard support with unique tools/settings for each

Color Picking

  • Illustrator
    • Pretty straight-forward picking
  • Affinity Designer
    • Odd picking process that takes some getting used to.

Pathfinder / Geometry

  • Illustrator
    • Pathfinder can be its own dialog window which is a perk
    • Shape Modes
    • Unite, Minus Front, Intersect, Exclude
    • Pathfinders
    • Divide, Trim, Merge, Crop, Outline, Minus Back
  • Affinity Designer
    • Geometry fixed within the tool bar
    • Add, Subtract, Intersect, Divide, Combine

Color Management

  • Illustrator
    • Export swatches
    • Many different ways to view swatches
    • A huge selection of swatch libraries by default
    • Adobe Themes - Color Palette Generator
    • Color Groups
  • Designer
    • Not as many swatch libraries but does offer some
    • Option to save a swatch palette per app, per document, or per system
    • Global colors allow you to create one color and update it throughout your document in real time

Tools

  • Illustrator
    • So many tools you can likely be overwhelmed here.
  • Designer
    • Many tools as well but I find most to be more practical than those offered in Illustrator

Pen Tool - Differences

  • Illustrator
    • Multiple tools to accomplish many things
    • A little cumbersome to have to swap tools
  • Affinity Designer
    • One pen tool
    • Click paths to adjust handles and proportions
    • One node tool

Shapes

Creating Shapes

  • Affinity Designer
    • No dialog
    • Custom shapes have their own contextual settings
    • All shapes can be converted to curves and adjusted with the node tool
    • round any one of or all corners on a given shape
  • Adobe Illustrator
    • Dialog or drag new shape on the canvas
    • Custom shapes have to be drawn
    • No contextual settings per shape minus rounded corners

Shapes that come by default

  • Affinity Designer
    • 21 different default shapes
  • Adobe Illustrator
    • 6 different default shapes

Text

  • Affinity Designer
    • Two different text tools
    • Artistic Text Tool
    • Type on path
    • Frame text tool
    • Create a frame of text or type within predefined shape
    • Live updates to font sizes and adjustments
  • Illustrator
    • One text tool with many features
    • Type on path
    • Type on shape
    • Text frame when dragging
    • Downsides to many character options
    • Doesn't update changes to type in real time besides the selected font

Exporting/Saving

  • Affinity Designer
    • Export to 10 different formats all with unique settings
    • Support for exporting to PSDs
    • Export Persona
    • A unique experience that allows you to export virtually anything within a Designer document to any format with various settings and optimizations.
  • Illustrator
    • 3 Different ways to export
    • Export or Screens
      • Geared towards UI design to offer options to export at 1x,2x and any larger sizes you need
    • Export As...
      • About 15 different file formats are offered to export a given illustrator document as
    • Save for Web (legacy)
      • This used to be what "Export for Screens" is now minus the different size variant support.
      • You can compress/optimize and tailor each file to your liking

ai vs ad.jpg

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On 8/22/2018 at 9:58 AM, Precog said:

Very cool comparison video.I’d love to see one that compares the iPad version of Designer

I have tons of content coming soon for the iPad versions. I'll be sure to add this to the queue!

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1 hour ago, affinicasts said:

Coming very soon!

Woo-hoo! :-) 

I'm asking, because once Publisher is in stable release, I will try to move my company from Adobe to Serif software and your video is very helpful.


pilcrow.eu
W10, i5 2.4GHz, 8GB RAM, nVidia GeForce 840A, Wacom Intuos + iPad Pro 2018

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22 minutes ago, Przemysław said:

Woo-hoo! :-) 

I'm asking, because once Publisher is in stable release, I will try to move my company from Adobe to Serif software and your video is very helpful.

Great to hear! I'll be covering Publisher in depth as well. Look for much more soon :)

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Many thanks for your work above. I've been looking for something like this to give to people I know who ask this specific question. I am also anxiously awaiting Affinity Publisher. Using Affinity Designer has been a joy compared to the frequent crashes I experienced in Illustrator with my heavy map files (vector on a raster map). Have you done a comparison of Affinity Photo with Photoshop? 

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On 9/21/2018 at 1:05 PM, brandon1407 said:

So in other words...Affinity Designer is a far better purchase than Adobe Illustrator.

No.  But the grass is greener in patches.  But realistically, Illustrator just covers a whole lot more grass.  Not everybody needs that level of features and functionality and that's where low cost programs are worth their weight in gold.  Also, much of that list above is factually incorrect.

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Too many basic features missing in Designer for it to be a replacement for Adobe Illustrator. Designer has a great interface that makes you want to create! But so many elementary features are missing, and after 20 (!!!) years of experience and work with programs like Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW it makes no sense not having these features in Designer. The knife tool fx was introduced in CorelDRAW in 1995! The envelope tool was released in 1991 and vastly improved in 1997!!! Neither are available in Affinity Designer in 2018.

Affinity Photo is a much better replacement for Adobe Photoshop - except for the weak RAW converter. Photo is really impressive and with good support for Photoshop plug-ins. Photoshop CC 2018 has many clever features with state of the art engineering working for you. They are just not mission critical - I would call it luxury. Personally I need the Camera RAW engine for my work.

I never liked working in Adobe Illustrator and I probably never will. But it delivers and it certainly does not lack basic features - like CorelDRAW delivers too.

I know these programs are oldies, and that the Affinity range is young. But you can't enter the market with that excuse for years and years. Imagine a new range of passenger airplanes from Boeing with no auto pilot etc. etc. Basic features must have high priority - but Serif have chosen to hit the market in a short time frame with three apps both for Windows, OS X and iOS. And it slows development of ALL apps down to a crawl due to lack of developers. That is the issue here. All apps have great potential. Photo especially. But how will they reach it?

It is a damn shame.

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If we wanna compare CorelDraw's feature history, there are both features faster in AD and slower in comparison to CD. Notable CD features that were slow to hit CD vs. AD was ICC color management in PDFs & multiple color palettes (10 years or so),  Symbols (about 12 years), Dynamic guides (15 years) and that list could go on.

Missing this/that is relative. They are important once we have gotten use to, and proficient using, these features. That makes these features stick out like a sore thumb. But in the grand scheme of things, I know Corel Corp had more programmers during those early decades than Serif does. That Serif can do so much in the amount of time they have been working on the Affinity applications is pretty good (even accounting for newer programming tools).

Only a particular user can judge whether this application or that one fits their own needs. Buy it, don't buy it is always up to that user. But you do know how many users they do have? It's a bunch. So these applications fit the bill of a lot of people based upon what features they do have now and how these applications work.


My computer is a nothing-special Toshiba laptop with unremarkable specs running Windows 10 64-bit.

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1 hour ago, MikeW said:

If we wanna compare CorelDraw's feature history, there are both features faster in AD and slower in comparison to CD. Notable CD features that were slow to hit CD vs. AD was ICC color management in PDFs & multiple color palettes (10 years or so),  Symbols (about 12 years), Dynamic guides (15 years) and that list could go on.

[...]

1

I came to the same conclusion myself several times but then I later considered that we don't live in those times anymore. Many things are different, and things definitely move faster nowadays. As for the user, I'm sure Serif knows its target and it pays off.

@Wafer Funny you mention CD, I started with it and then abandoned when I moved to Adobe. I'm now using it again after I realized Affinity is not for me. I'm just amazed by how rich Corel is now! It's simply impressive, I have never seen anything like it. It blows any other vector software I tried out of the water. And I can finally export AI files with layers and everything! (even copy paste between CD/AI if I need to). I mistakenly thought that AI export wasn't possible, people here said many times AI is a proprietary file format and nothing can be done about it. Well, Corel did it! :) 


Andrew
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Win10 x64 AMD Threadripper 1950x, 64GB, 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD + 2TB, dual GTX 1080ti
Dual Monitor Dell Ultra HD 4k P2715Q 27-Inch

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When the Iron Curtain fell Corel used their heads and wallets - they hired Russian math experts and I think we can see traces of that move in the many amazing features in CorelDRAW. What makes Adobe and Corel (and Microsoft, Apple etc) special is their research and valued experts. There is a lot of math involved in vector software and Photoshop too (try the new Image Size Preserve Detail 2.0 in Photoshop CC 2018, it is magic). Skype too was also developed with expertise from Eastern European math wizards. No wizards, no magic. 

CorelDRAW is a huge program and it is somewhat expensive - perhaps that is why Corel is interested in Gravit Designer. For customers who don't need the full CD product. Gravit too could possibly need help for the more advanced features it lacks. It is an interesting product I follow closely. I really like having a real competent vector drawing program running in a browser anywhere in seconds. With a few extra features I wouldn't need AD at all. Gravit is also a joy to use.

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2 hours ago, Wafer said:

When the Iron Curtain fell Corel used their heads and wallets - they hired Russian math experts and I think we can see traces of that move in the many amazing features in CorelDRAW. What makes Adobe and Corel (and Microsoft, Apple etc) special is their research and valued experts. There is a lot of math involved in vector software and Photoshop too (try the new Image Size Preserve Detail 2.0 in Photoshop CC 2018, it is magic). Skype too was also developed with expertise from Eastern European math wizards. No wizards, no magic. 

CorelDRAW is a huge program and it is somewhat expensive - perhaps that is why Corel is interested in Gravit Designer. For customers who don't need the full CD product. Gravit too could possibly need help for the more advanced features it lacks. It is an interesting product I follow closely. I really like having a real competent vector drawing program running in a browser anywhere in seconds. With a few extra features I wouldn't need AD at all. Gravit is also a joy to use.

Interesting, I didn't know that.

As for the price, I think it's relative: I find it quite affordable at $16.5 per month for the subscription or $499 and if I'm not mistaken, I can install it with the same license on my PC, a laptop and a second PC. I'm really considering it, there's so much to love about it.


Andrew
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Win10 x64 AMD Threadripper 1950x, 64GB, 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD + 2TB, dual GTX 1080ti
Dual Monitor Dell Ultra HD 4k P2715Q 27-Inch

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11 hours ago, verysame said:

As for the price, I think it's relative: I find it quite affordable at $16.5 per month for the subscription or $499 and if I'm not mistaken, I can install it with the same license on my PC, a laptop and a second PC. I'm really considering it, there's so much to love about it.

Well, it is affordable. It was comparing it to Affinity Designer.

I always liked working in CorelDRAW better than Illustrator - but I have to use Illustrator for many reasons, so there. You seem to love it - if you can use it, buy it if possible! :-)

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16 hours ago, Wafer said:

When the Iron Curtain fell Corel used their heads and wallets - they hired Russian math experts and I think we can see traces of that move in the many amazing features in CorelDRAW. What makes Adobe and Corel (and Microsoft, Apple etc) special is their research and valued experts. There is a lot of math involved in vector software and Photoshop too (try the new Image Size Preserve Detail 2.0 in Photoshop CC 2018, it is magic). Skype too was also developed with expertise from Eastern European math wizards. No wizards, no magic. 

CorelDRAW is a huge program and it is somewhat expensive - perhaps that is why Corel is interested in Gravit Designer. For customers who don't need the full CD product. Gravit too could possibly need help for the more advanced features it lacks. It is an interesting product I follow closely. I really like having a real competent vector drawing program running in a browser anywhere in seconds. With a few extra features I wouldn't need AD at all. Gravit is also a joy to use.

I don't think I could find enough bad things to say about CorelDraw.  It's the most unstable software I've ever installed on a PC.  If Eastern European wizards are responsible for that mess, then I do not think it's something they should put on their resumes.  LOL  What I would like to know is how is it possible that Adobe software can be so fully featured, and so high quality, stable, and reliable.  I have two gripes with Adobe.  The first is the cost. And the second is that it is so demanding on a PC.  Unless you have the newest hardware, Adobe software makes your PC feel like it's aging in dog years.  Each update is noticeably slower.  Other than that, you can't beat Adobe software.  Otherwise, everybody would be using CoreDraw, which is the next closest thing to Adobe but still a million miles away.

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25 minutes ago, Kuttyjoe said:

I don't think I could find enough bad things to say about CorelDraw.  It's the most unstable software I've ever installed on a PC. 

I do remember a lot of crashes too - but that was many years ago. It still had - and has - the features I need. The more recent versions I tried didn't fail on me. The most unstable software I have ever used was in fact Serif DrawPlus! ;-) No competition. Its good to see that the Affinity line is very stable.

I always updated my Adobe apps with a shaking hand - they do demand more and more from your hardware, but the recent versions run fine on all computers I have access to. Except Lightroom that is the clumsy member of the family. I like the updates - the user interface looks great and stability is great too. Working in Illustrator is just not fun or intuitive. I sketch a lot on paper with pencils and its amazing how a brainstorm with pen and paper can result in great ideas - and results. I never feel like brainstorming in Illustrator and that is why I combine it with software like AD. But I need the basic features that are not part of AD yet.

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I liked the video comparison.
However, I missed the mention to the ease of creating dynamic boolean operations in Affinity, in contrast with Illustrator.
Or the ease of creating maskings in Affinity, when compared with the masking in Illustrator.

Although lacking a few things, I do prefer using Affinity.
I never liked Illustrator very much. I used to love FreeHand, though, before being killed by Adobe.

I look forward to watch the comparison between Affinity Photo and Photoshop.
I find myself using Affinity Photo more and more, but whenever I need to work extensively with masks and alpha channels in general, I go straight to Photoshop.
It is so much easier and intuitive. Alpha channels/masks operations in Affinity Photo are just too cumbersome.

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Hey @affinicasts that's really a Nice Job, i've watched the whole video and found it really interesting in general.
Nice Job and also your website offers good topics that should be known among Affinity Users over the world.

All my blessings and support for this great work !

 


Never be the Same Again !
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2010) - 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo - 8 GB 1067 MHz DDR3 - VIDIA GeForce 320M 256 MB

MacOS High Sierra 10.13.6  - Affinity Designer + Affinity Photo + Affinity Publisher + Snagit 2019 + Camtasia 2018 + Movavi Video Editor Business 15

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