A couple years ago, we at Jackrabbit made the bold move of ditching Photoshop and moving to Sketch for our web designing needs, and we haven’t looked back aside from the occasional photo edit.
After working with Sketch for a while, we soon realized how much of a behemoth Photoshop was and how it was the wrong tool for the specific type of work we do. Since making the switch, I’ve wondered what else was out there in the world beyond Adobe.
Veteran designers might remember Macromedia, an Adobe competitor. When Macromedia was acquired, Adobe became the only provider around for professional-grade design software for years. Then came Serif’s Affinity a couple years ago. Since their launch, I’ve kept an eye on them to see where they take their products, Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer. The more I saw, the more I liked.
After realizing Photoshop was so bloated for the needs of an average web designer, I decided to purchase a copy of Affinity Photo, the competitor to Photoshop, and test things out for myself.
Out of the box, the UI is fairly similar to Photoshop. The tools are familiar, but the shortcuts are different or lacking, making this a bit disorienting compared to Photoshop. It does pretty much everything Photoshop can do, but it excels in doing things Photoshop can’t, or can’t do as easily.
The Inpainting Tool is like the Stamp tool on steroids. “Inpaint” an area, and algorithms determine the best sources for replacement of what you selected.
Every time I’ve had to select hair, I cringed and looked up tutorials on how to do so in Photoshop. This process is far easier in Photo, where I’ve found the method intuitive.
Photo Editing Process
The photo editing process is more or less the same as in Photoshop. The shining difference lies in the Layer Filter section, which requires only a simple hover rather than countless clicks.
Photo uses Personas for some of its photo editing capabilities. Most editing will be done in the default Photo Persona. A liquify persona is shown in the video above; a Develop Persona allows you to edit photos much like in Adobe Lightroom; and Export Persona is essentially Photo’s Save for Web.
In my time using Photo and exporting to PSD, I’ve checked my work in Photoshop to ensure compatibility. While I’ve never experienced anything bad between Photo/Photoshop, the biggest difference I have seen is Layer organization.
Bonus: when writing this post, Photo crashed. When I forced quit and restarted, it offered to reopen the sample files at their last edited state. Neither file had been saved prior to this crash.
As one would assume, Affinity’s Illustrator competitor, Designer, shares the same UI as Photo. Designer also has the same quirks in that things look the same, act the same, but feel different with different keyboard shortcuts. While I have not had the same amount of experience with Designer as I have with Photo, things are promising in its capabilities.
Creating a simple rabbit head in Designer is fairly easy, seeing as how its the most significant work I have done in this app to date.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of Designer is its ability to zoom in over 1,000,000%, compared to Illustrator’s 64,000%.
Also interesting is Designer’s Split View, a slider that lets you see the vector lines or rasterized pixels of the document.
Designer lets you illustrate much like illustrator does, but once you select the Artboard tool you enter a whole new world that becomes comparable to Sketch, with symbols, responsive artboard resizing and more.
Designer <—> Photo
Designer and Photo have nearly seamless integration. They each have their own specific toolsets, but they also each have a menu item allowing you to edit the current file in the other application.
There is a learning curve with each app, especially for a seasoned designer used to Photoshop and Illustrator. I’ve made the commitment to solely use Photo and Designer, though I do also have copies of Photoshop and Illustrator installed just to double check the compatibility and quality of files they create. As far as I can tell, things are pretty spot on, visually, though some layers or layer filters do get altered in PSDs.
Since Adobe charges $19.99/month for 1 application and $49.99/month for 2 or more applications, Photo’s and Designer’s price points of a one-time purchase of $49.99 each sweetens the deal—even more so if you hold out for their occasional 20% off promotion.
For those disappointed there’s no InDesign competitor, fret not, for one is in the works, called Affinity Publisher. If you want more information about Affinity or their products, check out their site at affinity.serif.com. You can also watch Affinity’s Photo for iPad Apple Keynote presentation (100:00 minutes in), Affinity Photo tutorials, and Affinity Designer tutorials.