Differences between Adobe Illustrator and Affinity Designer

Differences between Adobe Illustrator and Affinity Designer

Adobe products have been mainstream for a long time. Often it seems that they developed right from the beginning when digital era was born. They have been compatible both for Mac and Windows machines and have given ultimate design experience to millions of designers and customers. E.g. our team uses Illustrator and CorelDraw to create different vector images. As an alternative to Adobe Illustrator (AI), Affinity Designer (AD) app was created, which was first only available on Macs. Recently, AD hit the PC market and as a follower of the Affinity Designer and Photo Group I decided to ask AI and AD experts to share with differences they face while using the applications.

The question was posted on June 18, 2017.


“Gurus of Illustrator and Affinity, could you tell me main differences between these two fantastic apps? I am still dubious on why I should leave Illustrator for Affinity (please leave the price reason out). Just want to hear about the main differences/struggles that illustrator users face in Affinity. Thank you.”

As I expected this started a new thread of answers and today we would like to present you some main points that world wide designers shared with the artistic community. We hope these designers’ experience and contribution will help you understand the differences between these two apps and help you determine which one you want to stick to. In my own opinion, even though I do think that AD has a lot of cool and new features that AI lacks, AI is still a leader of the industry. At the same time I do think that if AI folks want to keep their positions high as before and stay in the business, they should start thinking harder and acting faster, as AD is steadily developing and it seems that it will sooner or later integrate all the well-known  AI features . On the other hand, even though I think that AD lacks some of the critical functions and tools for creating a vector art it is totally individual approach and many Mac users will simply like to opt to AD ignoring some of the vital actions and tools that I think a designer needs for work. And one of the main reasons that I have heard from the community is that AD is cheaper because you pay only once and you have it for life, and in case of Illustrator you and other adobe programs have to pay monthly fee. Below are the cooments:

Charlie Irving I'm new to affinity too. The only thing I'm getting to grips with is the pen tool. It's a bit more fiddly. But I think it will be just practice.

Dave Johnson Performance is usually at the top of the list. Affinity has it.

Jan Vejlin Affinity still lacks some features, but I like the way the program runs better, somehow more intuitive. One feature I am missing is Live tracing, right now I run tracing in Inkscape but it would be nice to use only one program.

Ellane Weedon I struggle with the lack of live trace, line offset, and the zig zag/polar grid tools and the like. I keep illustrator around for those specific things. For everything else in my workflow, Affinity is better.

Marc-Andre Renaud The first four issues that come to mind are:

  1. Curve editing. When it's easier and more efficient to draw and edit 2d shapes in 3d studio max (a 3d animation program) than in Illustrator, you know your drawing tools need a reboot. When that Issue has been around since 1995...
  2. Editing gradients in AD is possible. In AI, editing gradients means deleting the one you currently have, tweaking your gradient settings, dropping another gradient in the drawing, rinse repeat until it's close enough.
  3. Editing round corner boxes. Same as number 2. Also worse than number 2 in that if you resize the box later in your project, the radius will get resized, which means you need to redraw the box, again.
  4. The vector brush effects in AD are finer and easier to edit.
  5. Zooming

One tool where AI is still in the lead for my type of work is effect styles, such as for building decorative text for logos without having to redo a whole bunch of steps. While AD has a similar tool, it's just not as straight-forward to use and doesn't feel as powerful.

David Limburg I prefer Affinity, but it is missing auto-tracing and shape-blending.

Ilja S. Locke I would switch over to Affinity immediately when someone adapts ai2html (AI Plugin for SVG to HTML+CSS) for it.

Mike Rovers I prefer Illustrator, because it is more feature rich and mature.

Duy Bui I have tried Illustrator here and there but never really used it seriously. I believe that you will always compare AD to Illustrator if you have used Illustrator most of your life. This is just the way it is with softwares. Those that are new to this whole thing and chose AD will have nothing to compare to and are willing to learn and start from scratch. I have played around with Photoshop in the past and got used to its interface and everything, so when I switched to AP it was weird.

I wished that AP had many of the features that I used in PS. But then I changed my mindset and realized that AP is not PS and started seeing AP as a new software with a different way of doing things. And now I'm very happy with both AD and AP because I stopped comparing it to Photoshop and Illustrator. Now I enjoy using AD and learning from tutorials whenever I can. 

I know that it will improve as the years go by, but in the meantime, artists/designers just have to be creative and clever with the features that come with AD.

Alex Wolfe Pixel layers and the brushes tend to be better when using texture, as well as live preview for fonts and layer blending options such as multiply

Dang Nguyen I guess the main advantage of AD is price, so if you leave that out, AI is more feature-rich. But I like the raster tools in AD.

You Garmendia Affinity designer is kinda of Illustrator + Photoshop.

David Joseph Just try it! How can you not at the price?

Frank Jonen I only miss shape blending, vector warp, line offset and offset copy.

Vladimir Klimenko AD is great, but compatibility with Photoshop is quite poor.

Przemysław Mejna AD performance is great. I like the interface, pixel persona. But still a lot of things is missing (patterns, live paint, object to object alignment, trace, which I need for hand lettering and shapes creation, colour selection and better management) Because I just start my business I am on a budget so I can handle that, but still missing those. Hope they add them as soon as possible. Cheers.

Gary Barringer AD needs convert to outlines blending . A better font menu on pc. These are supposed to be in process. Its fast cheap and not adobe. Can do 90 percent of my work in it. Needs better booleans as well.

David Wildish Affinity is lot lot faster, its built on newer, more efficient foundations. Ability to place shading inside objects without masking whilst still retaining key lines and effects, Grid options as standard, Including isometric which you can customise easily. Two different personas, one for vector, one for rasta which you would have needed PS to do before. You can rotate and flip objects using simple buttons in the tool bar rather than using the transform options in illy. and lastly much less bloated. I could go on and on. Im sold after 2 yrs of using it I hate going back to illy more and more each time I do.

Thor Christopher Dragset Arisland AD has a better grid function. When I don't want an automatic grid, I just select that right away and set the distance between lines manually. I also find the snapping more intuitive. It also has an isometric grid, making it great for that.

I find the interface to be not as cluttered as AI, and it has better exporting tools for batch processing of individual shapes.

Gregory Murray I don't use AD, but I do use AP and have touched PS a little beforehand. From what I gather, folks need to stop trying to put a square peg in a round hole. They're different programs completely. It's kind of like when I was younger and tried moving from Tae Kwon Do to Kick Boxing. They're both sort of similar, but I had to try and unlearn a whole bunch of TKD to practice the new method properly; both effective in getting the job done, but doing it in a completely different way. AD and AP are still being developed, so it's worth the price to buy in. I know from using AP Beta before it was fully released; features are being added FAR faster than any new features Adobe adds.

Prathamesh Arun Daptare Ive just completed a total branding project in Affinity designer. Guys this software is really Illustrator killer. I designed logo in AD. Desigbed really big banners (14ft x 4ft) with no issues. Fewer observation I've to add..

  1. Its cheap. 
  2. It has greater tools. Although Illustrator have so many.
  3. You don’t have to learn so many new features and tools. AD using similar tools and hotkeys like adobe. 
  4. AD have node tool which us more cool than Illustrators direct selection tool.
  5. Transparency tool you don’t have use gradient tool for transparency.

And you'll get many more good features.

Nik Andrew I really struggle with using curve segments (cutting out and joining) in AD and so I continually return to Illustrator because I find it so much easier to do my tech line drawing. This is probably my fault rather than AD's – there may well be a tutorial somewhere that I've missed!

Ellane Weedon I'm still looking for a way in AD to copy segments of closed shapes with the node tool, ending up with an open path. This is super quick and easy in AI. Also, no glyphs in AD! I want to be able to see the alternates for various characters.

Michael Grubb Why do you need to leave one for the other? I'm not sure I understand that thought process. I have both. I also have photoshop, lightroom, On1 Raw, Capture One 10, DXO, Picktorial, Affinity Photo, Aurora HDR, Snapheal CK, and even more I haven't listed. Why limit yourself?

MaryLou Posch White I agree with that. I use Designer, Photo and one other old discontinued program that I've had for years. I can do anything I want with just those. I would rather have one or two programs and learn everything possible about them than to have a bunch of them and know just enough to use each of them.

Michael Grubb I know everything about every program that I have. So, it's up to the person to decide if they have the time and the will to learn multiple programs to get the absolute best results from each of them.

Iain Anderson I've trialed Affinity Designer, but without effects, symbols and tracing, it felt like it was missing a lot. For logo design it's probably great, but as my trial has expired I can't revisit it. Affinity Photo is I think more successful, but a couple of missing features keep me in PS most of the time too.

As you have noticed the comments are more or less similar, one thing that you should take into consideration is that this Facebook group is dedicated to AD users and it was expected also that the feedback would be more AD prone. And these people have switched to using AD. One thing that deosn't make sense and brings suspicion is that most of the repliers who advocate for AD have their FB profiles locked. This means that you can only write them a message but not add them as friends and even though they claim that they are designers, there is no trace of any design in their Facebook pages. However, they tend to post design samples made by them. This makes me believe that these are specially designated affinity hidden advocates which is, in our current world of digital life, a common practice. However, it doesn’t give transparent and honest answer that I was looking for. I have over 1000 friends in my fb and none of them has their account feature Add As a Friend switched off. And I have many desinger friends who will hardly give up on CorelDraw or Illustrator, just because they are damn too good. 

Anyway, I hope that I have managed to give you some glimpse into the new vector application which you might have or might not have heard of, and also to remind you that if you are in need for image to vector conversion and you are looking for high quality results then our service is the right place for you. You can for sure trace your images using automatic tools, however in that case your will end up most likely with poor outcome. Therefore, we would recommend you to vectorize logos, pictures, sketches, etc. using professional vectorization services. Visit us at iVectorize.com and let us take care of the rest.

If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected]․ We work 24/7 and provide also advice on vectorization. Send us your inquiries if you are not sure what type of tracing or file types you need for your projects and we will reply to you promptly.

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