Spoiler: I’m going to try to convince you to get Affinity Designer for iPads. Not because I get an affiliate bonus when you buy it (I don’t), but because I love it so much I want to share it with the iPad art and design community!
A little history…
I’ve been working in Photoshop and Illustrator since I started art school in 2005. As you all know, in those days there was no such thing as iPad drawing, and we all just accepted desktop and laptop computers as the norm. Then when iPads came out and I started transitioning all of my drawing to the iPad screen, I went through the cumbersome process of converting my iPad drawings to vectors and making patterns, designs, and layouts in Illustrator and Photoshop.
Then I discovered Affinity Designer for iPads.
This program has totally replaced Illustrator and Photoshop for me (goodbye subscription fees!), and it has sped up my workflow considerably because I don’t have to transfer files to another device and boot up the ol’ lap top to start working.
You may have heard that Affinity Designer is like Illustrator, except it doesn’t have the image trace tool, so it’s not as good as Illustrator. While they haven’t developed that functionality within the program yet, there are several paid and free apps that I use that are just like the image trace tool in Illustrator. I show how I get around this issue in my new class.
Rather hear all this in video form? Check out my class on Affinity Designer:
Here are a few things I love about Affinity Designer:
- Live Preview
When you create a seamless repeat pattern in Affinity, you can set up a live preview of your repeat, so you can keep an eye on the pattern in repeat as you create it. This is great for beginners (it prevents you from putting your repeat elements in the wrong place) and experts (it helps you avoid making your pattern blocky and predictable). I show the whole process for setting up your canvas in the class, so check it out if you want to see how I set up my canvas.
- No Image Size Limits
Depending on your iPad version, most programs cap your file size limit at around 8000 x 8000 pixels, and in Procreate that only allows you to use 4 layers. This means that if you want to create large work for print on demand companies or client work, you are stuck with a desktop program. Affinity Designer doesn’t have any file size limits, and although working with huge files may slow down the processing speed a bit, you can create huge files with unlimited vector and raster layers.
- Non-Destructive Editing
Because you can work with vectors, you can easily make changes to the colors, sizes, and textures of your images without losing image quality. In most other programs, every time you duplicate or move an object, it loses a bit of quality. This is particularly frustrating for me because I spend hours rearranging things, and need to have that flexibility for my process.
You can set up artboards so that your inspiration, repeat block, and finished repeat square are all on the same document.
- Vector and Raster
You know how sometimes you need to isolate a texture from a raster photograph (Photoshop), then make it into a vector (Illustrator), then paint some raster texture (Photoshop), then add some more vector elements (Illustrator) and create a repeat? Anyone else? Well if that sounds familiar then Affinity will make your life a lot easier. The program has two “Personas” a Pixel Persona and a Raster Persona. All you do to move to the other Persona is click a symbol at the top and bam — all your raster tools are revealed. I use this aspect of the process every day and can’t imagine how I ever moved from program to program to do all of these processes!
Affinity Designer makes it easy to export your files in all of the common file types (.png, .jpg, .gif, .tiff, .psd, .pdf, .eps, svg, etc.), so you can easily move files you make in Affinity into programs like Procreate, Photoshop, and Illustrator.
Ever working on a project and think, “If only I had a few chickens to throw into this pattern…” Affinity lets you save your vectors as “Assets” so you can save every vector you create in a folder for future use. Doing a botanical repeat? Go to your botanical assets, drop in some leaves and flowers, and you’re half way to a finished repeat.
I made this whole repeat pattern solely from assets I saved from other projects:
You can not only use text in Affinity designer, but you can even import your own fonts.
Because Affinity Designer fits so much processing power into a single program, sometimes it makes you wait for processing to catch up (especially if you work with really complicated vectors like textured backgrounds or export large files). This isn’t an issue with Affinity though, it’s more of a processing limit of the iPad.
The problem is, we want our devices to be thinner and lighter, but we want to maintain the same speed that our computers produce and the physics don’t match up. Maybe eventually technology will catch up to our need for lightning fast speed, but for now I’m happy to take a sip of my coffee and wait while my iPad processes some super complex vectors.
Comparisons with Procreate
I still use Procreate daily because I love the smooth, life-like drawing features it offers. It also processes data quickly because it isn’t trying to do as much as Affinity, so Procreate is still my catch-all program for sketching and designing raster images. So overall I would say Procreate and Affinity make a great team. Procreate is perfect for mocking up designs, using the symmetry tool, and creating and saving brushes easily. Affinity is great for making it professional and ready for print or client work.
Bottom Line — Should I buy Affinity Designer?
It depends on your goals. It’s only a few more dollars than Procreate, so it’s not a huge investment. If you’re thinking about buying it, but are on the fence, here are a few questions to consider:
Do you just want to create lettering designs or illustrations and post them on your Instagram page? If yes, you only need Procreate. Instagram images are 1080 pixels wide, which is well under the Procreate limit.
Do you have the kind of iPad you need to use it? Affinity is compatible with iPad Air 2, iPad 2017, iPad 2018, iPad Pro 9.7-inch, 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch.
Do you want to create surface designs for print on demand sites like Society 6? If yes, then you may need Affinity Designer if you want to be able to create images for all of their product sizes. (i.e. 9000px x 6000px wall murals)
Do you make a lot of surface designs and are looking for a way to speed up your workflow? Then go get a napkin, because you will probably start drooling when you see the live pattern preview in Affinity Designer.
Do you need to work with vectors for client work or your Etsy shop? Then just stop reading this and go get Affinity Designer. Seriously, why are you still here?
Want to learn more about Affinity? Check out the class on Skillshare (If you don’t have Skillshare, click the cover below to get a free 2 month trial):
iPad Surface Design in Affinity Designer: Vectors, Textures, and Repeat Patterns
Learn how to use Affinity Designer to create surface pattern designs on your iPad. I’ll show you everything you need to start designing pixel perfect patterns in Affinity Designer, and share all of my vector assets with you as free downloads, so you can start designing patterns as soon as you get the app.