Search
Close this search box.

Procreate vs. Affinity Designer vs. Illustrator for Making Patterns on Your iPad

This is one of the most common questions in my inbox, so I know that many pattern designers are out there wondering: “What is the best app for making repeat patterns?”

The truth is that the answer is not as simple as we would like it to be because it depends a lot on what kind of work you make, how you like to create, and what the end use will be for your patterns.  So I wanted to create a detailed reference guide for any of you who want to learn all the pros and cons of each app so you can make your final decision about which one to use.

Let's Start with Procreate...

Pro: Lifelike Feel

Procreate is one of my favorite apps to use because it gives a lifelike drawing feel that no other app I’ve tried can complete with.  You can use brushes that look like real paint strokes, apply more or less pressure to vary your lines, and even put a paper film on the iPad to get that “paper feel” that us artists who started out with traditional media miss.

Con: Raster + Movement = Blurry

Many of you have already experienced the issue where you work on a design in Procreate for a while, moving elements around as you work, and realize suddenly that some parts of your design are blurry!

Raster images (which is the type Procreate uses) get a little blurrier each time you move them.  So if you, like me, change your mind a lot as you make patterns and need to move and resize elements a lot, you can end up with blurry repeat elements in your final pattern.  Obviously this results in an unprofessional feel that makes the pattern unusable in most cases.  There are a lot more issues that come up with working with raster images, like the inability to upsize in the future, which I cover in this post about vector vs. raster images.

Note:

I do a lot of my design process for patterns in Procreate because that is where I like to sketch and play with color, but when I build my final pattern, I switch to a vector based app!

Con: No Pixel Perfect Move Tool

The other issue with making patterns in Procreate is the “snapping” tool we use to get the repeat blocks lined up.  While it usually gets the pattern lined up, I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten from designers who want to know why their pattern made in Procreate has a thin white line on the edge.  The problem is that Procreate doesn’t have a “pixel perfect” move tool (meaning you can’t say “move this 500 pixels to the right”) and the snapping tool is easy to snap a few pixels off, resulting in a pattern that doesn’t line up or has a fine line on the edge.

This is a standard tool used for repeat pattern designers since the dawn of digital time, so it truly is essential to making patterns!

Summary

While Procreate will continue to be my best friend when it comes to creating illustrations for greeting cards, stickers, and other illustration based projects, it simply doesn’t have what I need to produce professional patterns for companies!

What About Affinity Designer?

Pro: Live Pattern Preview

If you watch my classes, it is no secret to you that I love making patterns in Affinity Designer and could blab about it all day.  THIS is one of the main reasons.  The live pattern preview allows us to see what the repeated block will look like as we work, so we never have to do that annoying step of exporting to check the repeat in another document (which, but the way is a multi-step process in Procreate!).

After making patterns for years (my old Spoonflower shop had over 5000 patterns!) I can tell you that many designers waste a lot of time checking their overall repeat when it could just be visible as you work.  This has made my process so much more efficient and enjoyable that I could never go back to just seeing the repeat block!

Pro: No Subscription

One thing I love about Affinity Designer is that there is no subscription required to get the app.  You pay a one time fee and you have it for life!  This is a big reason a lot of designers choose Affinity when they’re starting out because before you’re making money on your art you probably don’t want to start paying a big monthly fee for a design app.

Note:

Having the Live Pattern Preview visible while I work allows me to make more complex patterns that flow well on the page and hide the repeat seam.

Cons + Some Misconceptions

Illustrator is known as the “industry standard” for making repeat patterns, but the problem with saying “industry standard” is that we’re not defining which industry or recognizing that the majority of companies don’t even want an Illustrator (.ai) file from designers.  I have been a full-time artist selling my art online since 2018 and have only been asked for .ai files about 3 times.  In those cases, you can easily open a vector file made in Affinity in the Illustrator iPad app, then export the .ai file without paying for the Adobe subscription all year long!

In the end, the companies don’t care what app you build your pattern in.  They care what the final design looks like and what file type you send them, so as long as you can deliver a beautiful design in the file type they want, they’ll be happy to work with you!

 

Illustrator App for iPads

Pro: Integrates Seamlessly with Other Adobe Products

If you are already an Adobe user you are probably used to passing your designs off from one app to another with no issues.  This is certainly the case with the iPad Illustrator app — you can upload your files to your Adobe Cloud, and have them on any device in any Adobe app easily.  This is helpful for anyone who works on multiple devices and switches back between various Adobe apps throughout their process!

Con: Limited Features

If you are used to working with the Illustrator app for desktop or the Affinity Designer iPad app, you may find the Illustrator app lacking in features and flexibility.  While they will probably expand it over time, at this point it is a simplified version of the desktop app, so for my uses it’s just missing what I need to make professional patterns.

To Sum It Up...

All of these apps have pros and cons, but for my process and the companies I work with, Affinity Designer offers the best process and interface I have found.  To be honest, Affinity had me at Live Pattern Preview, but once I realized how many other features there were to play with, we got married and haven’t looked back.

Ready to Try Affinity Designer?

I share my whole process for designing patterns in Affinity Designer from sketch to finished pattern in my clases.

Share this post