We’ve known for awhile that Affinity was bringing it’s fantastic vector app Designer to the iPad. It began on the Mac 4+ years ago and I’ve enjoyed using it along with Affinity Photo (also on the Mac) but since moving to the iPad I’ve wished for it on the iPad.
In June of 2017 Affinity released Affinity Photo for iPad which has proven an amazing app and not surprisingly has garnered great reviews and an Apple Design Award. Having Photo on the iPad was actually better for me than Designer would have been because as a web designer I’m often in need of an app that allows me to work with images as a part of a graphic design followed by outputting a web-optimized image. But of course once I had a taste of Affinity Photo for iPad I was eager to get Designer as well.
An interesting thing though, about both of these apps, is that they reach pretty deeply into the abilities of the other. Which is to say Photo has amazing vector tools and Designer has excellent raster tools. Also, as on the Mac, I can create a new file in Photo and then open it in Designer or the other way around. So, say I start a project in Photo and then decide I need add some text on a path. It’s no problem to open the file in Designer and add my text on a path. I can finish there or send the file right back over to Photo. It’s a great workflow and easy with iPad drag and drop. That said, if you want to make adjustments to a photo you want to do it in Photo. And if you want to do a primarily vector project you’re better off doing in Designer. But you’ve got the freedom to jump back and forth if the app you’re working in falls short.
I’ve made great use of Affinity Photo over the past year designing everything from event posters to anniversary invitations to promotional real estate postcards to web graphics. It’s a powerful tool. Now with Designer on my iPad I’ll be able to cover the tasks that were missing. For example, the above mentioned text on a path. I don’t need that often but when I do I can now do it on the iPad rather than sending a file to my Mac.
Another fantastic feature of Designer that’s missing in Photo that I’d like to mention is vector brushes using the pencil tool or vector brush tool. A very handy way to quickly draw lines and non-standard shapes with a wide variety of brushes, solid strokes or dashed strokes.
While I was downloading the new app from Affinity I received an email from them letting me know it was available. The first thing I did upon successful download was start-up a new document. Just for fun and using the graphic in their email as my inspiration I spent the next couple hours playing. At some point during this time I hit upon something I needed help with so hopped over to the Affinity website and checked out some of their video tutorials. I think I was looking for the different touch-based gestures which are, thankfully, covered very well in one of the tutorials. Then I got back to the exploration and pulled over a few files from Affinity Photo and opened them up. Then a few Designer files from my Mac. I spent the rest of the day giving it a run through and what fun! I don’t currently have a client project that calls for it but I’ll be playing with it as time permits. What I can say thus far is that it is almost completely on par with the desktop version of Designer.
Taking advantage of the touch interface is something every iPad app creator should have as a priority. This may be less important with text apps but with a graphics app such as Designer it’s important. Not surprisingly using Apple’s Pencil with Designer is a fantastic experience. Using the above mentioned vector tools with pressure sensitivity via the Pencil is very useful. I’m super happy with the number of touch gestures that have been implemented. 2 finger tap to undo, 3 finger tap to redo, 2 finger and hold while dragging an object to duplicate, dragging up or down on Stroke Studio icon to change the width of stroke or on the Navigator Studio icon to change the zoom are just a few of the many. Gesture support in Designer is comprehensive and very well thought out.
So, what’s lacking? It can’t be all good can it? The only miss that I’ve discovered thus far is an easy way to discover keyboard shortcuts. It has them, but it does not have the usual informational overlay display brought up by holding the command key. This has become common and I’m used to it working with most apps and it’s very handy. With Designer (and Photo) you have to jump out of your document and go to the app help and search for it. I’ve also noticed a few moments when attempting to move around a document or moving objects, where things get a bit jumpy. That said, for the most part, things are very smooth, very fast. The experience is just as good as what I have on my Mac. Well, no, actually, it’s better because it’s on the iPad and I prefer the iPad!
As with Photo, Designer is exactly the kind of app that works fantastically with a touch screen and with the Pencil. Such a treat to work directly on the screen with this kind of app. These are exactly the kind of apps the iPad needs to be taken more seriously as a computer for getting real work done. Whether related to the release of Designer or not, the day after its release Adobe announced that it would be releasing a full version of Photoshop for iPad at some point in the next year or so. And at some point in the future Illustrator. Personally, I’m all in on Affinity and have no interest in Adobe’s subscription model. Affinity has a great user base that is growing well and I’m really happy to see that. Competition in the iOS ecosystem is great and having such a solid non-Adobe option from a smaller company offering a range of excellent cross-platform products is wonderful for users.