Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator (2024)

By Beth Crane

published

Discover the right graphic design software for you with our guide to Affinity Designer vs Illustrator.

Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator (1)

Illustrator has been the industry standard for vector-based graphic design for almost as long as there’s been a graphic design industry. Adobe has had rivals in CorelDraw, Inkscape and Sketch (see our guide to the best graphic design software for more details), but none have quite nudged them from their default position as top dog. But how does new(er) kid on the block Affinity Designer fare against this industry veteran?

We’re here to put Illustrator and Affinity Designer through their paces, investigate their differences and uncover their weaknesses to decide which is the better option for seasoned pros and early-career designers.

Illustrator was first released by Adobe in 1987 and quickly became dominant in its field. Serif, formerly known for its desktop publishing applications, released Affinity Designer in 2014, followed by its sister program Affinity Photo in 2015, the Photoshop to its Illustrator.

While both programs perform the same basic functions, making crossing between them relatively easy, one of the major ways they differ is in their pricing structure. Affinity Designer grants a perpetual licence for a single payment of $54.99 / £47.99, whereas Adobe switched to a subscription model in 2012, meaning that to use Illustrator a subscription of either $20.99 / £19.97 monthly (for Illustrator as a standalone) or $52.99 / £49.94 (for the Adobe Creative Suite) is required.

For more details on each individual app, see our Affinity Designer and Adobe Illustrator reviews. If you're building your graphic design setup from scratch, you might also want to check out our best laptops for graphic design and our guide to the best drawing tablets.

Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator (2)

Illustrator: <a href="https://www.prf.hn/click/camref:1101lr4vm/pubref:hawk-custom-tracking/destination:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.adobe.com%2Fproducts%2Fillustrator.html" data-link-merchant="adobe.com"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Get a 7 day free trial. Then subscribe from $20.99 / £19.97/month
Illustrator wins out in out comparison of Illustrator vs Affinity Designer – it’s the oldest and honestly it’s still the best. But not by far, and less experienced users may not notice the difference. Try the latest version of Illustrator with a seven-day free trial.

Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator (3)

Affinity Designer: <a href="https://track.webgains.com/click.html?wgcampaignid=162949&wgprogramid=287285&clickref=hawk-custom-tracking&wgtarget=https%3A%2F%2Faffinity.serif.com%2Fen-us%2Fdesigner%2F%23buy#buy" data-link-merchant="affinity.serif.com"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Buy for $54.99/£47.99 (desktop) or $21.99/£19.49 (iPad)
Affinity Designer deserves a very honourable mention as an alternative to Illustrator. It may also be the better option for many buyers, depending on which functions are important to them. You can download a free 10 day trial of Affinity Designer from the Affinity Website.

Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator (4)

In terms of user interface, both Illustrator and Affinity Designer use a layout that’s pretty standard across graphic design programs, with the key toolbar on the left, the image window in the centre and specialised tool windows on the right. While there are differences in the tool graphics, they’re similar enough that a user migrating from one program to the other should be able to use either without much of an issue.

Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator (5)

One of the more intuitive elements of Affinity Designer’s user interface is the use of sliders to control sizing and zooms. Whereas Illustrator relies on its mainstay of drop-down numerical boxes, Affinity Designer’s sliders are a more intuitive way to determine sizing, whether you’re determining the appropriate stroke width or layer transparency.

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Both programs have the ability to customise their toolbar, meaning you can be rid of the tools you don’t use and prioritise the ones you use the most, and both have the ability to make simultaneous changes across all instances of similar objects; in Illustrator, this is called Global Editing, whereas in Affinity Designer you can designate an object, such as a logo, as a Symbol, giving you the opportunity to automatically copy across any changes made to all instances of it.

The key element of any vector software, the node editor, is both relatively similar and fairly simple for both; nodes can be added either individually and specifically with the pen tool or in a more freehand manner with the straightforwardly-named freehand tool. Vector lines can be modified either by clicking and dragging or by using vector point levers, depending on your goal.

Illustrator has a lot of additional features that are text based, and considering the importance of text in graphic design, for many this will be the match point. Illustrator is integrated with Adobe Fonts, allowing users to preview Adobe fonts in situ before downloading them, and in the program itself, Illustrator possesses text editing abilities that Affinity Designer simply doesn’t have. One of the key elements is Illustrator’s Envelope Distortion tool, allowing text to be twisted and skewed intelligently to fit specific spaces.

Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator (6)

One of the features where Affinity Designer wins over Illustrator, however, is in its grid functions. While Illustrator possesses the basics (horizontal, vertical, and… that’s it) Affinity Designer has a far wider range of tools, including an isometric tool, which along with a 'fit to plane' process, makes the creation of 3D shapes and patterns far, far easier. There are grid plugins available for Illustrator, but these add an extra cost to an already pricey piece of software.

One key element missing from Affinity Designer is a vector tracing tool. Crucial to some and utterly useless to others, there are several who will miss it if they switch. Adobe’s gradient tools are also far more advanced, with Mesh Gradient allowing for complex gradients with very little effort. In recent updates, Illustrator has also brought in a whole host of new 3D tools, including the ability to apply 3D effects to vector artwork and the ability to map vector artwork over 3D objects.

Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator (7)

Affinity Designer vs Illustrator: compatibility

Illustrator is definitely the winner when it comes to compatibility. The global standard for vector illustration is AI, Adobe’s base format. Affinity Designer only saves in its own format – .afdesign – which has extremely limited compatibility with other programs. It can export files to a wide range of formats, but the risk in exporting to other formats is always that elements may be lost in translation, so that exported .AI files from Affinity Designer may arrive at the printer with missing or altered layers, making proofs even more important than normal.

Both programs use similar shortcut keys, with the option to modify them to suit your preferences, which makes transitioning between programs relatively simple. On the negative side, however, Affinity Designer lacks plugins, of which Illustrator has hundreds, ranging from map-rendering to packaging design. Affinity Designer also doesn’t have scripting functionality, meaning that manual input may be a more arduous task than for users of Illustrator.

Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator (8)

Affinity Designer vs Illustrator: learning curve and usability

As with most graphic design programs, both Affinity Designer and Illustrator are feature heavy, and given the wide variety of work that vector programs are used for, it’s unlikely that many users will use more than a handful of the special features that each has to offer. For anyone starting out, there’s a wealth of information and tutorials online covering all levels, from vector basics to more advanced graphic design elements. Start here with our roundup of Illustrator tutorials.

The two biggest things that Affinity Designer has going for it is the fact that it’s more intuitive than Illustrator, making it easier to learn for beginners or new users, and has far lower RAM requirements, making it easier to run on lower-powered computers and earlier generations of iPad. It’s therefore a far smaller investment for hobbyists or for graphic designers early on in their careers.

Affinity Designer vs Illustrator: flexibility

Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator (9)

Illustrator has specialised in one job, vector editing, and it does that one job incredibly well. However, for anyone wanting to do a combination of photo and vector editing in the same file, Affinity Designer has a secret weapon – Personas.

Affinity Designer’s ‘Designer’ Persona is your classic vector program, allowing you to draw curves and shapes, add vector brush strokes, manage fills and transparencies, add text and crop photos. The ‘Pixel’ Persona is a kind of Photoshop-lite, where users can make rasterised brush strokes and erase using raster erasers. These edits are made on adjustment layers, meaning that changes made can be switched on and off at will.

By eliminating the need to switch to a different program for photo editing, the Pixel and Vector Personas make Affinity Designer a simpler and less memory-intensive option than running Photoshop and Illustrator simultaneously.

Affinity Designer vs Illustrator: system requirements

Both Affinity Designer and Illustrator work across both Windows and Mac, and both have iPad versions — the Affinity Designer one existing as a separate app at $21.99 / £19.49 on the App Store and the Illustrator iPad version included with both a single subscription to Illustrator and the Creative Cloud subscription.

Affinity Designer works across a far wider range of models and requires far less RAM to run, which means it’s great for anyone with a lower budget or lower-end machine. This is a key element that is only going to become more important as outsourcing illustration becomes more common, with more designers working independently from home.

Illustrator has always had high system requirements, and this latest generation of Illustrator is no different; Adobe also runs Creative Cloud in the background, using system resources and potentially pushing already stressed processors to their limit.

Want the specifics? Scroll to the bottom of our comparison to see the full breakdown of system requirements for Windows, Mac and iPad.

Affinity Designer vs Illustrator: price

Illustrator can be bought either individually for a $20.99 / £19.97 monthly subscription or as part of the Adobe Cloud subscription (containing the whole Adobe Creative suite) for $52.99 / £49.94 per month (or $19.99 / £16.24 per month for students). This puts it out of reach for many smaller businesses or individual creators, or creatives in early stages of their career. The main positive to the subscription model, however, is that the software is always up to date, and purchasing new versions isn’t necessary. Illustrator has also constantly added new features with every update, making each version better value for money.

Affinity Designer is the far more affordable option, with a one-off payment of $54.99 / £47.99 for a perpetual licence ($21.99 / £19.49 for iPad users). While this covers all software updates for the foreseeable future, it’s likely that users will be charged an additional fee to upgrade to the next version of Affinity Designer when it is released.

Affinity Designer vs Illustrator: conclusion

For professionals, there is only really one option; Illustrator is still the best in the business. Despite the higher cost, Illustrator in combination with the Adobe Creative Suite is the heaviest hitter, providing the most compatibility. Pedigree is one of its main advantages; the fact that .AI is so widely used across-platform makes it a key piece of software for any graphic designer working with vectors on high-budget projects.

Affinity Designer, on the other hand, is a winner for early-career designers, hobbyists and those with lower-spec hardware and smaller budgets. It delivers a lot of bang for your one-off buck, and could be the perfect piece of software for anyone who relies heavily on isometric patterns.

As both are available as free trials, it’s worth trying them both to see which works best for you.

What are the system requirements for Affinity Designer?

The lighter of the two programs, Affinity Designer has lower tech specs than Illustrator.

Windows

OS: Windows 7 64-bit (Service Pack 1, Platform Update KB2670838, Aero enabled) or later

Display: 1280x768 or better

Graphics: DirectX 10-compatible Graphics Cards and above

RAM: 2GB minimum, 4GB recommended

Storage: 934MB available hard drive space (more during installation)

Mac

OS: 10.9 (Mavericks) or later

Processor: M1/M1 Pro/M1 Max chip or Intel processor

Display: 1280x768 or better

RAM: 2GB minimum

Storage: Up to 2.8 GB hard drive space (more during installation)

iPad

OS: iPadOS 12 or above. Compatible with iPad Pro (all models), iPad Air (2, 3 & 4), iPad (2017 onwards) and iPad Mini (5 & 6)

What are the system requirements for Illustrator?

Illustrator requires some slightly beefier hardware to run without issues.

Windows

OS: Windows 10 (64-bit) or later

Display: 1024x768 minimum, 1920x1080 recommended

RAM: 8GB minimum, 16GB recommended

Storage: up to 2GB hard drive space (more during installation), SSD recommended

Mac

OS: 10.15 (Catalina) or later

Processor: Multicore Intel processor (64-bit) with SSE 4.2 or later, or ARM-based Apple Silicon processor

Display: 1024x768 minimum, 1920x1080 recommended

RAM: 8GB (16GB recommended)

Storage: 3GB hard drive space (more during installation), SSD recommended

iPad

OS: iPadOS 14 or later. Compatible with iPad Pro (all models), iPad Air (3 & 4), iPad (2018 onwards) and iPad Mini (5 & 6)

Read more:

  • Creative Cloud Express review
  • The best Adobe Creative Cloud discounts
  • Affinity Photo vs Photoshop: which is right for you?

Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator (10)

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Beth Crane

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Affinity Designer vs Adobe Illustrator (2024)

FAQs

Which is better, Illustrator or Affinity Designer? ›

Here are the main differences between Affinity Designer and Illustrator: Affinity is more affordable, but Illustrator has a broader feature set and integration with other Adobe products. Designer has a modern, user-friendly interface, while Illustrator has a more complex learning curve.

Is Affinity Designer as good as Adobe? ›

Adobe Illustrator: the verdict? In terms of function and style, Affinity Designer is an impressive, low-budget alternative to Adobe Illustrator. It's suitably simple for beginners to use as a learning tool but sufficiently powerful for freelance graphic artists on a budget.

Do graphic designers use Affinity Designer? ›

Available for Windows, macOS and iPad, the super-smooth, feature-packed app is the choice of thousands of professional illustrators, web designers, game developers and other creatives looking to create high-quality concept art, print projects, logos, icons, UI designs, mock-ups and more.

Do professionals use Affinity? ›

Affinity Design is a powerful and comprehensive graphic design software that offers multiple advanced features for professional designers.

Can I edit AI files in Affinity Designer? ›

When importing Adobe Illustrator files, Affinity uses the embedded PDF in the file rather than the raw Illustrator data. Files are imported with layers intact and ready for editing. For Adobe documents containing artboards, each artboard is created as its own layer in Affinity.

Can Affinity replace Adobe? ›

All this is by way of saying that if you are paying Adobe monthly for apps that you don't use sufficiently, like I was, I encourage you to give the Affinity V2 apps a try. For my purposes, they were entirely adequate replacements for InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop, and maybe they would be for you as well.

Is Affinity Designer hard to learn? ›

Is Affinity Designer hard to learn? In my eyes, Affinity Designer is not very hard to learn when the teaching is a bit more slowed down for beginner students. For me personally, it took me 3 days of intense learning to really start feel very confident in using Affinity on my iPad.

Can Affinity design open AI files? ›

Who've thought - Affinity can! Both Adobe Illustrator and Affinity Designer are compatible with Mac and Windows users. Both programs have limitations when trying to use their native files in other programs – BUT, Affinity Designer is able to open and edit PSD, AI and EPS with relative ease.

What is Affinity Designer equivalent to? ›

Top 10 Alternatives to Affinity Designer Recently Reviewed By G2 Community
  • Adobe Illustrator. (5,761)4.6 out of 5.
  • Sketch. (1,205)4.5 out of 5.
  • CorelDRAW. (515)4.3 out of 5.
  • Inkscape. (386)4.4 out of 5.
  • Gravit Designer. (41)4.1 out of 5.
  • Lunacy. (22)4.4 out of 5.
  • Snappa. (37)4.6 out of 5.
  • Vector Magic. (85)4.3 out of 5.

Did Canva buy Affinity? ›

Just off the heels of the Adobe-Figma merger being stopped, we have another big acquisition in the industry. But this one happened out of nowhere — and fast. That is: Canva acquired Serif, a U.K. company and the creator of the Affinity software.

What are the disadvantages of Affinity Photo? ›

There are some cons to using Affinity Photo. One downside is that it can be a bit more difficult to learn than other photo editors, so if you're not an experienced user, you may take longer to master its features. However its still simpler than Photoshop, which is madness compared to Affinity Photo.

How much does Affinity Designer cost? ›

Affinity Designer is offered across three pricing plans, outlined below. A free trial is available. Mac: $60.54 Windows: $60.54 iPad: $24.21 Licenses for businesses and educational institutions are also available on request.

What companies use Affinity? ›

Customers of Affinity Designer
CustomersEmployee RangeCountry
Home Depot, Inc.10,000+United States
PepsiCo, Inc.10,000+United States
Quest Global10,000+Singapore
McKinsey & Company Inc10,000+United States
6 more rows

Is Affinity good for beginners? ›

Editing apps such as Affinity Photo can be a handful to learn, but once you've mastered the basics, it's easy to create great images.

Do designers still use Illustrator? ›

Vector graphics can be scaled to any size and still retain their image quality, making the format ideal for smooth 2D visuals and branding graphics like logos, icons or business cards. Illustrator is often utilized by graphic designers and digital artists to make original designs and illustrations.

Do any professionals use Affinity Photo? ›

Since its inception, Affinity has gained the trust of professionals across the globe and picked up some of the industry's most prestigious awards.

How similar is Affinity to Illustrator? ›

Developed by UK-based Serif Labs, Affinity Designer has been created specifically for professional designers and resembles a hybrid of Illustrator and Photoshop, with its editing and pixel layer creation ability. Niiiiice! Designers who frequently work in both programs could find this element very helpful.

Which is better graphic Designer or Illustrator? ›

Generally speaking, graphic designers' focus is much broader, so they're a better fit for full-time hires and most small businesses. Illustrators usually work on specific projects, so if you require one it's best to find a freelancer whose skills and style match your needs.

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