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Adobe Illustrator vs Affinity Designer - A side-by-side comparison

Published on Aug 21, 2018

Coming from Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer can be a fantastic replacement to many of the features you've grown to love over the years from Adobe Illustrator.

Under the hood, Affinity Designer packs a powerful punch offering most of the things Adobe Illustrator offers but in a leaner approach.

While there is a small learning curve with regards to key commands, terminology, workflow, and more, I have found the transition quite easy in comparison to other design applications in the wild.

This video is a side-by-side comparison of some of the features both apps have and how they are alike and different. My hope is to showcase a bit about each. This video might open your eyes to some things that may have been keeping you from making the leap to the Affinity-Serif side.

If you have any questions or need help please comment below!

Below is a rough outline of all the things discussed in this video. There are plenty more features within each app but I have found these to be the most notable.


General naming conventions are different within each app. The same concept exists for most things but there are some edge cases where one app outperforms the other in a variety of scenarios.

Switching from Illustrator or Designer to Illustrator takes a little getting used to but is a very easy switch for someone very used to one over the other.


  • Curves / Outlines
  • Node tool / Direct Selection Tool

General Settings

  • Illustrator
    • A lot more settings in general. Many go unnoticed to the novice designer. Often times you don't need to configure these settings unless you have strong preferences on how you like to work. Every designer is different so I think Adobe saw that as a way to make almost everything configurable.
  • Affinity Designer
    • Designer borrows a lot of configurations from Adobe Illustrator but it's definitely a leaner experience. You can customize a lot but not nearly as much which for some is perfectly fine.

Viewing Modes

  • Illustrator
    • 4 different shades of UI display from dark to light
    • Outline preview, Pixel Preview
  • Affinity Designer
    • 2 shades - Light and Dark UI
    • Pixel Preview, Outline Preview, Split view (compare vector to pixels etc..)

New Document Presets

  • Illustrator
    • Mobile, Web, Print, Film & Video, Art & Illustration
  • Affinity Designer
    • Print, Print (Press-Ready), Photo, Web, Devices (Mobile)


  • Ilustrator

    • Artboard support with unique tools/settings for each
  • Affinity Designer

    • Artboard support with unique tools/settings for each

Color Picking

  • Illustrator
    • Pretty straight-forward picking
  • Affinity Designer
    • Odd picking process that takes some getting used to.

Pathfinder / Geometry

  • Illustrator
    • Pathfinder can be its own dialog window which is a perk
    • Shape Modes
    • Unite, Minus Front, Intersect, Exclude
    • Pathfinders
    • Divide, Trim, Merge, Crop, Outline, Minus Back
  • Affinity Designer
    • Geometry fixed within the tool bar
    • Add, Subtract, Intersect, Divide, Combine

Color Management

  • Illustrator
    • Export swatches
    • Many different ways to view swatches
    • A huge selection of swatch libraries by default
    • Adobe Themes - Color Palette Generator
    • Color Groups
  • Designer
    • Not as many swatch libraries but does offer some
    • Option to save a swatch palette per app, per document, or per system
    • Global colors allow you to create one color and update it throughout your document in real time


  • Illustrator
    • So many tools you can likely be overwhelmed here.
  • Designer
    • Many tools as well but I find most to be more practical than those offered in Illustrator

Pen Tool - Differences

  • Illustrator
    • Multiple tools to accomplish many things
    • A little cumbersome to have to swap tools
  • Affinity Designer
    • One pen tool
    • Click paths to adjust handles and proportions
    • One node tool


Creating Shapes

  • Affinity Designer
    • No dialog
    • Custom shapes have their own contextual settings
    • All shapes can be converted to curves and adjusted with the node tool
    • round any one of or all corners on a given shape
  • Adobe Illustrator
    • Dialog or drag new shape on the canvas
    • Custom shapes have to be drawn
    • No contextual settings per shape minus rounded corners

Shapes that come by default

  • Affinity Designer
    • 21 different default shapes
  • Adobe Illustrator
    • 6 different default shapes


  • Affinity Designer
    • Two different text tools
    • Artistic Text Tool
    • Type on path
    • Frame text tool
    • Create a frame of text or type within predefined shape
    • Live updates to font sizes and adjustments
  • Illustrator
    • One text tool with many features
    • Type on path
    • Type on shape
    • Text frame when dragging
    • Downsides to many character options
    • Doesn't update changes to type in real time besides the selected font


  • Affinity Designer
    • Export to 10 different formats all with unique settings
    • Support for exporting to PSDs
    • Export Persona
    • A unique experience that allows you to export virtually anything within a Designer document to any format with various settings and optimizations.
  • Illustrator
    • 3 Different ways to export
    • Export or Screens
      • Geared towards UI design to offer options to export at 1x,2x and any larger sizes you need
    • Export As...
      • About 15 different file formats are offered to export a given illustrator document as
    • Save for Web (legacy)
      • This used to be what "Export for Screens" is now minus the different size variant support.
      • You can compress/optimize and tailor each file to your liking
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