Affinity Designer versus Adobe Illustrator

New user. I know this is opinion based but looking for experiences. All Mac/iPad household. Daughter uses Wacom tablet for drawings if that makes a difference too.

Should I subscribe to Adobe Illustrator ($29/month) or should I buy Affinity Designer for Mac ($50)? I will be a lite user. Looking to engrave and simple designs and signs for the office and the kids.

Thoughts and opinions?

Illustrator is only $21/month, I think? If you’re going to be a light user, I’d just go with Affinity Designer. I mean, use it for 3 months and if you don’t like it you can switch over to Illustrator and you’ll have saved money.


Assuming you looked into Inkscape, which is free?


Yes. I am Mac and Inkscape in beta is very unstable. Keeps crashing and hanging machines.

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Hmm. I guess it depends on your operating system update. I’m on Mac and have enjoyed Inkscape for a couple years now with no issues.

Catalina. Hangs and freezes on both my MacBook and my iMac. The later is a new machine.

I work between Inkscape, Affinity Designer, and Silhouette Studio because each of them has things that are easier/work better. I think Affinity Designer is great, but it has a few quirks (don’t ask me what they are because I never remember until I stumble over them). Still, you should be able to do most, if not all, of what you want to do.


I use Illustrator because I have used it forever. I am a MAC user as well. Also I am going to move this over to Everything Else. When you post in the problems and Support section it creates a support ticket and this is not a support issue. :slight_smile:


I have used all three: Inkscape, Affinity Designer and Illustrator. I move data between the three applications and here are some highlights of my experience.

Inkscape: Free, stable on both my Mac and PC and very easy to use.

Affinity Designer: Requires a different way of “thinking” when using. Incredibly powerful. If you use text in your work, this is by far the most fantastic application to use. I do all my text work in AD. It is a steel for $50 when I got it when it first came out, not sure of the price now.

Illustrator: I have discontinued use of Illustrator because it chokes on big files. I have a master file that is 250 megs I use for most products I make and Illustrator can’t handle it. Both Inkscape and Affinity Designer can. I have a high end computer. Also, when you move layers to Illustrator, all the layer names disappear. Makes it hard to use. Illustrator is like renting an apartment verses buying a house. After years of paying rent, you have nothing. Buy a house and you have made an investment.

Have Fun


A few other options: Vectornator for iPad (and now macOS 10.15 too) is free. Not super full featured but covers enough of the bases that it’s good for lots of stuff.

OmniGraffle (Mac/iPad) is more of a diagramming app than an illustration app, but has some good vector tools and is one of few apps I’ve found that can dissect the PDF output from something else. Big automation support, too.

Sketch is more for UI design than traditional art, but has some unique features and plugin extensibility.

The iWork apps (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) that come with every Mac and iPad have pretty decent vector design/editing tools, too, so they’re handy for quick/simple tasks sometimes.

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i’m curious about this. when you move layers from what to illustrator?

I use Inkscape (latest 0.9 release) and occasionally a Wacom tablet (more with Gimp than Inkscape). No issues.

The beta is, well, beta. I tried it and it sucked, so I stick with what’s worked.

Affinity Designer

Affinity Designer. I’m not a power GF user, but do love it and have been using it now for over 2 1/2 years. I tried Inkscape in the beginning, but to me it was not that user friendly. Didn’t want to spend the big bucks on AI. As ChristyM said, AD has a few quirks, but nothing that I’ve not been able to work around so far. It does lack a ‘trace’ feature like AI has, but that’s not a dealbreaker for me. I also use a Wacom tablet.


AD is great and works enough like Illustrator that if you know Illustrator, you can be productive immediately.

AD has a few warts to be aware of though.

  • Boolean operations have some weird quirks in the winding rules, for example if I Subtract Front with a circle, I get a different result than if I subtract a rectangle.
  • AD does not have an equivalent to Illustrator’s Offset Path tool, which I use all the time for adding kerf compensation to interlocking pieces

That said AD is great, I own their whole lineup on more than one device. I would probably choose AD over a subscription, and then use Inkscape for the few things AD doesn’t do well or at all.

If you choose AD, join the official forum and file bugs and feedback. They listen, which is another advantage to them over Adobe.


Svg files with layers created in a number of applications including Inkscape and Affinity Designer, including plain svg and Inkscape svg format files. When ever I opened them in Illustrator, the names associated with each layer disappeared. That is a lot of effort naming layers to have them vaporize when opened in Illustrator.

Maybe there is a preference setting in Illustrator to allow the names of the layer to stay associated with the file during opening. But it seems really stupid of Illustrator programmers to have it remove layer names as a default.

If you have experienced a different result when opening svg files in Illustrator, please tell me.

Adobe has really gone down hill over the years, allowing more flexibility in what you do at the expense of doing it efficiently. Seems many things I want to do now take multiple steps /commands compared to early versions of their software. This is true of PhotoShop Elements also.

That is the reason I am moving away from their products. Buying is always better than renting for me!


ah, ok. i’ve never tried that because my process only includes AI, not Inkscape or AD. i’m in the full adobe suite for process.


There is a whole’nuther World outside of Adobe, give it a try, you may be amazed and migrate like I did. Affinity Designer is stunning, especially the ease to wrap text.

I still use PhotoShop Elements, like version 3 on an old computer. If I had to pay $20 a month for the last 15+ years, I would have had to stop drinking beer to pay the monthly rent on the software! :slight_smile:


I mostly use Affinity Designer (primarily on macOS, but occasionally on my iPad). On the rare occasions I need to do something that AD doesn’t yet do, I use Inkscape. But I find Inkscape confusing and unfriendly, so I only use it when necessary.

One of the main problems people run into with AD is that when using boolean operations it likes to generate filled shapes that only show correctly with the even-odd fill rule. But there’s a longstanding bug in the Glowforge software (first reported about 2.5 years ago, but still not a peep from Glowforge about when/if they plan to fix it) where they interpret every filled shape using the nonzero winding rule instead, which results in incorrect results for many filled shapes. (The easiest solution is to rasterize any shapes you plan to engrave before uploading the file to Glowforge, so you can avoid their buggy rasterizer.)

AD is also missing a few functions (auto-trace, scissors tool, knife tool, etc.) that would be very useful to have. Serif is constantly pushing out new versions of Affinity Designer with new and improved functionality, but lately they’ve been focusing more on things needed by graphic designers rather than what would be useful for those of us using laser cutters.


doubtful. i use the full CC all day every day at work. i’d rather not learn two different platforms. not to say anything negative about the other programs. plenty of ways to skin a cat. but being a full-time, in house designer means that CC apps are my tools of trade.