I do work with Affinity Designer too and love it. There is hardly anything Illustrator can do Affinity Designer can’t, and therefore I suggest either Inkscape or Affinity Designer.
On that topic, I also don’t really recommend my set-up – laptop from 2007 and CS4
An older version of Illustrator is pretty much fine. You’re drawing vector lines and fills for the most part. CS6 and CC will have lots of bells and whistles, but a lot of them have either A. Nothing to do with designing for laser cutting or B. Can be done in other ways.
It really comes down to what interface you can get used to and use to make actual projects, in my opinion. I despise the Inkscape interface and program as a whole (on a Mac). I downloaded AD just to test it out and it was eh, ok. But. I’m also very used to the Illustrator interface and tools.
I’m converting from Inkscape to Affinity designer. I still need Inkscape to do DXF-SVG. I’m also still trying to get a grip on the rather odd way it embeds imported artwork. Other than those items, I give it 2 thumbs up.
What can’t it do specifically? I’ve been considering affinity, curious about its strengths and weaknesses.
I can’t compare, because I cut my first laser teeth in designing with Affinity, but I love it.
I personally gave Inkscape a try, because it was free, and found it didn’t make any sense to me. It’s like an Android based phone verses the iPhone. I don’t hate Android phones, but prefer the iPhone. It’s the same with Illustrator. I just found Illustrator to make sense to me more than Inkscape. I tried the free trial of illustrator, was almost immediately able to do what I needed, where I couldn’t for the life of me figure it out in Inkscape. My 3 cents.
Interesting. Funny how it just works with your brain or doesn’t, I’ve never struggled too hard with inkscape; I’ve yet to hit a problem I couldn’t solve.
AD can’t export SVGs with real units (e.g., inches or mm). It always exports SVGs using pixel units. This means you either have to be careful to make sure the DPI setting matches what the Glowforge expects or use the 20"×12" hack. (Or you can export to PDF instead, which always uses real units, as long as you don’t need to use PDF features that the GF doesn’t support yet. But GF’s PDF support has improved greatly, so usually exporting to PDF is a good workaround.)
Its tools for combining curves (the equivalent of Pathfinder in Illustrator) are somewhat lacking, although the basic operations are there. It’s lacking some important options on them, though. The problem people run into most often is that the “subtract” operation always uses the even-odd fill rule for the resulting path, which is not yet supported by the Glowforge. (The GF always uses the non-zero rule, which often produces incorrect results for shapes defined using the even-odd rule.) This won’t be an issue if/when Glowforge ever fixes that bug.
Affinity Designer also doesn’t have anything like the knife tool in Illustrator. Right now they tell you to fake it using clipping paths, which would work in some cases except that the Glowforge doesn’t support clipping paths yet.
No scissors tool either.
AD doesn’t have tools to select objects based on their properties.
No mesh warp tool.
No replicate/blend tool
Expand Stroke can sometimes be a bit buggy. (The resulting shape is not always quite the same shape as the original stroke. There’s a workaround that involves resizing it to be huge before performing the Expand Stroke operation and then resizing it back down afterwards, but what a pain. Luckily I’ve never run into this.)
No support for DXF files.
No auto trace.
No Offset Path function.
It does have good pen/brush tools and decent node/corner tools. (And there will be some upgrades to the node tool in 1.7, coming later this year.) 1.7 will also have good custom grid support (with cool stuff like rotating within a custom grid, very useful for isometric drawing.) The other big focus of 1.7 appears to be more options for snapping handles to things.
They have a list of features they plan for future versions but like Glowforge they make no promises as to when they’ll actually implement them. But unlike Glowforge they do say which ones they do and don’t plan on doing. And they say in advance what will be in each release. (e.g., for the upcoming version 1.7)
Great details, thanks!
My specs for reference:
AMD A8-6410 2.00ghz with onboard radeon R5 and 16GB memory
I also think part of my issue (stuttering inkscape) is that I’m using this little thing to push a 4k monitor. I’ll try reducing my resolution and report back soon.
Oh, and I like inkscape perfectly well so far - it’s just the bogging down thats annoying me. This is why getting a new computer may be the more appropriate fix… Or… I could throw out all rationale and just get a new computer and Illustrator…
Back in the 80’s our design department used Freehand whilst the artwork studio (my bit) used Illustrator. Oh how we looked down our noses at them. At the time, what the designers could see on their screens just wasn’t printable or the time required to turn their fantasies into artwork wasn’t in the budget.
Oh, there is, for example, no possibility to select the same fill/ stroke/ … of a chosen piece. Also, there is no shape builder functionality, and you can’t convert an image to vector so far. All in all, I strongly recommend Affinity over Illustrator due to its better usability and workflow. There is also the fact that almost all the shortcuts are the same.
For what you get in Adobe CC I totally agree, but personally, I prefer Affinity which (once Publisher is out) is a serious competitor to Adobe regarding Graphic Design. Also, I have the feeling Adobe moves towards Marketing tools only.
So I was wondering why Adobe would change gears, offer a one time purchase price of $50 instead of a subscription on a piece of software that was so competitive with Adobe Illustrator. I had totally missed that is wasn’t made by Adobe!
No “select same…” is a total dealbreaker for the type of stuff I make, where there are lots of small parts. For example, I use color coding to keep everything organized and select same stroke color to merge paths, making the svg simpler.
It would be a change in workflow, but you should be able to organize by layer. Keep your colors but just keep each color on a separate layer.
that’s just not always possible, though. it depends on what you’re designing.
i’m not sure if @evansd2 uses his vector design program for anything other than laser cutting, but if so, colors matter for more than just cut operations and you can’t separate them on layers to keep them apart for selection purposes. i use select same a lot in my regular design work.
I have the entire Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. It is worth it for me since I’ve been using Adobe products going back to the early 90s in some cases. There are a lot of add-ins, training, magazine articles, etc. available and you get the consistency and interaction between software packages.
Also, AI, Photoshop, Lightroom, Dreamweaver, etc. are all the monuments others compare themselves to. You won’t find yourself stranded by other packages since they’ll always work to ensure their compatibility to the Adobe products in my experience.