Any lingering doubts regarding the iPad’s suitability as being better than a laptop for creative pros were obliterated upon the arrival of Affinity Photo for iPad last June. Here was full-fat, desktop-grade photo-editing on Apple’s tablet – with the added advantage of being able to work more naturally on your photos using the Apple Pencil and touch, rather than keyboard and mouse/trackpad.
If you’re mostly into vectors, this probably made you horribly jealous. Well, your time is now, because Affinity Designer for iPad is here, bringing Serif’s illustration and design app to mobile.
Serif has worked alongside influential artists, illustrators and designers, to ensure everything has been done right. The result is an optimised, powerful, immersive app for pros that frees you from your desk, enabling you to design and illustrate anywhere.
Affinity Designer for iPad doesn’t find a scant few features carved from a desktop product and squirted into a basic app. Like sibling Affinity Photo for iPad, it in effect is Serif’s acclaimed desktop release, but on an iPad – in other words, a pro-grade vector design environment on mobile.
Like the desktop version, it’s based around ‘personas’ – workspaces that boost efficiency by organising your workflow. Within each, you’ll find all the usual tools, and plenty of power to work on advanced design documents. For example, you can draw and manipulate nodes and Bezier handles, as you’d expect, but pencil stabilisation gives you smooth, accurate freehand lines. Elsewhere, custom artboards afford flexibility to stay on top of even the biggest jobs.
The text engine has range. Grids and guides help when crafting hand-drawn lettering, while full control over leading, kerning, tracking and text styles provides an optimum mobile environment for working with typography across larger documents. Custom live shapes are similarly versatile. For example, place a cog on your canvas and with a few swipes you can adjust its teeth count and rim size, or break the thing into curves and edit individual nodes.
There’s scope for mixing vector and raster, too. Affinity Designer for iPad has dozens of built-in brushes, bringing rich media to your designs. Illustrators can ink in vector and colour in raster, on mobile, with no layer limitations. Non-destructive instant-preview adjustment layers – with support for masks, stacks and clipping layers – further creative scope.
All these features would count for nothing if they weren’t usable and accessible. Fortunately, Affinity Designer for iPad doesn’t just copy-and-paste the desktop app. It’s been fully reworked for Apple’s tablet, with an emphasis on speed, immediacy and immersion.
Advanced Metal graphics processing delivers lag-free real-time edits, even on huge files. Accuracy away from the desktop is ensured by a range of features: zoom up to one million per cent; smart snapping; and Apple Pencil dynamics like tilt, pressure and angle, which can be fine-tuned to your personal style.
Gestures infused into every iPad user’s muscle memory are supported, such as pinch-zoom and two-finger rotate. But Affinity Designer for iPad offers more than standard multi-touch gestures – with two- and three-finger gestures for selecting multiple objects, locking aspect ratios and rotation increments, quickly making copies of existing elements, and more.
Such smarts extend throughout the interface. You can: tap-drag panel icons to zoom the canvas or adjust an item’s stroke; pinch to group layers in the layers panel; drag a layer to another’s thumbnail to instantly create a mask; and use a calculator-like pop-up to tap in precision figures – or the likes of ×2 rather than first doing the sums in your head.
For the jobbing designer, a mobile app must fit neatly into their workflow. Affinity Designer for iPad offers various options, whether it’s your main way to create, or a mobile sketchpad for content you’ll later work up on a Mac or PC.
There’s support for a range of formats, 16-bit per channel editing, end-to-end CMYK, ICC colour management and spot colours for professional printing. Using the iPad app alone, you can export for web or print. In the former case, a tactile pixel preview lets you quickly swipe back and forth between vector artwork and pixel (or Retina) equivalents.
Sharing content is a cinch, with the main export dialog housing all the options you’ll need. But the iPad’s touch-based nature brings further benefits. For example, to quickly send a flattened preview of artwork to a client, you can simply drag the PNG button to Mail. Easy!
For sending art back and forth to the desktop, there’s iCloud Drive support, and Affinity Designer for iPad can export in bitmap and vector formats compatible with other design software. If you favour Affinity Designer on your PC or Mac, though, you also get the advantage of seamless integration, to the point your edit history is retained. Although whether you’ll want to tear yourself away from working solely on iPad when that’s now a possibility is another matter.
Affinity Designer for iPad is available now from the App Store. Grab your copy today to get a time-limited 30 per cent discount – only £13.99, US$13.99 or €14.99.