Just as Serif is taking on Photoshop with its Affinity Photo editor and InDesign with Affinity Publisher, so Affinity Designer sees the company competing with Illustrator. This particular app was the first one to be released as part of the Affinity range, and over the course five years development has been strong.

Affinity Designer is a vector drawing app that, despite being amazingly cheap, offers professional-level tools that can be used for all manner of projects. While this is clearly a rival to the likes of Adobe Illustrator and Sketch, you'd be forgiven for initially dismissing it as being underpowered. But don't be fooled. Serif describes this software as a "stripped back, pro-end workhorse", and it's absolutely right.

Designer can handle huge documents with ease and gives you the option of switching between vector and raster workspaces, and the ability to work in RGB or LAB color spaces at up to 32-bits per channel. There is a wide range of vector tools available in the app, and vectors can have an unlimited number of strokes and fills for maximum flexibility. Grids and guides are advanced and powerful, and the isometric option will be welcomed by many users.

For anyone switching from Illustrator or collaborating with Illustrator users, the good news is that Designer can open AI and EPS file, although sadly it's not possible to save as AI. There are a number of both pixel and vector brushes depending on which mode you're working on and, importantly, performance is impressive.

For all of its brilliance, Affinity Designer is lacking in a few areas. It's a shame to see that there is no support for scripting or animation, and also that there is no plugin support.

Ordinarily, there is a trial available that last just 10 days, but at time of writing this has been extended to 90 days. You'll need to register online though, as even the trial needs a serial code, which you can do here.

What's new in 1.8.3 (see changelog for more)?

- Fix for collinear curve segments causing boolean operations to fail.
- Fix for exiting pixel preview mode when Guides are toggled on/off.
- Fix for expand stroke applied to objects with sharply varying pressure profiles near their start/end..
- Fix for boolean ops acting differently on larger objects by accident.
- Fix for deleting the last curve handle (and hence deleting the object) causing selection to be lost.
- Additional PDF export fix (related to converting colour profiles in exported images).
- Fix for autosave/recover not working correctly when crashing while and editing existing documents.
- Fix for focus issues with the Colour Studio when tabbing between text fields with a selected object.
- Improved selection behaviour when nodes and layers are deleted.
- Improved boolean geometry results (not Divide).

Verdict

Affinity Designer is an astonishing achievement by Serif; this is a highly accomplished design tool which fits beautifully into the Affinity range and serves as a genuine alternative to the big names such as Illustrator.