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10 reasons why you should try this free Illustrator alternative

Affinity Designer, from Serif
Affinity Designer, from Serif
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If, like me, you've grown up with printed computer magazines with physical cover disks, then Serif is a name that's full of nostalgia. The Nottingham-based company, better known for its popular flagship desktop publishing package PagePlus, launched its first Mac product Affinity Designer and it is free until the end of September.

Affinity Designer is the first vector editing tool to offer creative professionals a serious alternative to Illustrator (opens in new tab). Announced in beta a few weeks ago after four years of development, it's been causing quite a stir, especially if you are not keen on Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription model; Affinity Designer, for once, sticks to the pay-once, own-forever model.

For Affinity Designer, Serif has started from scratch, building an entirely new, high-end product, aimed squarely at creative professionals, on an entirely new codebase. That means Affinity Designer can take full advantage of the latest hardware which translates into a fast, responsive, feature-rich and very powerful application. Which means it could easily upset some established names in the creative industry.

Here are 10 great reasons why Affinity Designer could become your new favourite vector editing tool.

01. It's free in beta

The Affinity Designer beta for Mac is free until its official launch in October 2014. Downloading it comes with absolutely no obligations. So you've got absolutely no reason not to give it a try.

Affinity Designer from Serif

Packs a lot of features for not a lot of dough

02. There's no subscription

Once the free beta is over in October, Affinity Designer will be 'free to try, one price to buy', at a very reasonable £34.99/$49.99 via the Mac App Store. And there'll be no subscription charge; Serif has promised that all updates to the software will be free for at least the next two years. Why so cheap?

Despite Affinity Designer being a high-end product, Serif is hoping the modest price point will lure designers away from either being tied to an Adobe subscription or clinging on to old software.

And they're convinced there's a demand for such a product. "When you stop paying for the Creative Cloud, its apps stop working," argues Serif MD Ashley Hewson. "And if your internet connection or the cloud servers go down, you can't log in. That doesn't sit well with everyone. And even if cost isn't the main issue, many just want something fresh that can be taken seriously."

03. One million per cent zoom

With other vector editing programs, if you zoom in too far, what you're looking at becomes pixellated or just greys out. In Affinity Designer, the zoom just keeps on going and going. Ours only stopped drawing speedily around 40 million percent (and no, that's not a typo), so it's also safe to say that incredible accuracy is guaranteed.

Affinity Designer from Serif

The best of British software

04. It's really fast

Affinity Designer has been created with one overrriding goal in mind, says Serif: that 'working in Designer is always live'. That means no lag, no outlines – when you move an object, or series of objects, everything moves at once in real-time.

So whether it's a 100 megapixel image or the most complex vector drawing with thousands of curves, you still pan and zoom at 60fps, move objects in the correct z-order and see live views of all adjustments, gradients, brushes and effects.

In short, it's fast. Really fast. And when you go back to your old vector editing software, that will probably seem really slow and clunky in comparison.

05. It's compatible with your other tools

If you're worried about incorporating Affinity Designer into your current workflow – and in truth that will be most pro designers' concern – then Serif says you shouldn't stress. When it launches, they promise this new tool will open and be able to fully edit Adobe Illustrator AI, Photoshop PSD, PDF, FreeHand, EPS and SVG files.

You can output in standard image formats, PNG, JPG etc, and save as PDF, PSD, EPS, and SVG for broad compatibility. Affinity Designer outputs PSD for Photoshop and PDFs for Illustrator, so work can flow both ways.

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