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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Applications Folder: Affinity Designer

Two or three times a year I need to open up and modify vector art files, generally sourced from Adobe Illustrator. This is mostly to generate t-shirt designs for The Incomparable, though sometimes it involved other uses of vector logos. For the past few years I’ve been soldiering on with an ancient copy of Adobe Illustrator CS5, the last version of Adobe’s full Creative Suite that I have installed on my Mac. (I pay for the Creative Cloud subscription version of Photoshop, but have little to no use for the other apps in the larger, much more expensive suite.)

With the arrival of macOS Catalina, Adobe CS5 is no longer an option. I installed it in a virtual machine using VMWare Fusion and tried to run it, but it didn’t want to open my files and I decided that I was tired of fighting it. Rather than paying Adobe $240 a year for an app to open logo files a handful of times, I spent $50 and bought Serif’s Affinity Designer.

I’d already been impressed with Serif’s releases on the iPad, where Affinity Photo offers many of the features of Adobe Photoshop for $20. (The Mac version is $50.) I was just as impressed with Affinity Designer. I’m an Illustrator fraud, but I know enough to be dangerous—and I was able to figure out how to do all of the actions I need to do in Affinity Designer in minutes. Friends who have been using Illustrator for years also swear by Affinity Designer. Together, Serif’s three Affinity apps—Photo, Designer, and Publisher (which is sort of an InDesign analog)—are a tempting alternative to Adobe’s subscription-based apps, and their aggression in embracing iPad warms my heart.

That said, I’m still paying $120 a year for Photoshop. I’ve been using it for more than half my life and I would really rather not say goodbye, and the new iPad app is promising, albeit limited. But I will admit, the work being done by Serif on the Affinity line, along with the other great work being done on the photo-editing front by Pixelmator and others, makes me wonder if there will come a day where I finally say goodbye to Photoshop, my companion since the early 1990s.

We’re not there yet. But Adobe has squandered its lead, especially for small businesses, hobbyists, and others who will balk at the high price of a Creative Cloud subscription. And I’m grateful to have an alternative to Illustrator at last.

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