The next generation
Serif has been making affordable rivals to professional graphics tools like Photoshop, QuarkXPress and Illustrator for decades, but in 2015 it did something unexpected. Rather than converting its PhotoPlus, PagePlus and DrawPlus programs to the Apple Mac, it launched a completely new series called Affinity. It was an instant hit with Apple users, and now Serif is bringing it to the PC to replace its existing range. So while Affinity Photo has been around for 18 months, it’s only now available to Windows users, and if you already have PhotoPlus, this will be your next upgrade.
Developing a completely new set of programs from scratch is a brave move
– and it’s paid off. We always loved the breadth of features you got for your money in Serif’s Plus software, but it was all about imitating professional packages at a lower cost rather than offering a different way of working. Affinity rethinks the whole approach to each task based on what regular users actually want to do, and it turns out that tools that suit pros better are probably easier for the rest of us to get to grips with too.
For example, it’s particularly noticeable that you can try everything on the main image you’re looking at, not via a small preview. You can even roll back your command history (multiple undo) visually, watching the image change back as you drag a slider. And for many operations you can also drag across the image to compare before and after.
Inevitably, the breadth and depth of features can’t quite match Photoshop, whose ever-increasing toolbox sprawls out into areas like 3D modelling. But for everyday image retouching and composition, even at a serious level, there’s not much you’ll miss. Selection tools, healing brushes and content-aware fill (see smaller screenshot right) let you chop and change images seamlessly, and full layer support means you can try all kinds of advanced techniques.
Filter layers let you add advanced effects to all or sections of an image that are reversible, so you can still edit everything later. Raw pictures from higher-quality digital cameras can be imported and tweaked for maximum control over exposure and tone, and a full range of export options is available.
Our only complaint is that while Affinity runs smoothly on even quite modest Macs, thanks to programming that makes use of Apple’s optimization technologies, it struggled a bit on our Windows 10 laptop, making us wait longer than Photoshop for similar commands to complete. DirectX 11 and Direct 2D acceleration is supported, so if you have a decent graphics card you should fare better.
Unlike Photoshop, you don’t have to buy Affinity Photo on subscription, and at under £50 – less than half Adobe’s annual fee – it’s a great deal.
Windows 7, 8 or 10 • 2GB memory (4GB minimum, 8GB recommended) • DirectX 10 or higher graphics • 670MB free hard-drive space
VERDICT: At a very reasonable price, this is a serious photo editor that everyone can use, with all you’re likely to need and less clutter.
ALTERNATIVE: Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 £10 per month With the Lightroom picture manager included, this is still the ultimate professional imaging choice.