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Affinity Photo vs. Photoshop: Battle of the Photo Manipulation Software

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There's one question every digital artist has asked themselves at least once in the last few years: Affinity Photo vs. Photoshop, is one better than the other? Which one should I be using? And can I really make the switch after years of using Photoshop? In this Affinity Photo review, we have some questions to answer.  

But no matter what you're preferred software is, Envato Elements has you covered. Unlimited graphics, photos, and fonts. Plenty of cross-compatible resources, all with simple commercial licensing!

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Interested in video tutorials instead? The Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel has you covered. There you can watch this new video I made comparing Affinity Photo vs. Photoshop:

What You'll Learn

  • What is the Affinity Photo price?
  • What can Affinity Photo do?
  • Can you do photo manipulation in Affinity Photo?
  • What are the unique features of Affinity Photo?
  • How to use Affinity Photo with Photoshop 
  • Should you switch to Affinity Photo?

What Is Affinity Photo? 

Serif's Affinity Photo is arguably one of the first photo editing programs that was really able to go toe to toe with Adobe Photoshop. Let's take a closer look at Affinity Photo as a whole, starting with the price. 

What is Affinity Photo? What is Affinity Photo? What is Affinity Photo? 

Affinity Photo Price

Affinity Photo will run you a one-time payment of 50 USD at full price (as of date of publish). I do want to mention that they sometimes have 50% off sales, bringing that price down to just 25 USD. 

What Platforms Is Affinity Photo On?

It's available on both Mac and Windows. Sorry to any Linux users; you've been left out. 

Affinity Photo vs. Photoshop iPad

When it comes to Affinity Photo vs. Photoshop iPad apps, Affinity Photo definitely wins. Affinity Photo has a fully featured app for the iPad. You have to buy it separately, but it's a one-time payment and is also known to go on sale.

Who's It For, and What Can Affinity Photo Do?

If you're wondering if Affinity photo editing is right for you, it probably is as far as the "target audience" goes. 

While I think Affinity Photo is really ideal for hobbyists, thanks to its aggressively low pricing, it's marketed towards professionals and freelancers just as much.

It's a photo editing app, so if you're looking to do Affinity Photo matte painting, photo editing, or digital painting, you will find most if not all of the fundamental tools you need. You can also absolutely do photo manipulation in Affinity Photo, which is what I personally do. 

Who's it ForWho's it ForWho's it For

Affinity Photo Unique Features

Now, Affinity Photo is by no means a Photoshop clone. Not an exact clone, at least. Here are a few features Affinity Photo has that Photoshop doesn't. 

Personas

Affinity Photo has Personas, which are dedicated spaces for doing specific tasks.  Your default space is the Photo Persona, and then you have Personas for Liquifying, Developing, Tone Mapping, and Exporting. 

PersonasPersonasPersonas

Photoshop does something similar with some of its filters opening up in dedicated windows, but I noticed they added something even more similar in a recent update to Adobe Premiere Pro, where exporting has its own dedicated area, much like a Persona. 

Frequency Separation Filter 

It also has some unique creature comforts, like a built-in Frequency Separation filter. 

Frequency Separation Filter Frequency Separation Filter Frequency Separation Filter 

Savable Undo States 

One of my favorite things about Affinity Photo is how you can save an image's undo states to its AP file. 

Savable Undo StatesSavable Undo StatesSavable Undo States

More Brush Options 

You'll also notice how brushes in Affinity Photo have the option to use two different pen nibs or stamps. This makes things like splatter brushes much more effective. 

More Brush Options More Brush Options More Brush Options 

These may seem small, but it's little things like that where I'm like, "How hasn't Photoshop done this yet?"

Affinity Photo vs. Photoshop

Let's put Affinity Photo and Photoshop head to head and see who comes out on top. 

Supported File Formats

Both Affinity Photo and Photoshop will cover all your standard file types, including:

  • RAW
  • TIFF
  • PDF 
  • JPG
  • PNG

Affinity Photo can open several Adobe file types, including:

  • PSD
  • PSB
  • AI

We'll touch on how well Affinity Photo converts PSDs to AP files in a moment, but for supported file types, it's a draw.

Resource Availability

Photoshop has been around since the 90s and has been the industry standard for just as long. It has millions of resources ranging from free to premium. 

You can easily find brushes, add-ons, actions, and plugins already made for you, handcrafted by professionals on sites like Envato Elements. So much so that unless it's for something really specific, there's almost no point in making your own brush or pattern.   

Affinity Photo has a lot of great default resources, particularly default brushes. It can also use .ABR files, which is the same brush file format that Photoshop uses. However, brushes with dynamic settings won't convert perfectly. But stamp brushes will cross over absolutely fine. 

Affinity Photo uses standard font files, so your whole font library is there for you to use. However, that does not include fonts from the Adobe Fonts library that comes with an Adobe subscription. 

And Photoshop actions or graphic templates that rely heavily on layer effects and smart objects, like premade text effects, will not work with Affinity Photo. 

Learning resources for Affinity Photo editing are also much less established. 

So, even with a vast selection of fonts, image-based textures and resources, and a respectable amount of premade brushes, Affinity Photo will still have to take the loss. Photoshop wins resource availability. 

Resource Availability envato elements Resource Availability envato elements Resource Availability envato elements

Cross-Compatibility and How to Use Affinity Photo With Photoshop

When it comes to cross-compatibility, this is an easy one because Photoshop doesn't have any. If it's not a standard file or a file format that Adobe invented, then Photoshop isn't going to open it. 

Affinity Photo has very impressive cross-compatibility. I mentioned earlier that it can open .PSDs and .PSBs, and you can install .ABR brushes. 

However, there are limitations to how well these things will cross over. As I said, many Photoshop brushes lose their dynamic settings when installed in Affinity Photo.

When a .PSD or .PSB is opened in Affinity Photo, Smart Objects will be rasterized every time. That's because the way Affinity Photo handles Smart Objects fundamentally differs from Photoshop. 

Some shapes may be rasterized, but many will be converted into a vector shape with a path. For example, if the shape has a border created with the Shape tool in Photoshop, that shape will likely be rasterized in Affinity Photo. 

Affinity Photo will have partial support for any applied Layer Effects, with most remaining intact. And the same thing applies to Layer Modes.  

Adjustment Layers are also very likely to remain the same. However, you may see some simply not working. Color Lookup adjustment layers, which I often use, do not cross over to Affinity Photo. You can use LUTs in Affinity Photo; they just have to be reapplied.  

Due to Affinity Photo's high compatibility and similarities to Photoshop, some Photoshop tutorials can even be used as Affinity Photo tutorials—especially if you're looking to do Affinity Photo matte painting.

So Affinity Photo wins on cross-compatibility. 

Cross CompatibilityCross CompatibilityCross Compatibility

Affinity Photo Pros and Cons

Let's cover some quick-fire pros and cons of both programs, starting with Affinity Photo. 

Pros

  • You can't beat Affinity Photo's one-time affordable price, which includes free updates. It's honestly a steal. 
  • Affinity Photo was built to be much more user-friendly, severely lowering the learning curve for beginners. 
  • The live filters and previews. Everything in Affinity Photo shows you what's being applied as you apply it, including brushes. I can't believe Photoshop still doesn't do this. 
  • Better brushes. The brushes are more powerful in Affinity Photo, thanks to being able to add multiple brush nibs to one brush. They're also easier to create. And I have to give another shout-out to the impressive default Brush library. 
Affinity Photo Pros and ConsAffinity Photo Pros and ConsAffinity Photo Pros and Cons

Cons

  • Limited Smart Object capabilities. While Affinity Photo's Live Layers are really cool, ultimately, the Smart Objects are limited compared to Photoshop. This might not be an issue if you aren't a heavy Smart Object User. Unfortunately, I am. 
  • It can be a hard switch if you're already a heavy Photoshop user. This will change from person to person, but I think new users will have an easier time taking up Affinity Photo than long-time Photoshop users.  
  • I have personally run into performance issues when doing Affinity Photo manipulation. When working with full-resolution images and lots of live layers, there is a high chance of crashes and lag. I do not have issues with either in Photoshop. 

Photoshop Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Photoshop is still the industry standard and is what most people use. Suppose you have to do a lot of collaboration or are expected to deliver fully intact files. In that case, a Photoshop .PSD is what's going to be expected. 
  • Photoshop has an unbeatable library of resources. That includes learning resources like tutorials and courses.  
  • Thanks to Adobe Sensei, Photoshop's auto-selection tools are second to none. Adobe is heavily invested in its AI, so I can only assume its auto-selection tools will continue to improve. 
  • Photoshop has more tools, filters, and options. This can be a con for some, but for many creative compositors like myself, those advanced tools are heavily integrated into our workflow. 
  • Photoshop tends to handle larger, more complex files better than Affinity Photo. This may be controversial, but it's true in my experience as mentioned in the Affinity Photo manipulation "Cons" above. 
Photoshop Pros and ConsPhotoshop Pros and ConsPhotoshop Pros and Cons

Cons

  • The expensive monthly subscription. It's the main issue people have with all Adobe products.  
  • A high learning curve, with what many people consider to be a bloated interface. Even as someone who uses a lot of the more advanced filters and settings, I find there's a lot of bloat, mainly as a result of Photoshop being around for so long. 

Is Affinity Photo Right for You?

So at the end of this Affinity Photo review, we have one more question to answer. Is Affinity Photo right for you?

If you're a beginner or hobbyist, I say absolutely.  But if you're a freelancer or professional who already uses Photoshop, it's going to depend.

If you do a lot of collaboration or passing back and forth of Photoshop-specific resources, then no, I don't think the cross-compatibility is strong enough. 

If you're on a budget or looking to cut costs, then the price of Affinity Photo is unbeatable. And at the very least, it won't hurt to give it a try.  

Suppose you're a long-time Photoshop user but only use basic settings, filters, and tools like brushes, adjustment layers, layer modes, and layer effects. In that case, again, it's absolutely worth trying Affinity Photo. 

As for me, I've been digging in the Adobe trench for almost 15 years. I pay for the "All Apps" plan; yes, it hurts every month, but it's just the cost of doing business. 

Affinity Photo vs. PhotoshopAffinity Photo vs. PhotoshopAffinity Photo vs. Photoshop

Explore More Photoshop Tutorials 

Interested in learning more about Photoshop? At Envato Tuts+ you'll find hundreds of Adobe Photoshop tutorials and resources. Here are just a few you can't miss:

Explore More Affinity Photo Tutorials 

If you want to try out this cool software, here's the best source of Affinity Photo tutorials:

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