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The A to Z of Affinity Designer

This post is part of a series called A to Z Design Software.
The A to Z of CorelDRAW
Affinity Designer

Affinity Designer is a powerful program that allows you to create and combine both raster and vector graphics. Apart from countless drawing opportunities, this program is stuffed with numerous tools, panels and functions that allow you to create any kind of art you can think of.

This A to Z list breaks down all the tools and panels, including some useful functions and features. It includes links to Affinity's official short video tips and descriptions of what each tool can do to help you become acquainted with this program.


affinity designer align arrange panel

Align: Contains various functions allowing you to align and distribute selected object(s). 

Arrange: Displays a pop-up dialog allowing you to align and distribute selected object(s).

Artboard Tool: Allows you to add, move and resize artboards within a document.

Artistic Text Tool (T): Allows you to add artistic text to your design. It is best suited to single, prominent words, phrases or decorative typographical design. A lot of settings are available for this tool, such as the opportunity to select a desired font, to set text size, text format, paragraph style, and so on.

Assets Panel: An area for storing design elements which can be accessed from any Affinity Designer document. By default, the panel contains iOS-based UI design elements. The panel can be switched on via View > Studio when working in Draw or Pixel Persona.


affinity designer brushes panel

Blur Brush Tool: Used to blur hard edges within an image. The effect is cumulative so the more you paint over an area, the more visible the blur effect will be. The blur is only applied to pixels on the currently selected layer and will not affect vector objects.

Brushes Panel: Hosts a selection of brush presets which can be selected for use with the Vector Brush Tool and Paint Brush (Draw Persona and Pixel Persona, respectively). Any custom brushes you design can be saved to your own panel categories.

Burn Brush Tool (O): Allows you to precisely darken areas of your image, and even limit the effect to just shadows, highlights, or midtones. The effect is cumulative—the more you paint over an area, the more pronounced the darkening effect will be.


affinity designer character panel

Character Panel: A panel for advanced text settings. It allows you to apply local formatting to individual letters, words, sentences and paragraphs, as well as entire stories.

Colour Panel: Used to choose the colour for various tools and selected objects. With the Colour panel, colours can be applied to an object or for use by a tool in just a few clicks. Opacity and Noise are further colour attributes which can be applied.

Colour Picker Tool: Allows you to sample colours from anywhere on your document or screen. Sampled (or picked) colours from the Colour Picker Tool are stored in the swatch next to the tool's icon on the Colour or Swatches panel.

Constraints Panel: Lets you control how objects are positioned and scaled when presented on different artboards and differently sized layouts. Constraints are useful when designing for different devices simultaneously—they are labour saving and preserve accuracy. Objects are selectively responsive to resizing and transforms. It can be switched on via View > Studio when working in Draw or Pixel Persona.

Corner Tool: Rounds sharp corners on geometric shapes or on closed shapes, drawn with the Pen tool.


affinity designer defaults function

Defaults: Toolbar setting that allows you either Synchronize defaults from selection or Revert defaults.

Dodge Brush Tool (O): Allows you to precisely lighten areas of your image, and even limit the effect to just shadows, highlights or midtones. The effect is cumulative—the more you paint over an area, the more intensive the lightening effect will be.

Draw Persona: Switches to the specialized vector design and art environment.


affinity designer effects panel

Effects Panel: Allows you to apply various layer effects directly to objects or layers. Layer effects can be applied to the currently selected object or entire layer. These effects are also completely non-destructive so you can change them at any time.

The following controls and effects are available in the Effects panel:

  • Fill Opacity: alters the stroke and fill opacity of the object (layer), without altering the opacity of the applied layer effect(s). This is especially useful for further exposing the effect when used on artistic text or shapes.
  • Gaussian Blur: blurs the object (layer).
  • Outer Shadow: adds a shadow behind the object (layer).
  • Inner Shadow: adds a shadow inside the object edge (layer).
  • Outer Glow: adds a colour glow that emanates from the outside edges (layer).
  • Inner Glow: adds a colour glow that emanates from the inside edges (layer).
  • Outline: adds an outline to the object edge (layer).
  • 3D: adds lighting to give a 3D appearance.
  • Bevel/Emboss: adds various combinations of highlights and shadows.
  • Colour Overlay: applies a solid colour to an object (layer).
  • Gradient Overlay: applies a linear gradient to an object (layer).

Ellipse Tool (M): A standard vector geometric shape for creating circles and ellipses.

Erase Brush Tool (E): Available in Pixel Persona and allows you to erase from any area of your image, including any vector objects. Erased pixels become transparent.

Export Persona: Switch to the specialized export environment.


affinity designer frame text tool

Frame Text Tool (T): Allows you to add a text frame which acts as a container for paragraph text. Frame text is best suited to working with text which will be presented in paragraphs with a formalized structure and layout, for example, for text in columns.

Free Hand Selection Tool (L): A marquee selection tool for total selection freedom. Allows you to apply a selection to your image by drawing the desired form and then dragging on your image. 


affinity designer fill tool

Fill Tool (G): Allows you to adjust the fill and line colours applied to vector and text objects. Although you can use the Fill Tool to apply solid colours to an object's fill or stroke, its true power lies in its ability to apply and modify gradients.

Flood Fill Tool (G): Allows you to fill in areas of your page, selection, or object with a single click by replacing the colour of pixels on the current layer with the Fill colour set on the Colour panel. Available in Pixel Persona.


affinity designer history panel

History panel:  Tracks changes and shows each state as a labeled entry in a list. This allows you to return to earlier points in time quickly and easily. The History panel shows changes that are applied. The oldest state is the topmost in the list. When edits are made, new states are added to the bottom of the list.


affinity designer insert target

Insert Target: Allows you to insert new object(s) either Behind the selection or at the top of the layer or Inside the selection.


affinity designer layers panel

Layers Panel: Allows you to create a tiered document that can be designed more easily by managing your layers. Helps you to neatly organise your work by keeping various elements and groups of elements on separate layers.


affinity designer marquee selection tools

Marquee Selection tools (M): Available in Pixel Persona. Provide various ways of applying selections to your image and available in various shapes including Rectangular, Elliptical, Column, and Row. All marquees are applied by simply selecting the desired shape and then dragging on your image.

Move Tool (V): Allows you to select objects on your page. Once selected, the Move Tool allows you to move, rotate, and resize your selected object.


affinity designer navigator panel

Navigator Panel: Lets you zoom into your design and pan around to view specific areas. You can also add, remove and switch between custom view points, which are saved zoom levels and positions.

Node Tool (A): Used to edit existing curves and shapes by moving the nodes and the node handles.


affinity designer operations panel

Operations: A set of functions allowing you to combine and modify objects in different ways, such as:

  • Add: creates a new object from the sum of the selected objects.
  • Subtract: removes sections from the lowest object based on the overlap with objects higher up in the selection. All other selected objects are discarded.
  • Intersect: creates a new object from the overlapping sections of selected objects.
  • Divide: splits object areas into separate objects; the object from the intersecting area retains the colour of the upper object.
  • Combine: merges selected objects into a composite object with a transparent area where filled regions overlap.

Order: Repositions the selected object(s) in different ways, such as:

  • Move to Back: repositions the selected object(s) at the bottom of the layer. Alternatively, repositions the selected layer(s) at the bottom of the Layers panel.
  • Back One: moves the selected object(s) down one position in the layer. Alternatively, moves the selected layer(s) down one position in the Layers panel.
  • Forward One: moves the selected object(s) up one position in the layer. Alternatively, moves the selected layer(s) up one position in the Layers panel.
  • Move to Front: repositions the selected object(s) at the top of the layer. Alternatively, repositions the selected layer(s) at the top of the Layers panel.


affinity designer paint brush

Paint Brush (B): Available in Pixel Persona. The Paint Brush lays down pixels on the page, creating strokes with antialiased edges. This creates a natural transition between the stroke and the surrounding pixels.

Paragraph: Provides access to the Paragraph panel for advanced paragraph settings. It allows you to control the position and flow of individual paragraphs or entire stories.

Pen Tool (P): Used to precisely draw curves and shapes. It has four modes, Pen mode, Smart mode, Polygon mode and Line mode, which are available to select in the context toolbar. Each mode changes how the line is drawn.

Pencil Tool (N): Allows you to create a hand-drawn look by drawing freehand, variable-width lines as if you were drawing on paper. As you draw, nodes are created automatically and can be edited with the Node Tool (A).

Pixel Persona: Switch to the specialized pixel adjustment environment.

Pixel Tool (B): Available in Pixel Persona. This tool draws pixel-aligned, hard-edged lines. This is in contrast to the Paint Brush (B), which may have a slight pixel variance due to its antialiasing.

Place Image Tool: Allows you to select a desired image from your computer and add it to your page at its default or custom dimensions.


affinity designer rectangle tool

Rectangle Tool (M): Common shape tool in Affinity Designer. Allows you to draw and customize rectangles and squares quickly and easily.

Rounded Rectangle Tool (M): Provides an easy way to create rectangles with rounded corners. Several options for shape customization are available from the context toolbar.


affinity designer sharpen brush tool

Sharpen Brush Tool: Increases the contrast of neighbouring pixels and gives you full control over the areas that are sharpened, and it has a cumulative effect. You can easily apply clarity and unsharp mask sharpening selectively with a few strokes of a brush!

Slice Tool (S): Allows you to create and edit drawn export areas, called slices, so you can select portions of your page designed to be exported as individual graphics.

Smudge Brush Tool: Allows you to drag colour around an image, similar to dragging a brush or finger through wet paint. It can be used to blend colours and create interesting brush effects.

Snapping: A set of options allowing you to customise settings, such as:

  • Force Pixel Alignment: when selected (default), vector content will snap to full pixels when created, moved, or modified. If this option is off, vector content can occupy partial pixels.
  • Snapping: when selected, selected objects will obey the snapping rules defined by the current snapping options. If this option is off (default), snapping is disabled.

Snapshot Panel: Allows you to store your current work at any time, so that you can return to a particular point after making any complex operations that didn't work out. If you're experimenting with different approaches, you can also create different snapshots for each approach, which lets you explore, compare, and evaluate each in turn. Compared to reverting edits step by step using the History panel, snapshots let you define a stage in your session from which you can restore. If needed, you can also take your snapshot to a new document. It can be switched on via View > Studio when working in Draw or Pixel Persona.

Stroke Panel: Lets you set the properties of lines and curves, as well as shape outlines and vector brush strokes. Every object can take a stroke around its bounding box which can take on various properties, e.g. width, colour, opacity, line style, etc.

Styles Panel: Lets you apply pre-designed drag-and-drop styles to your object. Styles are made up of effects, stroke properties, or text attributes, and combinations of these. You can also save any object's style to the Styles panel for future use.

Swatches Panel: Allows you to use predefined colours, and also to define, store, and reuse your own selection of colours.

Symbols Panel: Lets you create and store symbols from a selected object or group on the page. This panel can be switched on via View > Studio when working in Draw or Pixel Persona.


affinity designer triangle tool

Text Styles Panel: Gives you access to all the text styles in your document, allowing you to apply them, modify them, delete them, or create new ones.

Toolbar: A control panel on top that contains commonly used tools and functions to keep them at your fingertips. You can right-click to customize the Toolbar by adding or removing the desired functions from the list.

Tools Panel: Contains the tools available in the active Persona, and is presented vertically to the left of your workspace.

Transform Panel: Allows you to move, resize and shear selected objects by adjusting the values.

Transforms: A set of functions that allow you to rotate and mirror the object(s) in the following ways: Flip Horizontal, Flip Vertical, Rotate Clockwise, Rotate Anti-clockwise.

Triangle Tool: Allows you to create all types of triangles easily, including true isosceles and right-angle triangles. Click and hold the Triangle Tool icon in the Tools panel to open a drop-down list of custom shapes. It contains a bunch of useful ready-made vector shapes, such as Diamond, Star, Arrow, Cog, Cloud, Heart, Tear, and many others. Various customizations are available for each shape.


affinity designer viewing mode

Vector Brush Tool (B): Available in Draw Persona. With the Vector Brush Tool you can create a hand-painted look by painting freehand, variable-width lines and shapes as if you were painting on paper. The tool paints by scaling or repeating an image along a path (line).

Vector Crop Tool: Allows you to remove portions of a selected object (or grouped objects) non-destructively and to specific aspect ratios. Images can also be cropped.

View Tool (H): Used to move the visible portion of your document in the Document view. The context toolbar for this tool also contains the tools to change the zoom level of your document. If you double-click on the View Tool icon on the Tools panel, the zoom will be set to 'Fit'.

Viewing mode: Activates different modes and allows you to switch between the Pixel viewing mode, Retina pixel viewing mode, and Outline drawing mode.


affinity designer selection brush

Selection Brush (W): Allows you to select a region of your image by painting. This tool functions in a similar way to the other brushes in Pixel Persona. By simply dragging on your image, you can add or remove regions from a selection. The selection will grow or shrink depending on the brush settings.


affinity designer toggle colors

X: A shortcut that allows you to toggle Fill and Stroke colours of the Colour panel in Draw Persona or Foreground and Background colours in Pixel Persona.


affinity designer transparency tool

Transparency Tool (Y): Allows you to apply and edit transparency gradients to vector and text objects.


affinity designer zoom tool

Zoom Tool (Z): Used to change the zoom level of your page in the Document view. If you double-click on the Zoom Tool icon on the Tools panel, the zoom will be set to 100%.

Now You Know Your ABC!

That’s all for this article! I hope it will serve as a good reminder if you need to find a particular tool or panel of Affinity Designer and see how it works.

Apart from that, here is a list of handy Affinity Designer tutorials and courses for you to try out!

Enjoy, and have fun!

affinity designer tools and panels
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