Affinity Publisher is a brilliant app for desktop publishing, and these 15 tips will change your brain chemistry as a designer. From accessing Designer and Photo within the Publisher interface to generating designs from spreadsheet data, you will level up fast with these tips!
If you prefer video content, then you can't miss this new video from the Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel. Learn the best Affinity Publisher tips here:
What You'll Learn
- Access Designer and Photo Within Publisher
- Use Global Color Swatches
- Use the Paragraph Style Hierarchy
- Spell-Check Multiple Languages
- Use Data Merge to Generate Multiple Instances of a Design
- Layout Grid Templates With Master Pages
- Let Publisher Be Your Calculator
- The Book Panel
- Text Wrap With Transparency
- Add Noise to Gradient Fills for Visual Interest
- Drag and Drop Layers to Clip Them
- Create Selection Groups With Tags
- Place Multiple Pictures Quickly With Frames
- Change Snap Settings in a Snap
- Apply Adjustment Layers Just Like Designer and Photo
- Discover More Amazing Resources
1. Access Designer and Photo Within Publisher
I love the Persona feature in Designer and Photo. It's a really clean way to pack a ton of functionality into the interface. Publisher makes the entire Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer apps available as Personas inside of Publisher. All you need is to have Designer and Photo installed, and they’re included with the version 2 apps, so you probably already have them if you upgraded to Affinity Publisher 2.
Let’s cut the background out of this photo. Just click on the Photo Persona. In the Layers panel, select the photo nested within the picture frame layer. Select the subject with the Selection Brush Tool.
Click Refine, and tweak the settings here. Change the Output to Mask and click OK. And we’ve masked an image right inside Publisher.
2. Use Global Color Swatches
It can be a hassle to keep the colors consistent across tens or even hundreds of pages, but not if you use global color swatches.
For example, let's say I like a particular color, but I won’t know until review if the client likes it, so I will save it as a Global Color.
First, open the Swatches panel from the Window menu, click the hamburger menu on the top-right of the palette, and choose Window > Create Palette From Document > Document Palette. The other palette types don’t support Global Colors.
Select all of the shapes you want to apply the global color to. You can select one of them, and then go to Select Menu > Select Same > Fill Colour.
You can also select a shape with the Fill or Stroke color you want, and all of the shapes with that color will be selected and active
On the Swatches panel, click Add current colour to palette as a global colour.
Finally, click the new swatch that appeared with a white triangle indicating it's a Global Colour.
Now, as I edit the document, I’ll apply that Global Colour. If the client says they’d like to change it, I don’t need to edit every single item individually. Instead, I can just edit the Global Colour, and that updates everything in the document with that swatch applied.
3. Use the Paragraph Style Hierarchy
Coming from InDesign, Publisher’s paragraph style setup confused me at first, and I would always delete the default styles in a new document to set up my own. Leave them in place, though—it's a huge time-saver.
Every new Publisher document has paragraph styles set up in a hierarchy by default. The hierarchy goes Group Styles, Paragraph Styles, then Character Styles for granular control.
I want to change the font for everything. The default styles are set up to reference the Base Group Style. So if I make the font change there, it will filter down to every style that references it. Let's edit the Base Style. In the Text Styles panel, Right-Click the Body paragraph style and click Edit "Body".
At the bottom of the Edit Text Style panel, you can see a summary of the style settings in the Style Settings box. Right now, it says "Base + Font size: 12 pt". This means that it has all of the settings from the Base group applied except for the Font Size, which is different for this style.
Any changes we make to this paragraph style will just be deviations from the Base Group. Click Character on the left, and in the Font Size dropdown, set it to "No Change". That will clear the custom font size so it defaults back to the Base Group.
This hierarchy makes it very easy to manage multiple styles with similar properties like headings from one place.
4. Spell-Check Multiple Languages
While we're looking at text styles, it's worth pointing out that you can also use the text styles to assign language settings for spell-check. You can tell Publisher what language it should check against in the Character panel, and even save that as a character or paragraph style. If you have a document with multiple languages, managing those is as easy as managing your paragraph styles.
In the Character panel, expand the Language Menu and set the Spell Check Language.
Now, save that as either a Character Style or Paragraph Style.
When you run your preflight checks from the Window > Preflight panel, it will recognize the language you selected, and when you right-click a word, it will provide spelling suggestions in the chosen language.
5. Use Data Merge to Generate Multiple Instances of a Design
In this tip, I’m going to make some business cards, but this works equally well for invitations, letters, or anything that needs to be personalized for a lot of people.
Publisher accepts CSV, Excel, or even JSON files (although it only works for the first level of JSON objects). Go to Window > Data Merge Manager.
Don't click generate just yet, but check the box for Preview With Record, and close the Data Merge window. We will also need the Fields panel, so go to Window > References > Fields and expand the data merge section referencing the CSV file.
When the design is ready, just go back to the Data Merge window and click Generate. It will make new pages with our business card for every entry in the CSV file. Notice it’s also generated this layout as a new document. Our original document is still open in the tab bar.
6. Layout Grid Templates With Master Pages
Grids are really nice in Publisher since you can add not only columns but also rows. But you don’t want to have to do that for every single page. Let’s create a couple of layouts but apply them as masters.
Double-click "Master A". This will be a two-column layout with two rows. Go to View > Guides, and we can add our columns and rows and also set their appearance.
Add columns, rows, gutters, and margins, and even place rulers based on the percentage of the total page size.
7. Let Publisher Be Your Calculator
Affinity Publisher uses the same operators that you might be familiar with from Excel: +, -, *, and / in any field that accepts a number.
Let's scale these three bars to represent the percentage on the right side. Make sure the Transform panel is open from the Window menu, and select the first rectangle.
Click the center-left anchor point in the Transform panel so that the box scales to the left.
In the Width Field, add a * after the existing value to multiply, and then type .42 to scale it to 42% of the current width.
8. The Book Panel
Using the Book panel is a great way to break large projects up into different files, while keeping the settings and page numbers consistent from one to another. This is really handy when working with projects like textbooks. I like to use it for portfolios so I can have different versions of the portfolio synced up.
With all projects closed out and just the Publisher interface open, go to File > New Book. You’ll see the Book panel open, and right now there’s nothing in it. Click Add Chapter in the bottom left.
In the browser, we can select an AFPUB file and click Open. Now we can manage all the files together and sync swatches, text styles, master pages, and table formats to all of the files in the book.
9. Text Wrap With Transparency
Publisher will use the alpha channel (aka the transparency) of an image to determine where text should wrap. In Tip 1, we masked out the model in an image, and Publisher will use that mask to wrap text. If you have a PNG file with transparency, Publisher will recognize that too. Select the image nested within the picture frame.
Click Show Text Wrap Settings with the image selected to apply wrap settings to the image.
Finally, click Tight to make the text wrap around the image. Publisher will automatically use the mask or any transparency in PNG files.
Only text frames will wrap around images. Any text placed using the Creative Text Tool will ignore the wrap settings.
10. Add Noise to Gradient Fills for Visual Interest
Gradients are awesome. They’re an easy way to add some color to a design. Giving them texture used to require adding some sort of texture image, but not anymore. One of my favorite features from Designer is available in Publisher: gradient noise.
Select the shape you want to add a fill to. Click Fill, and then click the Gradient tab.
Select the first knot, and add some color. Do the same with the second knot. Now, at the very bottom of the Color Swatch panel, there's a slider for Noise. Slide it to the right to add some procedural noise to that knot, and just like that, we’ve got some texture. Since you can add noise on a per-color basis, you can have a mix of smooth and noisy colors in a single gradient.
Use the Fill Tool to apply the gradient to your shape.
11. Drag and Drop Layers to Clip Them
Anybody who’s worked with Adobe Illustrator as long as I have will appreciate the simplicity of clipping, masking, and grouping in Affinity Designer, and it works the same way in Publisher.
It’s as simple as dragging layers around in the Layers panel. To clip, drag the layer you want to clip to the layer you want to use as a Clipping Mask. When the entire layer rectangle in the Layers panel is blue, release it.
The layer you dropped is now clipped to the layer you dropped it on. Neat! And you can expand that clipping layer like a group and access all the layers it clips.
12. Create Selection Groups With Tags
As any design gets more complex, you spend more and more time just selecting things. The select menu offers a lot of options to speed things up, but you can customize your selections even further with Tags.
I have a bunch of shapes I want to select quickly, but it's impractical to group them in the layer stack.
In the Layers panel, Right-Click any of the active blue layers, and at the bottom of the Context Menu, there are little colored circles. These are our tags! Every item can have multiple tags, but we’ll just create one group for now. Click the Red Tag.
Now deselect. If we want to select all those items again, though, click any of the items with the Red Tag, and go to Select > Same > Tag Color.
13. Place Multiple Pictures Quickly With Frames
It's worth creating a wireframe for your pictures even if you're working with a template. I've drawn Picture Frame Rectangles with the Picture Frame Tool.
Now, we can place all the images for this spread at once. Go to File > Place, and we can select all of our images by holding Shift. Now, when I click Open, it stores all of the images in the order I selected them. Click each of the Picture Frame Rectangles to insert the image and automatically size it to the frame.
Now, with all of the images in frames, we can scale and position them all at once, and they will automatically resize to the frame without getting distorted.
14. Change Snap Settings in a Snap
In the Control Bar at the top, there's a magnet icon to turn snapping on and off. If you click the Snap dropdown menu, though, you get much more control over what items snap to.
Click the Preset dropdown and select Page layouts with objects. We see a bunch of the checkboxes changed, but we also need to set the scope of Candidate Layers. Click the Candidate Layers dropdown and select All Layers so that we can snap our Picture Frames to the Text Boxes on the text layer.
Now, as you scale Pixture Frames, Publisher will identify patterns including the scale of other objects and the space between them, and snap automatically.
15. Apply Adjustment Layers Just Like Designer and Photo
Last but not least, this tip is for the InDesign users wondering if Affinity Publisher is worth checking out. You can add Adjustment Layers in the Layers panel, just like in Photoshop. You can also use the same drag-and-drop clipping and masking techniques we talked about earlier to make this even more useful. We don’t even need to change to the Designer or Photo persona.
Go to the Layers panel, and down here at the bottom, click the Adjustments button.
This list has all kinds of adjustments that we can apply to the entire design. I’ll select Black and White.
Now, let’s clip it. Drag the Adjustment Layer to one of the Picture Frames' Thumbnails to Mask the adjustment to that picture frame only.
Discover More Amazing Resources
And that’s it: 15 amazing tips to make Affinity Publisher work for you! Of course, Publisher isn't just one app, since it also includes Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo. Check out even more tutorials and courses on the Affinity Suite and master all three!
- Affinity Photo for BeginnersAbbey Esparza26 Jan 2023
- How to Use LUTs to Colour Grade Pictures in Affinity PhotoMarie Gardiner10 Jun 2022
- Affinity Designer Quick Start CourseKezz Bracey23 Dec 2022
- How to Curve Text in Affinity DesignerAndrei Marius02 May 2023
- Affinity Publisher for BeginnersDrew MacDonald19 May 2023
- Affinity Publisher Tutorial: How to Use Affinity Publisher to Import InDesign FilesDaisy Ein07 Aug 2023