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Vectornator vs Graphic vs Affinity Designer: Battle Of The Vector Apps

Until recently, the options for creating vector graphics on the iPad were pretty limited.

For graphics design, using a vector-based approach has a lot of advantages.

You can create a logo for a business card, then quickly scale it up for a poster, and the result is still crisp and clean. You can also tweak a vector graphics much more quickly than you can if you’re painting individual pixels.

But because vector graphics are stored as an abstract model, you need a speedy CPU and plenty of RAM to manipulate them.

This is especially true on a device like the iPad. When working on an iPad, we expect that when you use an app, it’ll respond smoothly and fluidly. So if an iPad app is sluggish when you make changes to a graphic, it’s even more aggravating than it would be if you were using a PC or laptop.

Today, most iPads have an impressive amount of power under the hood. As a result, vector graphic apps for the iPad are finally coming into their own.

Whether you’re someone who occasionally needs to whip up a graphic or if graphic design is your passion, there’s an app for you. In this article, we’ll compare three of the top contenders, Vectornator, Graphic, and Affinity Designer, to help you figure out which app best serves your needs.

Vectornator

Vectornator is an app by Linearity that specializes in vector graphics.

When it first came out in 2017, Vectornator cost $7.99. But in 2018, Linearity decided to make Vectornator free.

So with just a few clicks, you can turn your iPad into a remarkable tool for creating high-quality vector graphic designs.

Vectornator Nails the Basics

Vectornator has all the features you’d expect in a well-made design app.

You can create vectors using the Shape, Pen, Brush, and node tools. You can then easily rotate, scale, duplicate, group, order, align and mask the vectors you’ve created.

With the Typography tool, you can tinker with text’s line height, tracking, and kerning, and it’s also easy to place text on a path.

And the Color Picker has support for RGB, HSB, hex input, gradients, pallets, and color blending.

Designed from the ground up for the IPad

Vectornator was designed from the ground up for the iPad, and it takes full advantage of what modern iPads can do.

It uses Apple’s Metal graphics engine, which makes it remarkably fast.

It also supports multitasking with Split View, so if you have images in your photo library or another app that you want to use, you can just drag and drop them into your design.

Vectornator works with Apple Pencil, and it does an excellent job of taking advantage of what the Pencil can do, such as pressure-sensitive pressures. It also works with other input devices such as Folio and the Bamboo Slate.

Importing and Exporting

When it comes to importing and exporting files, Vectornator does a respectable job.

It can import SVG,.AI, and.pdf project files. And it can export either an entire graphic or an individual layer as SVG, PDF, PNG, or JPEG.

On Vectornator’s website, their FAQ admits that they still have a ways to go: “while File compatibility is one of our biggest priorities right now, it’s also extremely challenging. Development wise it’s tough to get a 100% coverage on all file specific features for import and export.”

However, it does integrate with Adobe’s Creative Cloud, so if you use Illustrator on your laptop, you can quickly jump between the two programs.

Not surprisingly, Vectornator doesn’t provide the robust workflow control you get from desktop software like Illustrator. But what it does offer is pretty impressive.

For example, it makes good use of Artboards to help you organize your work.

Extras

There are several goodies packed into Vectornator.

One of my favorites is a prefabricated library of some of the most common user interface elements, which is excellent if you are designing a web or app UI.

And if you need some icons? Vectornator’s got you covered. The app gives you instant access to over free 80,000 vector icons, and no attribution is required.

Another great goodie is an auto trace.

Say you’ve got an image you want to turn into a vector graphic. With a little machine learning magic, Vectornator takes care of it for you with the tap of a button.

Cross-Platform

While Vectornator was designed first and foremost for the iPad, they’ve also got an iPhone version of the app.

You’d probably go bonkers if you tried to use the iPhone version for heavy-duty work.

But if you want to sketch an idea for a logo while you’re in between meetings or if the solution to a UI problem that’s been nagging you pop into your head in a bar, it’s an excellent option to have at your fingertips.

It used to be that one of the disadvantages of using Vectornator was that it didn’t have a desktop version of the software. As of November, that’s no longer the case if you use a Mac.

And Linearity says they now have a unified code base between their iPad, iPhone, and desktop versions, which means most, if not all, future features should show up on all three.

Support

The one area where Vectornator is still lagging is with their help.

There are a decent number of videos and tutorials online, but not as many as with other contenders. And they still haven’t developed a robust online community.

Summary

Overall, Vectornator is a very impressive app.

Given how hard it is to create a sophisticated graphic design app, Linearity has done a remarkable job — especially for the free products. There’s a good reason it has a 4.7 score in the App store.

Graphic

In 2015, Autodesk purchased a vector editing program called iDraw and renamed it Autodesk Graphic.  A few years later, they sold it to Picta, which changed its name to Graphic for iPad.

The graphic has more features and options than Vectornator, but it costs $8.99. Is it worth the price?

Crisp Execution of Basic Features

Graphic is a well-designed product.

It has a clean, professional interface, and it’s pretty straightforward to use.

It has all of the basic features you’d expect: pen and brush tools for drawing and sketching, a variety of customizable shape tools, plenty of features for transforming text, etc.

It handles layers gracefully and allows you to drag-and-drop to rearrange the order of strokes, fills, and effects.

And in addition to the iPad app, it also has an iPhone app and a Mac version.

Additional Options and Features

Graphic does have a decent number of options and features that Vectornator lacks.

For example, Graphic can import PSD, AI, SVG, PDF, PNG, GIF, TIFF and JPEG files, and it can export in PDF, SVG, PSD, PNG, and JPEG.

It also has a few more options for shadows as well as adding inner and outer glows to shapes.

It offers more options you can customize that are designed to make it easier to create detailed technical designs, floor plans, and schematics.

And it has a nice brush editor that allows you to edit or create your brushes.

Reusing Your Work

The biggest advantage of Graphic over Vectornator is that it’s designed to make it significantly easier to reuse your work.

You can create your own libraries of custom shapes, and it comes with sample libraries for mockups, floor plans, and symbols.

And with the Copy Style and Paste Style commands, you can quickly transfer one object’s style to another.

Depending on the type of work you do, these options could end up saving you enough time to justify spending $8.99 easily.

Support

Graphic’s support is a little better than Vectornator’s.

The graphic has a terrific, free 116-page user guide, and it has a substantial number of tutorials.

But if you need help, Graphic doesn’t have a robust online community you can turn to.

Summary

Graphic is a solid product, and if it was the only alternative to Vectornator for full-time design professionals, it would be well worth the extra cost.

Affinity Designer

At $19.99, Serif’s Affinity Designer is by far the most expensive app in our comparison. What do you get for your money?

The Power of the Desktop on an iPad

Affinity Designer was originally designed as a lower cost competitor to Illustrator.

So for the app, they took as much of the power of their desktop version as they could and optimized it for the iPad. The results are impressive.

Like Vectornator, Affinity Designer nails all of the vector editing basics.

Where it really stands out is in the number of features and options it gives you.

Take colors. In addition to basic color options, Affinity Designer offers CMYK, RGB 8, RGB 16, RGB 32, LAB, and Grayscale as well as full 16-bit per channel editing and end-to-end ICC color management.

Best of all, its color swatch panel has a full Pantone library.

Affinity Designer also gives you a lot more control over your brushes.

Out-of-the-box, it comes with 100 brushes. It’s easy to customize the or create new brushes, including modifying how they work with touch and the Apple Pencil.

The same is true for fonts; Affinity Designer gives you more features and more options for insuring your text has just the right look.

And if you make a mistake? Affinity Designer will let you undo and redo to your heart’s content. It saves over 8000 history steps. If you save a graphic’s history on one platform, you can use it on another.

Importing and Exporting

Affinity Designer comes with a wider range of import and export options.

For example, you can export your graphic as an SVG, PSD, EPS, PDF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF or GIF.

When you’re exporting, Designer offers live preview see you can see exactly what the exported version will look like.

It also has an option for what it calls Continuous Export.

Say you’re creating a vector graphic you’re going to animate.

Usually, every time you make a change to the graphic, you’d have to export it out of your vector graphic tool, then reimport it into your 2D animation software.

With Continuous Export, every change you make in Affinity Designer would automatically be pushed to your animation software.

Not only could this option save you a lot of time, it could also change the way you work.

If every tweak to the spacing between two eyes or a subtle change in the color of a hat involves the aggravation of exporting and importing, you’re less likely to experiment or play around to get exactly the impact you’re looking for.

Manipulate Vectors and Rasters

Another nice feature that could save you a lot of time is the Pixel Persona, a raster mode that allows you to work with pixels.

Pixel Persona will let you tweak an icon’s pixels, make a small touchup to a photo, or add more texture to your vector design.

It’s also great if you are working on a more complex design and need to quickly sketch out some options.

Obviously, you could do all this through one of the many iPad drawing apps and then import the result into your vector editing app. But by having pixel power available with just one touch of the screen, this feature could end up saving you lots of work — and lots of aggravation.

Zoom on Steroids

Whether you’re working with pixels or vectors, being able to quickly change the graphic’s magnification can be a huge timesaver. Affinity Designer makes it super easy to zoom in and out.

It claims to be able to be able to zoom in by more than 1 million per cent.

And it can zoom in and out at a speedy 120fps.

A UI Optimized for the iPad

Packing all of these features, options, and customizations into a single app is no small feat, and Affinity Designer does a really good job of it.

Its user interface feels like it was designed by people who understand and love the iPad.

It still takes a bit of getting used to; there are an awful lot of options. But Affinity Designer tries to make it as easy as possible.

For example, with Tooltip you can reveal the name of every menu and tool — a common strategy on the desktop but still rare on iPad.

It also tries hard to get out of your way. For example, if you start drawing on the part of the cameras that a toolbar covers, the toolbar is automatically hidden.

If you aren’t sure how to do something or you get stuck, you got plenty of options for help. There are lots of free and paid tutorials and courses online.

And Affinity Designer’s community forum is robust and fairly friendly.

Summary

Affinity Designer isn’t cheap. But you get a lot for your money.

Vectornator vs Graphic vs Affinity Designer: Battle Of The Vector Apps

Should you get Vectornator, Graphic, or Affinity Designer? It depends on who you are.

If You Aren’t a Graphic Designer

If you’re an MBA creating a startup and you need to come up with a quick and dirty logo or if you are a developer who needs to mockup your app’s user interface, you can’t go wrong with Vectornator. For a free app, it packs an impressive punch.

Vectornator doesn’t provide you with the number of options and customizations that Affinity Designer does.

But do you really need 100 brushes? Would you even know what to do with them?

Vectornator is also a pretty decent long-term bet if you want to get your feet wet with graphic design but you’re not sure how much time you’ll end up spending on it.

Sometimes, there’s a significant downside to picking a free tool if you’re a beginner.

You’re going to end up putting in a fair amount of time getting comfortable using the tool, and if you outgrow it, that’s a lot of hours you’ve just flushed down the drain.

But the company producing Vectornator has pretty solid financial backing, and they’ve been adding new features to Vectornator at a pretty good clip. If you decide to go pro in a year or two, it’s quite possible that Vectornator will have grown enough that you don’t need to switch.

If You Are Starting Your Career in Graphic Design or are a Pro

But if you’re a professional graphic designer or planning on becoming one, it’s certainly worth spending $19.99 on Affinity Designer.

Affinity Designer has far more features and customizations than either Vectornator or Graphic, and it has much better community support.

Given that most iPad apps are free or cheap, spending almost $20 on just one app can feel like a lot of money. But it’s a really good deal compared to the value you will get out of it.

You are going to use whatever app you choose for hundreds if not thousands of hours a year. For the price of a week’s worth of lattes, you can save yourself a lot of time — not to mention a lot of pain and suffering. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article on Vectornator vs Graphic vs Affinity Designer: Battle Of The Vector Apps

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