Just as Serif is taking on Photoshop with its Affinity Photo editor and InDesign with Affinity Publisher, so Affinity Designer sees the company competing with Illustrator. This particular app was the first one to be released as part of the Affinity range, and over the course five years development has been strong.

Affinity Designer is a vector drawing app that, despite being amazingly cheap, offers professional-level tools that can be used for all manner of projects. While this is clearly a rival to the likes of Adobe Illustrator and Sketch, you'd be forgiven for initially dismissing it as being underpowered. But don't be fooled. Serif describes this software as a "stripped back, pro-end workhorse", and it's absolutely right.

Designer can handle huge documents with ease and gives you the option of switching between vector and raster workspaces, and the ability to work in RGB or LAB color spaces at up to 32-bits per channel. There is a wide range of vector tools available in the app, and vectors can have an unlimited number of strokes and fills for maximum flexibility. Grids and guides are advanced and powerful, and the isometric option will be welcomed by many users.

For anyone switching from Illustrator or collaborating with Illustrator users, the good news is that Designer can open AI and EPS file, although sadly it's not possible to save as AI. There are a number of both pixel and vector brushes depending on which mode you're working on and, importantly, performance is impressive.

For all of its brilliance, Affinity Designer is lacking in a few areas. It's a shame to see that there is no support for scripting or animation, and also that there is no plugin support. 

Ordinarily, there is a trial available that last just 10 days, but at time of writing this has been extended to 90 days. You'll need to register online though, as even the trial needs a serial code, which you can do here.

What's new in 1.8.3 (see changelog for more)?

- Fixed layers getting clipped to embedded documents would not get clipped
- Further boolean operation improvements 
- Tweaks to Alignment
- Fixed line caps on strokes with pressure profiles that have sharp pressure changes at the start getting incorrectly expanded
- Fixed loss of selection scope when deleting objects
- Improved boolean operations on large shapes

Verdict

Affinity Designer is an astonishing achievement by Serif; this is a highly accomplished design tool which fits beautifully into the Affinity range and serves as a genuine alternative to the big names such as Illustrator.