Welcome to the first chapter of Up and Running with Affinity Designer.
Success when learning any new software application is to know enough to be able to get it to do what you need it to do. Starting out, you don't necessarily need to know every aspect of the interface, just enough to help you to take that next step. The goal of this chapter is to get you comfortable with the layout and location of Affinity Designer's main interface panels, toolbars, and menu items. Later, we will be discussing each of these areas in more detail, either in a dedicated section or as part of the three practical exercise chapters.
In this chapter, we're going to cover the following main topics:
- What is Affinity Designer?
- What's new in 1.10.x
- Understanding the user interface and its menu
- An overview of the Menu bar
- Main tools – Tools panel overview
- Toolbars – overview
- Studio panels – overview
- The document view and artboards – overview
- Navigation tools – overview
To follow along with the chapter and to get the most out of this book, it is recommended that you have an installed copy of Affinity Designer. Affinity Designer is available for Mac, Windows, and iPad and can be purchased, or a trial version can be downloaded, from the Serif online store https://affinity.serif.com/en-gb/store/ or from the Mac App Store. The exercises, examples, and screenshots in this book were created using a Mac desktop setup with an extended keyboard and mouse.
What is Affinity Designer?
Affinity Designer is a modern, state-of-the-art vector design and illustration application. It's used in everything from logo and illustration work to websites, advertising, UI/UX, and icon work. Since its introduction in October 2014, Affinity Designer's popularity has grown steadily and despite it being a relative newcomer to the creative industry, it is fast becoming a go-to, high-performance alternative for creative professionals, teachers, students, and enthusiastic hobbyists alike.
The future is very bright for Affinity Designer and since its introduction, the team at Serif, the creators of Affinity Designer, have also introduced Affinity Photo and Affinity Publisher, two companion applications that run seamlessly alongside Affinity Designer as part of the Affinity range of professional creative applications. Now is an excellent time to get to know Affinity Designer and add it to your creative toolset and with Up and Running with Affinity Designer, we're going to discover together why you should consider adopting it as a permanent part of your creative arsenal.
What's new in 1.10.x
The most recent update to Affinity Designer version as of this writing is 1.10.x. It is basically a performance and stability update with little to no real new features added. Since the initial 1.10 update there have been incremental updates 1.10.1, 1.10.2, 1.10.3… each addressing bug fixes and general improvements. Rather than listing all of them here as they are dynamic in nature and keep being added, please visit the Affinity user forum News and Updates page for the most recent up to date information.
Serif, the makers of Affinity Designer, themselves described the 1.10.x update in an online News and Update post on August 5th 2021 saying that "We're proud that the Affinity apps already offers class-leading speeds in many tasks, and for our latest update, we wanted to take a step back and really see what further levels of performance we could achieve". - Ashley Hewson, Managing Director Serif.
With 1.10.x they have undertaken a complete re-visit of memory management. This is apparently most noticeable when working in larger more complex files with higher numbers of layers and thousands of objects. These improvements are consistent across all apps and platforms. Windows, Mac, and iPad.
This update, while not sounding very exciting, is actually a good thing. By taking the time now to really look into performance and stability improvements they are setting the application up or laying the ground work for hopefully some exciting things to come down the road. Ideally in the not too distant future with version 2.0. Also remember Affinity Designer is not just a standalone vector illustration and design application. It's also the third part of a suite with two other applications (Affinity Photo and Affinity Publisher) that are designed to work as seamlessly together as possible, even sharing the same file formats. So, performance is crucial for a smooth experience moving between applications and within each application.
As outlined in their update post on July 28th, 2021, below are some other areas that have seen improved performance or have been added with the 1.10.x update:
- Improved performance when using linked placed images
- Improved performance with text
- Improved performance with embedded documents
- Improved performance with low memory conditions
- New selection options – Parent, Top and Bottom
- Improved IME text editing for Japanese and simplified Chinese languages
- Improved SVG import and export
- Added support for most emoji
- In the Resource manager, there is a new "Relink" option for missing resources, a new added "File Type" column and a new ability to link EPS files
- Assorted other small fixes
- Help and localization improvements
From the Stock Panel, Unsplash, the stock photography service has been removed due to a new licensing fee. Currently there is still Pixabay and Pexels stock photography services available.
The new update is free to existing customers of Affinity Designer. Each app in the suite has their own update versions found for all three Windows, Mac and iPad platforms on the online Affinity user forum.
Understanding the user interface and its menus
Before diving in too deep when picking up any new application, it's always good practice to get familiar with the broad landscape or "lay of the land" somewhat. To start with, in this section, we're going to take an overall look at the User Interface (UI) and learn where the important menu commands, panels, and toolbars are located. This way we can get a sense of how the application is set up and start to get acquainted and take advantage of some of its unique UI conventions.
Try to resist the urge to skip ahead if you can in these first few sections. Believe me, I understand the desire to get creating – it's what drove me to pick up the application to begin with, but you really don't want to miss out on something here that may prove invaluable down the road and a good grounding of the interface will help build your confidence when you do start creating that masterpiece.
Let's get started exploring the UI by opening up a new file. Launch Affinity Designer and go to File | New. Choose any page size from the available options (I chose letter size but for this, it really doesn't matter) and then click Create. You should be presented with a centered blank white page. Now if you have already opened the application and have been playing around and moving various panels about, you may want to set up your layout to look like mine, shown in the user interface screenshot in Figure 1.1, to follow along. To change to the same layout seen here, go up to the top menu, click and hold on View, navigate to Studio, and select the last option at the bottom of the flyout, RESET STUDIO. This will reset the Affinity Designer interface to its default layout and it should look pretty much the same as mine.
A note about the screenshots in this book
Screenshots that don't need to be printed in color are printed in black and white. Screenshots that are best shown in color will be in color. In some screenshots the UI type will be too small to read, however if the information or concept being discussed requires readability every attempt at enlarging it will be made. That being said, there are limitations to resolution and the size of some UI elements.
In practice in my day-to-day work, I find the light version a bit too bright for working with so I normally work in the dark interface mode. However, we will be using the light interface for all of the screenshots in this book for the main reason that they are easier to read at the sizes they are reproduced here. If you would like to change your interface to the light or dark interface option, go to Affinity Designer | Preferences (Mac) or Edit | Preferences (PC), locate the UI Style option, and select Light:
We will be discussing many of the user interface areas in more detail in Chapter 3, How to Customize Your Affinity Designer Workspace, but for now, let's just get familiar with the overall footprint of Affinity Designer's default setup. Let's begin with a quick tour of the interface.
The menu bar
Looking around the screen, we can see in the top left a horizontal bar containing a typical application menu bar with drop-down menu items: Affinity Designer, File, Edit, Text, Layer, Select, View, Window, and Help. We will cover these in more depth in the An overview of the menu bar section.
The Persona toolbar
Just below the top menu bar and still on the left-hand side of the layout, you will see the three Persona icons for the Designer, Pixel, and Export Personas. This is called the Persona toolbar. See The Persona toolbar section for a more in-depth look at the Persona toolbar.
The context toolbar
The Tools panel
The document view
The central workspace area containing my white page is known as the Document View. The dark gray area around my page also contained within the document view is called the Pasteboard. See The document view and artboards – overview section for a more in-depth look at the document view and pasteboard.
The Right Studio
The last area of the default interface to cover is the wide column along the right side of the layout. The area is known as the Right Studio. See the Studio panels – overview section and Chapter 5, Main Studio Panels and Managers, for a more in-depth look at the Right Studio.
Now that we have seen where the main areas of the interface are located in the default layout, let's begin to take a look at some of these individual areas a little more closely, starting with the top menu bar.
An overview of the menu bar
No chapter entitled Getting Familiar with the Affinity Designer's Interface would be complete without a quick look at the interface's top menu bar. As this is an overview, a lot of these menu items will be covered or touched on as we go through the book, especially in the three practical exercise chapters (Chapters 11-13). Once again, these menu bar items and the drop-down menu lists that follow are from the macOS desktop version of the software. There may be some slight differences in the Windows version, but overall, most are the same.
You may notice that the menu bar dropdowns in the following screenshots display some existing keyboard shortcuts that are already assigned here for many functions. Most are assigned by Affinity Designer while some are shortcuts that I have assigned for my personal workflow. We will cover assigning keyboard shortcuts in Chapter 3, How to Customize Your Affinity Designer Workspace, after which you will know how to create your own shortcuts that make sense to your working style.
The Affinity Designer menu
- About: Here you'll find the current splash screen with the Affinity Designer version number.
- My Account: A quick link to register or sign in to your account.
- Check for Updates: Use this to see if your version of Affinity Designer is the latest.
- Personas: Personas that are not currently active. Selecting one makes it the active persona.
- Preferences: Various Affinity Designer preferences.
- Services: macOS services.
- Hide/Show All: Hide or show Affinity Designer or other applications.
- Quit: Quit the application.
The File menu
- New: Create a blank new file or a new file from Affinity Designer artwork that has been copied to the clipboard from another Affinity Designer file.
- Open: Opens a previously saved file or a recently saved file.
- Close: Closes the current file.
- Save: Saves the file or saves a new file with a different name.
- Save as Package: Saves a separate "Package" file format containing all of the file's relevant resources and fonts.
- Save History With Document: Saves the current file's history.
- Edit/Reveal: Allow editing in Affinity Photo and Affinity Publisher. Reveal the file's location in the Finder.
- Place: Places an image in the file.
- Export/Share: Export the file in a variety of formats, including templates. Share the file using email or messaging, or add to libraries.
- Document Setup/Print: Edit or review the document setup. Print the document.
The Edit menu
- Undo/Redo: Undo or redo operations performed.
- Cut/Copy/Paste/Duplicate/Delete: Cut and copy with paste options as well as duplicate and delete.
- Defaults/Create Style: Define element defaults. Create styles from a selection.
- Dictation/Emoji & Symbols: Start dictation. Create styles from a selection. Browse text emojis.
The Text menu
- Show: Show text-related panels.
- Character: Adjust character options and positioning.
- Alignment: Adjust alignment and spacing.
- Styles: Create and adjust character and paragraph styles.
- Insert: Insert lines, dashes, spaces, and hyphens.
- Spelling: Check spelling and spelling options.
The Layer menu
The drop-down sections of this menu are as follows:
- Group: Group or ungroup selected or all objects.
- Compound: Create compound shapes (shapes with holes).
- Positioning/Editing/Transforming: Options for arranging, editing, and transforming objects.
- New Layer types: New vector layer, new pixel layer, new adjustment layer
- Lock: Lock or unlock object options.
- Hide/Show: Hide or show object options.
- Find: Manually find the selected object in the layer stack. This can be changed to automatic.
- Convert: Convert/rasterize options for objects or text.
- Convert Artboard: Converts an object to an artboard or an artboard to an object.
- Fill Mode/Layer Effects: Fill mode for self-intersecting shapes and the Layer Effects panel.
The Select menu
- Select: Select all, deselect all, or invert the pixel selection.
- Select Next/Select Previous: Select the next object or select the previous object.
- Select Same/Select Object: Select the same object attributes. Select specific types of objects.
The View menu
- Zoom: Document zoom options.
- Rotate: Document rotate options.
- View Mode: Document view mode options.
- Views: Create new views. Browse saved views.
- Show/Hide: Grids, guides, bleed, margins, and rulers.
- Lock Guides: Lock or unlock guides toggle.
- Studio: Drop-down list of all studio panels.
- Studio Presets: The ability to save and choose custom studio panel setups.
- Managers/Color Picker: Five document managers; the Apple Color Picker.
- View Point: Browse the next or previous saved viewpoints.
- Show/Hide Context Toolbar: Context toolbar toggle.
- Show/Hide/Customise Toolbar: Toolbar toggle. Customize Toolbar
- Show/Hide/Dock/Customise Tools: Tools panel toggle/docking. Customize the Tools panel.
- Toggle UI: Hide or show all UI panels.
The Window menu
- Modes: Normal mode or separated mode. Merge windows in separated mode.
- Minimize/Zoom: Choose whether the document fills the screen or is minimized to the dock.
- Fullscreen: Expand the window to fullscreen and hide the application menu bar.
- Floating Windows: Repositions floating windows.
- Filename(s): List of open Affinity Designer files.
The Help menu
- Search: Menu bar search for a keyword.
- Help: Launches the Affinity Designer application's help topics browser.
- Welcome…/Tutorial…: The former launches the welcome splash screen. The latter launches the tutorial website.
- Support: Launches the Affinity online user forum website.
Main tools – Tools panel overview
In the default interface layout, the Tools panel is located as a column of vertical icons on the extreme left side of the window. Depending on which Persona is active, the tools displayed will change in appearance, as shown here:
If you look carefully, you'll notice in the case of the Designer Persona tool panel in the default setup, there are some nested tools indicated with flyouts below other related tools. The Pixel and Export Personas currently do not have any default flyout tools, although this may change in future updates.
The default order of the tools is set up for them to logically work with one another. The types of tools or tool groupings are as follows: Design tools, Shape tools, Text tools, Selection tools, Retouch tools, and Export tools. The specific tools for each Persona will be covered in full detail in Chapter 6, Tools –Designer Persona, Chapter 7, Tools –Pixel Persona, and Chapter 8, Tools, Panels, and Process –Export Persona. As with many interface elements in Affinity Designer, you can customize how or which of the tools for each persona are shown, and you can even change the order if you wish. We will discuss this in much more in detail in Chapter 3, How to Customize Your Affinity Designer Workspace.
Toolbars – overview
In the default interface layout, the toolbars are located directly below the menu bar as two horizontal bars containing commonly used options, settings, and functions depending on what Persona you are currently in, what is currently selected, and what tool is currently active. They consist of the Persona toolbar, the Toolbar, and the Context Toolbar.
The Persona toolbar
As touched on earlier, the Persona toolbar allows you to select between the Designer, Pixel, and Export Persona workspaces. The ability to work in a dedicated vector, pixel, and export environment in one application is a definite advantage and is one of the strengths of this application. The seamless integration between Personas allows you to concentrate on creating instead of jumping in and out of different applications to achieve results. In some cases, the pairing of pixels and vectors together permits you to do things that are simply not available in other similar applications, such as pixel painting inside a vector shape with ease.
The type of project you are creating will determine which Persona you will want to work in. You will most likely be spending most of your time in the Designer Persona or the Vector Persona, which take advantage of Affinity Designer's excellent vector toolset. If you prefer more of a painting working style, you may spend more of your time in the Pixel Persona. If your work involves web design, UI/UX, or icon work, then chances are you'll be spending more time in the Export Persona. Generally, a combination of all three will come into play over the course of your work in Affinity Designer.
Along with the Tools panel, the Toolbar just to the right of the Persona toolbar is full of settings and functions you will use consistently over the course of a project. Most or all of these options can also be assigned hotkeys. Here you will find the options outlined in the following sections.
Synchronize default settings
The ability to synchronize object defaults allows you to change your default stroke or fill. The first icon when selected will adopt the current selected object's stroke and fill. The second icon will revert to the application default.
You are able to toggle your viewing mode from Pixel to Retina or Outline views. Pixel and Retina will display your vector artwork as pixels. This is handy when you want to see what your work will look like as pixels without having to export it. The Outline view will display all vector artwork as paths only, which is very handy when you need to see just the raw vector paths for precise adjustments.
Each object or element in Affinity Designer is placed on its own separate layer (layers are covered in detail in Chapter 9, Workflow: Layers and Objects). When an object is created or placed into your document, it can be positioned in front or behind an existing object, commonly referred to as the stacking order. The Order toolbar options allow you to reposition an element's stacking order or where it's positioned in relation to other objects' positions. To reposition an object, the object must be selected and more than one object can be repositioned at a time.
- Move to back – the selected object moves to the bottom of the layer stack.
- Back one – the selected object moves back one layer.
- Forward one – the selected object moves forward one layer.
- Move to front – the selected object moves to the front layer.
The next set of icons along the right of the Toolbar are Distribute, Align, and Space. They allow you to reposition multiple objects quickly and in predictable ways that might be difficult to achieve one at a time or only by sight. I encourage you to create and experiment with multiple shapes to really grasp these concepts.
- Left edges – the selected objects are distributed equally to the left.
- Horizontal centers – the selected objects are horizontally distributed centrally.
- Right edges – the selected objects are distributed equally to the right.
- Top edges – the selected objects are distributed equally to the top.
- Vertical centers – the selected objects are vertically distributed centrally.
- Bottom edges – the selected objects are distributed equally to the bottom.
- Left edges – the selected objects are aligned to the left.
- Horizontal centers – the selected objects are horizontally aligned centrally.
- Right edges – the selected objects are aligned to the right.
- Top edges – the selected objects are aligned to the top.
- Vertical centers – the selected objects are vertically aligned centrally.
- Bottom edges – the selected objects are aligned to the bottom.
In order to provide some clarity between the distribute and align functions, here are two instances of each that may help to visually explain how they are slightly different from one another. Compare the original element positions on the left to those on the right.
These two options in the default Toolbar setup work similar to Distribute Horizontal Centers and Distribute Vertical Centers by adjusting the Vertical or Horizontal spacing between two or more selected objects.
Affinity Designer's robust and extensive snapping options come in handy when the type of work you are doing requires precise movement, sizing, or positioning. The options are as follows – left to right:
- Force Pixel Alignment: Snaps vector objects by full pixels as opposed to half pixels, when moving, creating, or editing.
- Move by Whole Pixels: Constrains the movement of objects, nodes, or vector handles to full pixels.
- Snapping: When enabled, objects will snap to the settings specified in the snapping drop-down panel. See Figure 1.35 for the many options available.
Affinity Designer offers a standard range of Boolean operations. These options allow you to combine, slice up, or make holes in overlapping objects in order to make new objects. See Figure 1.37 for a simple visual depiction of Boolean operations. The options are as follows – left to right:
- Add: Objects are combined to make one new object.
- Subtract: The objects in front or higher in the stack will cut out the object on the bottom.
- Intersect: A new object is created where objects overlap or intersect.
- Xor: Creates holes in objects where two objects overlap.
- Divide: Slices up all objects into separate pieces where they overlap.
Earlier, we discussed the stacking order and how we can re-order or re-arrange objects with the Order options in the Toolbar. With Insert Target, when you create a new object, it's possible to target where your new object will be placed in the stacking order or even whether you would like to nest that new object inside of another object. The options in Figure 1.38 are as follows – left to right:
- Insert behind selection: Objects are placed behind the selected object when created.
- Insert at the top of the layer: Objects are placed at the top of the layer when created.
- Insert inside selection: Objects are placed inside the selected object when created.
With the Toolbar covered, let's take a look at Affinity Designer's Context Toolbar.
The Context Toolbar
The Context Toolbar sits just below the Toolbar and as its name implies, it displays options based on the context of whatever is selected. Text or shape options will differ from path or placed image options, for example. One thing to note: most of these options may be accessible in other panels as well, depending on what is selected.
The Context Toolbar is really just a convenient spot for quick access to the most commonly used options for the currently selected object and may not display all of the available options for each item. To access those, you will need to further navigate to the selected object's relevant panels or related menu items. For example, to add an Effect to a selected object, you will need to use the Effects panel.
In order to demonstrate the basic options presented by the Context Toolbar, I created a simple document with a variety of typical shapes you will likely use at one time or another inside of Affinity Designer. The document contains the word type, a couple of shapes, and an open path and a placed image.
When type is selected, the Context Toolbar editing options, available from left to right, are: font family, font weight and size, color, style – if applicable, paragraph justification, bullet or numbered listing options, line spacing or leading amount, and ligature information.
When a shape is selected, the editing options in the Context Toolbar, available from left to right, are: fill and stroke color; if it has a stroke or border, the stroke weight option will be available; for shapes that have corners like this rectangle, you will have options to have a single type of corner radius or different types for each corner, as well as size as a percentage of the overall shape's size or absolute-sized corners based on the measurement system you have set up (inches, centimeters, or pixels, and so on…). There are also options for the type of corner – square, rounded, straight, concave, or cutout. The next batch of icons from left to right are enable transform origins, hide selection while dragging, show alignment handles, transform objects separately, cycle selection box, and convert to curves.
Some shapes will have special options depending on the underlying parametric structure of the shape. Refer to Figure 1.21, the Tool Panels for a look at the current lineup of Affinity Designer's 18 different parametric shapes in the Designer Persona. For example, the Star Tool options, from left to right, are fill and stroke color, stroke width, icon for different star shape presets dropdown, curved edges, number of points on the star, inner radius size, outer and inner circle sizes, the same transform icons from the previous rectangular shapes options, and convert to curves.
Convert to curves
Convert to curves will convert a Shape tool to its base curve paths, losing the ability to change some of the above options, such as the number of points on a star. Unless you absolutely need to edit the paths of a shape, it's usually best to not convert it to curves so you can go back at any time and make shape adjustments if you need to. However, if you want to create a custom shape based on a Shape tool, you will have to convert it first to have access to the base curve paths.
When a curve, also referred to as a path, is selected, the Context Toolbar displays the editing options available. Depending on whether you have used the Move tool (black arrow) from the Tools panel or the Node tool (white arrow), different options will present themselves.
With the Move tool, the options from left to right are fill and stroke color and stroke weight.
With the Node tool, the options from left to right are fill and stroke color and stroke weight, convert the node type (sharp, smooth, and smart), and actions options to edit the curve (break curve, close curve, smooth curve, join curves, and reverse curve). The final option is transform. If two or more nodes are selected and the transform node icon is selected, a transform widget will be activated and will allow you to edit the node's position and rotation independent of the unselected nodes.
When a placed image is selected, the Context Toolbar displays the image name, the image size, a button to replace the image, whether the image has a fill or a stroke, and if it has a stroke, there will be stroke options presented in the dropdown.
Studio panels – overview
In the default interface layout, the studio panels are located on the right-hand side of the screen, in the area mentioned earlier called the Right Studio. They are stacked on top of one another with only their tabs displayed in the top row of the panels. Figure 1.47 shows a view of the Designer Persona Studio Panels, which have been dragged out of the stack and arranged so we can get a look at them. Some of the panels shown here are Color, Swatches, Text, History, Brushes, Layers, Effects, and Glyphs.
In order to see a list of all of the studio panels available in a particular Persona, go to View and navigate to Studio, and in the flyout, you will see all of the available panels. The panels with a checkmark beside them are already onscreen and should be viewable unless they are hidden behind another panel. In which case, just select the top tab and it will pop to the front.
We will be taking a closer look at all of the studio panels and their options and functions in Chapter 5, Main Studio Panels and Managers.
As of the writing of this book, there are 26 panels in total over the 3 Personas.
The document view and artboards – overview
The document view is the large central area where you will bring your artwork or designs to life. The document is surrounded by a pasteboard area where you can place elements or references you use over the course of a project that will not be printed or get exported in the final file. Additionally, elements that spill over the document view border into the pasteboard will be clipped at the edges and the areas that lie within the pasteboard will not appear in the printed or exported artwork. It's important to note that any elements that are in the pasteboard area will be saved in your file.
When setting up a new file, Affinity Designer gives you the option of a single-page document, as shown in Figure 1.48:
The type of work you do with Affinity Designer will determine whether you should work with single-page or multiple artboards. You can always start out with a single-page document and add artboards later if you wish.
The next three options are options that fall under what I like to call "design aids." They allow you to quickly reconfigure your interface to suit your needs as you work.
Sometimes you just want to view your document uncluttered and without the UI. A fast way to hide all of the panels and tools is to press the Tab key. This will hide all of the UI except for the top menu bar and leave just your document's content. Pressing Tab again will unhide the UI. Toggle UI can also be found in the top menu bar, under View | TOGGLE UI, right down at the bottom of the View menu dropdown.
Affinity Designer allows you to have multiple views of the same file open in the same document. Imagine you are working in a zoomed-in area of your document but would also like to see the whole document in another window. This is possible with New View. Go to View | NEW VIEW to create a new view of your current document.
So far, we have only shown the user interface in Normal mode. Affinity Designer also has Separated mode. In this mode, all of the toolbars and panels are basically floating on the screen. See Figure 1.51. This mode can be handy if you have two or more documents open and you want to see them all at the same time. Go to Window | SEPARATED MODE.
Navigation tools – overview
To pan your view in a document, choose the move tool, which looks like a hand, second from the bottom in the Tools panel. The default shortcut for the move tool is H. This will select the hand tool. If you press H again it will toggle it off and revert to the previous tool you had selected. Another way to achieve this is to simply press and hold the spacebar, which is also a toggle shortcut for the Move tool. Once you let go, it will toggle you back to the previous tool. Alternatively, if you have the Navigator panel on the screen (View | Studio | Navigator), you can also click and drag within this panel to pan the view.
There are a few different methods to zoom in and out of your document in Affinity Designer. Through experimenting with each of these methods, you will find what works best for you. I generally use a combination of a few of them.
The makers of Affinity Designer state that zoom levels of 1,000,000% are possible with this application (!).
Zooming – the Zoom tool
To zoom the view of your document in or out choose the zoom tool, which looks like a magnifying glass and is located at the very bottom of the Tools panel. The default shortcut for the zoom tool is Z. This will select the zoom tool. If you press Z again, it will toggle it off and revert to the previous tool you had selected.
In general, when zooming in or out, you can either click once each time to zoom in or out in 50% increments or you can click, hold, and drag out an area to quickly zoom right into that specific spot. As you drag, a semi-transparent blue rectangle will show you the bounds of what will be zoomed in when you let go. This is much quicker than multiple clicking and fills the document view with the area you specifically zoomed in on. Note this clicking and dragging an area behavior only seems to work when zooming in. If you try it with the zoom out tool, it will continue to zoom in.
Zooming – keyboard shortcuts
By far, you'll most likely prefer keyboard shortcuts for zooming in and out as you will be doing it repeatedly over the course of your time working in Affinity Designer and you'll want to keep it as efficient as possible:
- Zoom in/out: With the zoom tool active, its default is to zoom in. You can temporarily zoom the view out by pressing and holding the option key (Mac) or Alt key (Windows).
- Zoom in/out: While any tool is active, you can temporarily enable zooming by pressing the spacebar plus the command key (Mac) or Ctrl key (Windows) to zoom in. Or, zoom out by adding the option key (Mac) or Alt key (Windows) to that key combination. Letting go of these keys will revert the tool to what it was.
- Zoom in/out: With the zoom tool active or inactive (in other words, at any time), the (Mac) command key plus the + sign or (Windows) the Ctrl key plus the + sign together will temporarily zoom in the view, while the command key (Mac) plus the – sign or Ctrl key (Windows) plus the – sign will temporarily zoom out the view.
- Zoom to fit: The command key plus 0+ or the Ctrl key (Windows) plus 0 will zoom in the view to include everything on the document or artboards.
- Zoom to 100%: The command key (Mac) plus 1+ or the Ctrl key (Windows) plus 1. Depending on your document's unit settings (inches, pixels, and so on…), this will zoom in the view to where the document's size matches the screen pixels size.
- Zoom to Selection: The command key (Mac) plus the option key, plus 0+ or the Ctrl key (Windows) plus the Alt key, plus 0 will zoom your selection to fill the document view. If you are working with artboards, clicking on the artboards title in the document window, then choosing the Zoom to Selection method will center your artboard in the document window.
- Zoom to Actual DPI Size: The command key plus 8+ or the Ctrl key plus 8 will zoom your selection to the DPI (dots per inch) or print resolution set up in your document setup.
- Zoom to Actual Pixel Size: The command key plus 9+ or the Ctrl key (Windows) plus 9 will zoom your selection to the Pixel (pixels per inch) or pixel resolution set up in your document setup.
Zooming – mouse scroll wheel
Another way to zoom your view in and out is by using a mouse with a scroll wheel. This method can be fast as you don't have to click a shortcut key or the zoom tool in the Tools panel. To do this, you must have the Use mouse wheel to zoom option checked in Preferences | Tools. See Figure 1.54:
As with the zoom tool methods described above, zooming occurs from your mouse position. In other words, wherever your cursor is located in the document view, Affinity Designer will use this location to zoom in or out from.
Zooming – 'scrubby' zoom
Another way to zoom your view in and out is by enabling 'scrubby' zoom in Preferences | Tools. Scrubby zoom gets its name from the movement of panning or "scrubbing" your cursor left and right with the zoom tool active or temporarily enabled by the various methods described previously. Scrubbing left zooms out and scrubbing right zooms in. One thing to note with this method is that you will no longer be able to Power Zoom as described earlier in the callout as this 'scrubby' method overrides the ability to drag out a rectangular area to zoom in on. See Figure 1.55:
Zooming – the Context toolbar
Zooming – the Navigator panel
Finally, the Navigator panel, which we haven't talked about yet, is another way to zoom your document view in and out. Go to View | Studio | Navigator. There is a slider at the top of the panel that starts at a zoom level of 1% and goes up to 1,000%. It can go higher if you click the + button on the right side.
Another great feature of the Navigator panel is the document thumbnail view, which gives you not only great visual feedback on the zoom level but when you're really zoomed in, it allows you to navigate or pan your document without having to zoom back out to see where things are located. You can stay at the current zoom level and get to other areas of your document while still zoomed in. The transparent gray rectangle in the document thumbnail indicates the position and size of the main document window.
One of the great things about using Affinity Designer is the ability to rotate a document. This allows a more organic workflow similar to working with pencil and paper, especially when painting or freehand sketching in the Pixel Persona using a tablet or a pen display.
Rotating – menu/shortcut
To rotate a document, go to View | ROTATE LEFT or ROTATE RIGHT. This will rotate your document in 15-degree increments. Just below is the option to reset the rotation. If you find you are rotating your work on a regular basis, I would highly recommend you set keyboard shortcuts for each of these options for more enjoyable and efficient work sessions.
Rotating – scroll wheel
Another way to rotate a document is to use your mouse scroll wheel and the command key (Mac) or the Alt key (Windows) to rotate the document around the mouse location. Adding Shift will rotate around the document's center.
The result looks like this:
In this chapter, we've become familiar with Affinity Designer's default interface and touched on many key components of the software that we will continue to explore in more depth in the upcoming chapters. We explored the layout, tools, toolbars, and studio panels. We learned about the document view and how to navigate, zoom, pan, rotate, and generally get around in the application. In short, the knowledge acquired in this chapter will set you on a path of further exploration in the chapters to come and give you the familiarity and confidence to dig a little deeper into what Affinity Designer has to offer.
In the next chapter, we'll be looking at Affinity Designer's three Personas – Designer, Pixel, and Export, and see just what makes them so unique and powerful. We'll discuss the difference between vector and raster artwork, and finally, we'll have a look at options to export our artwork out of Affinity Designer.