In this Design Cuts Live session, we were joined by vector artist, illustrator and dad, Pope Phoenix. Pope specialises in vector based illustrations and is continually sharing his knowledge to help the next generation on their design journey. In this session, he walked us through Affinity Designer and taught us some very useful shortcuts and tips!

Learn the Basics

To see the names of the different tools Affinity, tap on the tiny question mark. Each of those has a pop-out which explains its features and functions. Start with the rectangle tool. This has all the basic shapes that can simply be dragged out. The big arrow is a move tool that helps you to move things around. Hold with two fingers and drag to duplicate things. 

Pro tip: Pixel illustrations can be formed in Affinity Design. 

The Scale Tool helps rotate and move things from one point to another. Select the whole selection to scale the component and rotate as per your liking. This helps to move and control a lot of artwork easily. 

The Rounded Corner Tool

The Rounded Corner Tool helps grab any corner and form a shape out of that corner. For example, if you have any object like a square and you click on the tool, it will round the corners of the square. See the image below for reference. 

If you select all of the nodes at the same time, you can do all of those at once. Similarly, the same tool has different versions under it such as straight edges, cut out, concave, etc. You can also change the radius as per your liking. 

The Pencil Tool

The Pencil Tool helps draw lines. The color, weight and depth of the same can be changed. 

The Velocity Tool

The Velocity Tool has a flat solid line and the one with pressure can be used to draw heavy lines. This helps to create dynamic lines.

The Brush Tool

The Brush Tool and the Pencil Tool are very similar. With the Brush Tool, you can add different brush effects to the design. Once you start adding the color, you can play with its opacity and work with overlays to get different effects. 

There are various Vector Brushes to choose from. These can be adjusted by pulling forward or bending backward. 

The Pencil

The Pencil is a node-based tool that can be used to point and see how things are going to look. As soon as you drop the node, you can pull and twist it in different aspects and angles as per your drawing. You can also make adjustments.

The Smart Tool

The Smart Tool is like a pointed tool. The difference is that every angle drawn is on a curve, irrespective of dimension. It's almost impossible to get a complete stream aligned unless you really work hard at it.  This is best used for anything that’s flowy and more organic. You can also make adjustments to it later. 

The Polygon Tool

The Polygon Tool is helpful to draw straight lines. It is best used to make different kinds of shapes with straight lines. For example, the envelope shown in the reference image below. 

Pro tip: The Smart Tool is used for radius and the Polygon Tool is used for straight lines. 

The Line Tool

The Line Tool allows you to align segments. They cannot be connected or separated. For example, the railroad tracks shown in the reference image below. 

The Sharp and Smooth Tool

The Sharp Tool, much like the Polygon Tool makes things sharper. For example, it can turn straight lines into pointy lines. 

The Smooth Tool will help to curve any pointy lines.

Pro tip: In Illustrator, if you delete a node or an object, it breaks the line segment. In Affinity Design, when you delete a node, it adjusts itself and stays with the object. 

The Break Tool

The Break Tool helps separate the nodes into two pieces. This creates two new separate objects. 

The Join Tool

The Join Tool helps connect two pieces together. To do this, select the objects and then click on the Join Tool. 

The Gradient Tool

To add a gradient, select the item and it'll automatically adopt a color from either darker or lighter compared to the original color of that object, and then add a gradient to it. 

Pro tip: If you select multiple objects at once then it’ll take colors from all those objects and make a gradient. 

The Transparency Tool

The Transparency Tool helps create a transparent layer on the object. You can add it as a foreground or background and change the depth according to the composition. It helps with the lighting and creating different effects. 

The Crop Tool

The Crop Tool helps crop objects individually. It’s a great way to control what can be seen in the picture. 

Pro tip: To transfer from Affinity to Illustrator, make sure that your layers are set up correctly. Then export it into EPS, which is a universal file. This will help open it in the Illustrator. 

Create Strokes

Create multiple strokes and adjust the weight by adding effects. For example, the eye that Pope drew with the brush stroke.

Add Masking

Masking is a great way to organise all the layers. This also helps in controlling all the layers, so any changes can be easily made. 

Cut the Shapes

Select the objects, go to settings and click on subtract. This will help in cutting the objects.

You can also use the Layer Blend Mode and cut the shapes or adjust them.

You can draw on the images too as it is a Pixel persona. Create multiple pixel layers and draw with brushes.