Affinity Photo is a strong competitor for Adobe’s Photoshop CC product on the Mac and now it’s an equally strong alternative for Adobe’s Photoshop on the iOS platform. I tried Affinity Photo on my iPad Air 2 and I was very impressed with it, especially the speed with which everything works — for example, you can see how effects will turn out in real-time before having to commit to them.
Watering down their Mac or PC offerings when they port them to mobile platforms is what many big software developers do. Serif, the company behind Affinity Photo on the Mac and now the iPad as well, hasn’t done that with Affinity Photo. Photo on the iPad is just as powerful and feature-complete as it is on the Mac.
Let me start by saying that, upon launching the iPad version of Photo for the first time, I felt like I really wanted to have a 12in iPad Pro. The iPad version of Photo has an interface that closely resembles the one you’re used to on the Mac. That means a lot of screen real estate is taken up by menus, toolbars and the likes at launch time, which fits the biggest iPad Pro you can get. Soon, however, I found that you can get rid of everything that gets in your way — effortlessly, even automatically.
Affinity Photo lets you access the levels of the toolbar by tap-holding a tool group and when you have what you need, the tool’s controls appear at the bottom of the screen. Round control discs with values displayed in the centre give you total control over everything that would be a slider on the Mac. Dragging with your finger or a stylus increases or decreases the values. I found the whole experience to be quite satisfactory, but a couple of icons could do with a bit of explaining.
The iPad version of Affinity Photo is not slimmed down in any way. It’s all there, from the development of RAW images to “inpainting”, brushes, effects, filters, colour management, masks, clipping masks, etc. — everything you have in the Mac version as well. The biggest difference is how you get to the images you want to edit. On the Mac, you first offload images from the camera into a folder using tools like Photo Mechanic’s Ingest feature or SilverFast scanner software, but no such frivolities are allowed on the iOS platform.
That doesn’t mean the iPad version of Affinity Photo offers you less functionality. The people at Serif built their own image loading and management feature into the app. The result is that you can load images (including RAW) from cloud services, your Mac and the iPad’s camera and Photo app. You can also create a new empty canvas, panorama, stack, focus merge and HDR merge project.
In many ways, I found the iPad version of Affinity Photo to resemble that other iOS powerhouse: the painting app Procreate — except for the facts that Procreate is a painting app and doesn’t exist outside of the iOS world. Better yet, if you want to paint and don’t have Procreate, I’m sure Photo on its own will oblige.
As for the competition, I think no other currently available image editing app on the iOS platform has the same feature set and enables its users to switch between an iPad and a Mac to work on their files, without ever noticing differences in terms of functionality.
There’s just one thing on my wishing list: Photo supports the Apple Pencil, but no other Bluetooth stylus. While the Adonit Pixel I only recently reviewed works great, it doesn’t support the many implicit controls you have access to when using the Apple Pencil.
The Photo app sells for $19.99 / €21.99.
For good measure: the Affinity Photo for iPad feature list
- 32-bit unbounded images can be composited and edited along with full Radiance HDR and OpenEXR file support.
- Pan and zoom 360° images, using the full suite of tools in Affinity Photo to edit them live.
- Create panoramas
- End-to-end OCIO colour workflows are supported, with the ability to move dynamically between colour spaces.
- Full text-style support to link the styles of text objects together.
- Work on perspective distorted areas of your image as you were looking at it straight on.
- Stack and merge multiple images together with different focal lengths for a large depth of field.
- Advanced snapping options including snap to grid, guides, auto alignment to other objects, along with forced pixel alignment.
- Offering full control over an object’s position, size, rotation and shear.
- A comprehensive set of customisable shapes, a pen and node tool, and full Boolean geometry operations allow for the creation of complex vector paths and shapes.
- Pantone support, end-to-end CMYK and ICC colour management alongside full PDF/X output including bleed, trim and crop marks.
- Instantly scrub through hundreds of undo steps with the history slider. Plus save your history with your document.
- Get feedback on your edits with histograms and scopes. Plus see blown highlights, tones and shadows live.
- Automatically align and blend together a series of images based on the same scene, allowing for differences to be removed, composited together of used for creative effect.
- Create custom brushes and nozzles with complete control over advanced dynamics, including full pencil support.
- View and edit image and layer channels, make masks from channels and create and add to selections based on channel data.
- Adjust kerning, tracking, shear, baseline and other character attributes. Easily set leading, indents, tab stops and justification too.
- Quickly crop and straighten images with a dedicated tool, including with thirds, golden spiral and diagonals overlays.
- A huge library of professionally designed brushes including effects, bristles, dry media, inks, markers, paint, and more.
- Dedicated colour picker tool to accurately pick a colour, including a single point or averaged sampling over an area of your image.
- Spin your canvas around to work at any angle, particularly useful when painting with Apple Pencil.
- Use the undo brush to revert specific areas of your work back to a previous state.
- Create super smooth gradients for overlays, shapes and masks – all with live tools to drag on-screen using touch.
- Add elegant text with OpenType and True Type fonts, including advanced OpenType features including Ligatures.
- Spellcheck on the fly
- Add body text paragraphs using frames as containers with full control of alignment, justification, character and paragraph settings.