Affinity Photo 2 is about flexibility and less frustration when your client asks for a different mockup

After well over half a decade of updating Affinity Photo without charging an update fee, Serif, the company that develops Affinity Photo, decided it was time to release a massive, paid upgrade. Affinity Photo 2 has a large number of new features that put a lot of power into your hands, and it still steers clear from using AI-assisted functionality.

The most important novelty must be the non-destructive developing of RAW images that lets you go back to change your develop settings at any time, regardless of whether you added additional layers or adjustments to your file. It offers even more flexibility as you can embed the RAW state into an image document file or link to it externally.

The masked knight and history repeating itself

A lot of what is new in Affinity Photo 2 is about this kind of flexibility. For example, brushes and other tools are remembered per layer and open with a click on an icon. This history is erased when you close your session. Color adjustments, however, have a history that persists across sessions.

Affinity Photo 2 has become a lot more powerful in the area of masking. Compound Masks is a good example. These allow for complex shapes more easily than painstakingly drawing them and are a godsend for people like me who always get frustrated by the time it costs to create an odd-shaped mask that actually looks the way I envisioned it in the first place.

With Compound Masks, you combine multiple mask layers together non-destructively and by using add, intersect, subtract and XOR operations create any shape you can think of. The separate masks that make up these compound masks can be maintained, adjusted and completely altered repeatedly.

Present as many different versions as you can think of

Another feature in the power department is that you can now save different visibility states of your layer stack to quickly review different design options or versions of your work. A pure soloist like myself won’t benefit much from this feature, but if you have to present your work — perhaps multiple, different versions of it — then this will be a time-saver. Affinity Photo 2 lets you create layer states manually to save your layer visibility as it currently is, but there’s also a “smart layer state” feature which lets you specify whether you want to turn layers on or off based on one or more criteria, including layer colour tag, layer type, layer name and lock status. This feature even includes regular expressions support.

Live Masks

A feature that lists under the category Live Masks is Luminosity Masking, which is the ability to mask specific ranges of highlights and/or shadows to apply controlled adjustments to those areas. The luminosity mask being a Live Mask, it updates automatically, based on the properties of the underlying image.

In that same category, you’ll also find Hue Range masks. These allow you to create a mask based on a specific colour range in your image. These Hue masks are a boon if you want to quickly and accurately create a monochrome “under paint” with non-masked colours of the image left alone. The UI for this mask type is very cleverly designed and easy to use. The Band-Pass mask is last of these Live Masks. It focuses on edges within an image.

Don’t iron that T-Shirt, Warp instead

For creating mockups of anything from books lying open on a page to a wrinkled T-shirt, Affinity Photo 2 now has Live Mesh Warp. This warp effect distorts an image depending on the surface of an underlying image. As with almost everything in the app, it’s non-destructive and intuitive to use.

For the 3D artist or texture lover

If you’re using Affinity Photo 2 for 3D projects, e.g. games, you can now adjust lighting information baked into existing normal maps. In 3D computer graphics, normal mapping, or Dot3 bump mapping, is a texture mapping technique used for faking the lighting of bumps and dents, but it is also useful for texture artists.

What you see and what you get

Affinity Photo 2 has received an interface cleanup. The tool icons, for example, are very nicely done, but with some it has become less easy to pin down what they stand for. Most interface changes, though, are welcome enhancements. My personal favourite is the Studio > Layers panel. It’s now very easy to see what type of layer it is, even if most of its content is buried beneath others on the canvas.

Finally, Affinity Photo, although it has always supported editing wide colour gamut and HDR images and supported HDR displays, now has the ability to convert HDR images into the JPEG XL format. It now supports WebP as well.


Affinity Photo 2 is an update with carefully selected new functionality and equally carefully made improvements. Worth mentioning is also that it loads about three (3!) times faster on my old mid-2017 iMac than the latest version of Affinity Photo 1. And, although some will disagree, I find it a relief the developers haven’t fallen for the “AI-assisted” features that take work out of your hands… until the AI proves not to be as powerful and intelligent as everybody is thinking it is and becomes more of an obstacle than a helping hand.

With a perpetual licence price of £144.99 / USD$169.99 / EUR 199,99 for all three upgraded apps, the Affinity creative suite is certainly not a deal breaker. Quite on the contrary, it’s cheap — I remember Adobe charging more for its perpetual licence of Photoshop CS3 at the time (some 6 to 8 years back) and that was for Photoshop only.

You can still buy the Affinity apps individually, but for a limited time, Serif offers a 40% launch discount making the whole V2 suite available for £89.99 / USD$99.99 / EUR 119.99 one-off cost with no subscription. That’s also the “upgrade” price, because in actuality, there isn’t one.

In view of that pricing and the app very regularly receiving updates that Serif could charge for as well, I’d say Affinity Photo is a bargain, even if it still lacks some features that Photoshop has.


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