Affinity Photo, a Photoshop Alternative

Launched for Mac, but with a probable PC version in the future, Affinity Photo from Serif is not a single app aiming to gain market. Affinity Design was the first program, with Affinity Publisher as the next step in the development of a new Creative Suite.


Affinity Photo for Mac may well be the reason why Apple dropped their own Aperture photo editor and indexing system and will never launch the Aperture 4 Mac users were expecting. While many had to look elsewhere for options, some Mac users have waited for the surprise from Serif, a company that has mainly been on the PC camp, but this time decided to create a program that has Mac computers as destination.

The beta version of Affinity Photo launched last February, to an enthusiastic reception. Hailed as an alternative to Photoshop, the program took five years in the making, time enough to aim at redefining what professional photo editing software for Mac is. The beta version revealed that the software is blindingly fast and robust, and includes “high-end capabilities such as RAW processing, PSD import and export, 16-bits per channel editing, and ICC colour management. Over 230,000 people downloaded that beta version, really helping Serif develop the product further in the last 5 months.” Meaning it competes with Photoshop when it comes to photo-editing.

“One of the things we take really seriously is listening to our users,” said Tony Brightman, head of Affinity development. “The beta period has been invaluable to us and we’ve worked round the clock implementing the features and making the improvements the community has been asking for.”

The release version of the app features all the tools required for professional processing, including camera lens and exposure corrections, accurate adjustments, live filter layers, high-end controls for channels and masks, advanced layer handling, and built-in frequency separation editing. But perhaps the most remarkable feature of the product is how fast it is —nearly everything in the app happens live, in real time, as you work.

“The performance of the product is what we are most proud of,” said Tony. “We take full advantage of all the latest Apple technologies like OpenGL, Grand Central Dispatch and Core Graphics. What this means to the user is whether it’s a 100 megapixel image or a complex composition with 1000s of layers, you can still pan and zoom at 60fps and see live views of all adjustments, brushes, blend modes and filters with no compromise. It’s this speed and depth of features which really makes Affinity Photo a joy to use, and sets it apart from anything else out there.”


This is, some say, a Mac thing, so Windows users may not get to see Affinity Photo running in their machines. Still, the information is contradictory, as some sources indicate that a PC port is an option that Serif wants to investigate, after they’ve finished Affinity Publisher, which will be an Adobe InDesign alternative for Mac users. And potentially, if all goes well, to PC users, meaning Serif will have their own “Creative Suite” – or whatever they call the Affinity Design, Photo and Publisher trio – available both for Mac and PC.

Before we continue looking at Affinity Photo, let’s mention Affinity Designer, a vector graphic design software available for Mac, using the same power to run fast. Serif says that “working in Affinity Designer is always live – pan and zoom at 60fps, transform objects in correct z-order, make adjustments or apply effects in realtime and always see live previews of brushes or tools. Whether it’s a 100 megapixel image or the most complex vector drawing with thousands of curves, it’s still the same and never runs out of memory. You have never experienced anything like it.”

Affinity Designer, has achieved 5-stars in over 1700 App Store ratings in 31 countries—and was Editor’s Choice from day one, runner up as Best App of 2014, and received an Apple Design Award at WWDC in June 2015 for its incredible performance and capabilities. The program costs $49,99, but is available on the Mac App Store for $39.99 / €39.99 / £29.99 during a special promotion running until the 23 July. The normal price for Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo will be $49.99 / €49.99 / £39.99 per app from July 23rd. Both include English, German, Spanish and French languages, and are sold with no subscription charges!

Affinity Photo is the second in an all-new suite of professional creative software for the Mac being developed by Serif. The first, Affinity Designer, was launched in October last year and has already achieved incredible success—culminating in receiving an Apple Design Award just last month. The company is now hoping to build on that success by setting its sights on the lucrative professional photo editing market.


“The whole ethos around the Affinity range is producing incredibly fast, sophisticated tools that are focused to provide a productive workflow for creative and photography professionals” said Ashley Hewson, Managing Director of Serif. “We want to create game changing products, and we believe that Affinity Photo truly is a revolutionary photo editor”.

According to the goals the company has set, Affinity Publisher will be their next product, and alternative to Adobe InDesign. While these new programs may not be for all users or a way to directly compete with Adobe, they represent an alternative that many new users and freelancers may look at, for the value they offer. And competition is always a good thing as it stops companies from resting on their laurels. But Serif really has to develop their “Affinity Suite” for PC to really try to see if their Affinity Photo, to mention just one, is a real alternative to all Photoshop users, and not just for Mac users still dreaming of an Aperture that is gone for good.

 Affinity Photo Features

Engineered for Professionals

  • Open, edit and save Photoshop PSD files
  • RGB, CMYK, Greyscale and LAB colour spaces
  • End-to-end CMYK workflow with ICC colour management
  • Full 16-bit per channel editing
  • Open system colour palettes, .ASE Adobe swatches, and import Adobe ABR brush files
  • Work with all standard formats like PNG, TIFF, JPG, GIF, SVG, EPS and PDF
  • Panning and zooming is always live at 60fps with live previews, live tools and real-time editing
  • Open and edit massive images without compromising performance or running out of memory

Unsurpassed productivity

  • Full support for unlimited layers, layer groups, adjustment layers, filter layers and masks
  • Resize layers without any loss of quality. Lock, hide, duplicate and merge layers easily
  • Edit live filters, adjustments, effects, blend modes and masks non-destructively
  • Undo history can be saved with the document so you can always undo your changes
  • Task-focused workspaces for developing, post-processing, liquify and export
  • Work in windowed, full screen, or separated modes with fully customisable toolbars and drag and drop panels
  • Comprehensive vector drawing and text editing tools
  • Advanced snapping system with pixel perfect alignment when required
  • Export @1x, @2x, @3x from layers, slices or whole documents—continuously as you work!

Professional image processing

  • Open RAW and other images in a dedicated workspace
  • Adjust exposure, blackpoint, clarity, vibrance, white balance, shadows, highlights and much more
  • Recover detail thought to be lost by editing in an unbounded linear color space
  • Advanced lens corrections, including chromatic aberration, defringe, vignette and best-in-class noise reduction
  • Paint areas or use fully customisable gradients to mask adjustments
  • View histograms, blown highlights, shadows and tones as well as detailed EXIF information

Quality retouching and correction tools

  • Intuitive selection brush and refinement makes selections simple, even down to strands of hair
  • Instantly remove unwanted objects with an incredibly advanced Inpainting brush
  • Dodge, burn, clone, patch, blemish and red eye tools
  • Smooth and retouch skin with built-in frequency separation
  • Apply high quality single-plane and dual-plane perspective correction as well as fully customisable mesh warps—all in real time
  • Dedicated Liquify persona gives freehand control over warps, twirls, pinch, punch and turbulence

Advanced brush engine

  • Huge library of painting, drawing, textures and professional DAUB brushes included
  • Create custom brushes and nozzles with full control over advanced dynamics
  • Full support for Wacom and other graphics tablets, including pressure, tilt and shortcut buttons
  • Real-time preview of your nozzle—see what you are about to paint or erase before you do it

Fast, customisable effects

  • Massive collection of effects available, including blurs, distortions, tilt-shift, shadows, glows, lighting and many more
  • Customise all aspects with precise controls, seeing a real-time preview of the end result before you apply
  • Swipeable split or mirrored screen always available for before and after views
  • Choose to apply effects non-destructively with live effect layers, enabling you to erase away or mask effects after they have been applied

Built for Mac

  • Takes full advantage of the latest OS X technologies including OpenGL, Grand Central Dispatch and Core Graphics
  • Use the Force Touch trackpad to paint with pressure sensitivity
  • Fully optimised for 64-bit and multi-core processors
  • Supports regular, retina and multi-monitor set ups—including the latest 5k iMac
  • iCloud Drive support

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Journalist, writer and photographer since 1979, both print and online, with a vast experience in the fields of photography, software, hardware, web, aviation, History, video games, technology, having published content in almost all Portuguese newspapers…

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