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Adobe Illustrator alternatives for Mac

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› Adobe Illustrator alternatives for Mac
  • Published on May 15, 2015

The team at American Graphics Institute has a long and wonderful relationship with Adobe Illustrator. Our instructors have written books about how to master it, we use it for much of our own design work, and we teach Adobe Illustrator classes and workshops. With so much invested, it might seem unusual that this team of Illustrator pros is also happy to see the emergence of a professional-grade Adobe Illustrator alternative for Mac users.

The design tool that has emerged as serious completion for Illustrator is Affinity Designer. It is a drawing tool focused on the needs of design professionals, creating high-quality vector graphics. It can be used to comp websites, make graphics and icons, design marketing collateral, and anything else for which you might traditionally use Adobe Illustrator. It is only available for the Mac, and supports Retina displays.

Why Adobe Illustrator needs competition

Without serious alternatives, Adobe Illustrator had stagnated, and Adobe has become complacent about investing in upgrading the tool. The biggest change in the last few versions of Adobe Illustrator has been the modification of the background color so that the user interface is much darker. In a rapidly evolving technology landscape, it’s unfortunate that they haven’t been able to be more attuned to the many ways in which Illustrator is used, and improvements that would help those users.

It is also refreshing to see an alternative to the ongoing monthly or annual fees that Adobe requires for using the latest version of Illustrator. Users of Adobe Illustrator CC are required to consistently pay to use the application and access their files. If they stop paying, the application no longer works. Some critics have claimed that the Adobe Creative Cloud has become like paying a ransom. Without payment, the files and work you’ve built are not accessible. Affinity Designer rescues users in two ways. First, Affinity Designer requires only a single, one-time payment to use the app. There is no ongoing subscription required. Secondly, this new app can open and work with existing Illustrator files. This allows you to stop paying for a Creative Cloud subscription and make a one-time payment that is the equivalent of what a single month of a Creative Cloud subscription. When faced with the alternative of a single $50 payment to use an Illustrator alternative, or paying this amount every month to use Illustrator and the Creative Cloud, many designers and artists will likely consider the one-time payment a better option.

Importing Existing Files

If you’ve already created many pieces of artwork in Adobe Illustrator, you should be able to open and continue to work with them using Affinity Designer. It can open and share files using the Illustrator (AI, PDF) and Photoshop (PSD) file formats.

While Affinity Designer itself is relatively new, it comes from a company that has been producing apps for three decades, primarily for the Windows platform. With more than half of all Creative Cloud users working on Windows PCs, we would hope that a Windows version of Affinity Designer might also be in the works. You can get Affinity Designer from Apple’s App store for Mac OS.

About the author

 is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.

Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.