Is Affinity Photo About to Replace Adobe Photoshop?

Prepare for a photo editing software showdown as Affinity Photo and Adobe Photoshop go head-to-head.

Portrait for EnvatoBy Envato  |  Updated December 7, 2020

There have been a whole host of Adobe Photoshop competitors through the years. Yet, each and every time, Photoshop does enough to maintain its position as the industry-leading photo editing software. Software such as Pixelmator and GIMP have tried, and are still trying, to dethrone Adobe Photoshop. It’s stood its ground for 27 years and continued to innovate (though sometimes inconsistently) to maintain its position ahead of the competition. However, it’s fair to say that through this period of time there has never been as much competition in the photo editing industry as there is now.

Macbook desktop view

01. Design

Affinity Photo software

Not to say that Adobe Photoshop’s design is bad – it’s far from it, and has very few usability issues. However, Affinity Photo is a step above in terms of software design. From the iconography and positioning, to the overall spacing and layout, Affinity Photo beats Photoshop in most noticeable aspects. It is clear they have defined a clear focus on designing the software from the ground-up, questioning each and every element of the software as opposed to cloning what has come before it.

The design is cohesive, not overly crammed with icons or panels by default, and also has the neat feature whereby the windows can be separated (see above).

Winner: Affinity Photo

02. Customizability

Customizable keyboard

Both softwares are excellent in terms of customizability. Photoshop edges ahead just in terms of its ability to install a wide range of extensions/plugins, and aspects such as filters. Affinity Photo is well on its way, however. One particularly useful feature is its fully customizable shortcuts, making it quick and easy to enhance your productivity using their comprehensive set of shortcuts, or by setting your own. The ability to separate panels and customize toolbars easily also has a lot of potential upside.

Winner: Adobe Photoshop

03. Performance

Having tested both softwares on Mac, Affinity Photo was slightly quicker in opening and handling a large photo file. The exporting of assets was very similar in terms of time.

Adobe photoshop and other icons on a macbook

Affinity Photo is 344 MB and Adobe Photoshop is 881 MB, both compared on Mac. Affinity Photo therefore takes up considerably less space upon installation, remaining lightweight while carrying much of the functionality offered by Photoshop. Photoshop, however, does provide a much more wide-ranging and extensive featureset once past the default editing features. This is why it is such a staple for industry professionals and thus justifies its size.

Winner: Adobe Photoshop

04. Price

This aspect will be kept short and sweet. Affinity Photo wins without even second of consideration. A standard Adobe Photography plan is around $12/month. With this, you are tied down for 12 months at a time, with a cancellation fee on early termination of your plan.

Affinity Photo's one off price

Affinity Photo on the other hand, charges a one-off fee of $49.99. With this there are no monthly fees, no hidden costs, and no yearly commitments. A lifetime’s use of Affinity Photo costs the same as four months of Adobe Photoshop use (when locked into a 12 month contract).

Winner: Affinity Photo

05. Maintenance

Affinity Photo clearly has a very talented and dedicated team of professionals working on the software. The commitment by Serif to try and oust Photoshop as the industry-leading tool is beginning to pay off as the software gains greater appreciation. There was a period where Photoshop had been neglected somewhat, with updates appearing rather sporadically and being more reactionary rather than proactive. While Photoshop now updates software more regularly, it is hard to see past the complacency that has occurred in the past when they are presented with little competition. Affinity Photo appears to be highly proactive in maintaining and updating the software with new features and bug fixes.

Winner: Affinity Photo

06. Featureset

Adobe Photoshop clearly has an enormous featureset, and a popular and well-used one at that. While not to the same level, Affinity Photo does offer a wide range of features similar to those found in Photoshop. It has opted to present a more focused suite of features which are exceptional to use and executed in a well-designed manner. While Affinity Photo does not offer the depth of features found in Photoshop, it does offer a number of features which are innovative and unique.

features on adobe photoshop

Particularly of note, and well worth a try via the free trial, are the high-end filters, 30 different live-blend modes, extremely accurate selection tool, and flexible export settings.

Winner: Adobe Photoshop

07. Viability

Viability is the most important aspect of all. Does the Affinity software allow itself to take over as the industry standard any time soon? The short answer is no. Shifts in design software take many years and a considerable amount of effort and commitment on the part of the software team. We saw the same with Sketch and how that has now supplanted Photoshop as the industry standard user interface design tool. The photography sector is on another scale in terms of its enormity.

Photo editing is immensely popular and is done by amateur and professional photographers alike, not to mention graphic designers and marketing teams. As it stands, Photoshop is synonymous with photo editing – even non-photographers have heard of Photoshop. Its power as a brand is akin to that of Coca-Cola and soft drinks. Affinity Photo is on the right track. It is innovating, promoting competition on price-point – effectively doing all it can to compete.

The Winner Is…

Overall, Affinity is an excellent tool, and in my opinion is better at this point than Photoshop, and certainly an extremely viable alternative. For smaller companies, and individuals who do not have to remain with the .PSD filetype, I highly recommend it. But until there is a slow but monumental shift away from Photoshop, it would not seem that Affinity Photo will replace Adobe Photoshop as the industry standard tool.


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