When you’re working to tight deadlines, it’s more important than ever to save time without sacrificing on quality. In this article, we’ll focus on how keyboard shortcuts, workspace customisation, the Shape Builder Tool, symbols (linked objects) and global colours can be used to redefine your workflow when designing in Affinity Designer.
1. Use keyboard shortcuts
Knowing basic keyboard shortcuts can make all the difference when it comes to helping you accomplish more in less time.
Here are some basic shortcuts that may be helpful to commit to memory:
Undo (Mac: cmd + Z, Win: ctrl + Z)—the ability to undo a step without taking your eyes off the canvas can be a real help when focusing on your design.
Cut (Mac: cmd + X), Win: ctrl + X, Copy (Mac: cmd + C, Win: ctrl + C) and Paste (Mac: cmd + V, Win: ctrl + V)—it’s useful to have these handy when you’re looking to remove, copy or place objects from the clipboard.
Select multiple objects (shift-click)—this is great for managing several layers (or layer objects) all at once.
Toggle snapping (;)—it’s handy to be able to align objects relative to each other on the canvas, but sometimes a little more flexibility is required, so the ability to switch this on and off with a single key is extremely useful.
When it comes to tools, here are some favourites:
Move Tool (V)—for repositioning objects on the canvas at a moment’s notice.
Zoom Tool (Z)—home in on the fine details or go back to the bigger picture without losing focus on other aspects of your design.
Pen Tool (P)—create new lines, curves and shapes on the fly.
Colour Picker Tool (I)—grab and apply colours as you go.
2. Customise your workspace
When you’re designing, it’s good to be able to clearly visualise your workspace. Everyone has their own way of working—customising Designer’s workspace gives you the freedom to really play to your strengths.
Designer’s Personas can each be uniquely customised, allowing you to rearrange and store a preferred setup of Studio panels, tools or icons on the Toolbar for use at a later point.
The ability to choose which panels to show and hide makes it easier to navigate the workspace in a way you prefer. Panels can be displayed or hidden by going to the Window menu and selecting your panel of choice.
You can also move panels around to fit your way of working by dragging them. You can dock, group and resize panels, or hide all Studio panels by using Window>Studio>Hide Studio or just the left or right Studio panels using Window>Studio>Show Left Studio or Window>Studio>Show Right Studio, respectively.
To save studio presets for later, go to Window>Studio>Add Preset.
Saved studio presets can be loaded and edited at any time from the Window>Studio>Manage Studio Presets. From this dialog, you can load, rename or delete any of the presets you have saved.
If you’d prefer to go back to the default workspace setup, you can reset the studios within your active Persona by going to Window>Studio>Reset Studio.
3. Set up a grid
Grids are perfect for getting things positioned just right, saving you the trouble of guessing where elements of your design should sit.
You can set up automatic or fixed grids via the View menu—select Show Grid to display the grid, and adjust settings via the Grid and Axis dialog. When using automatic grids, the frequency of grid subdivisions changes as you zoom in and out, while fixed grids always keep the grid frequency constant no matter how far you zoom in or out.
Grids work well when combined with snapping. It may be especially helpful to enable the Snap to grid option (this can be done via View>Snapping).
Grids can be based on any document unit and also align perfectly with rulers, if these have been switched on.
4. Use Boolean operations
If you’re not sure what you want your logo to look like, or find you have a lot of different ideas on the go, Boolean operations are a great way to start experimenting.
More often than not, memorable digital logo designs tend to use a combination of basic shapes that are easy to recognise at a glance.
With Designer’s Boolean operations, you can build advanced shapes non-destructively, letting you play around with endless combinations until you find the one that works for you.
To combine shapes, with multiple shapes selected, you can select from a variety of Boolean operations on the toolbar.
The Add, Subtract, Intersect, Xor and Divide operations all make the newly created compound into something different, so it’s easy to create a range of effects with the same set of shapes.
If you hold down ALT while selecting a Boolean operation, you can create a Compound layer containing the shapes you originally selected. Doing this lets you edit the shapes non-destructively, meaning you can rearrange and transform shapes directly from within the Compound layer.
You can also change the Boolean operation applied to shapes within a Compound layer by clicking on its icon in the Layers panel and selecting one of the available options.
5. And/or the Shape Builder Tool
As its name suggests, the Shape Builder Tool allows you to quickly and easily add separate shapes together to build more complex ones. It can also be used to delete overlapping shape areas to create cutout effects, which can look great on logos.
With the Shape Builder Tool selected (you’ll find it located in the Tools Panel or by using the shortcut: S), you can create a new unique shape by simply dragging over the shapes/segments you wish to include and choosing the action you wish to perform—either by simultaneously pressing a relevant modifier key or by selecting one of the three options available on the context toolbar. These are:
Create a new shape from selected areas, and remove used areas from original objects—ctrl as you drag
Delete selected areas from objects—alt as you drag
Create a new shape from selected areas—shift + return as you drag
This short video shows how to add, subtract and intersect layers using the Shape Builder Tool.
6. Utilise symbols
Symbols are a game-changer when it comes to creating branding projects in Affinity Designer. They allow you to intelligently link objects throughout your document and over multiple artboards so when one object is edited, all other instances are automatically updated too, potentially saving you hours of time.
In order to create a symbol within your design go to Window>Symbols to ensure the Symbols Panel is visible or use the keyboard shortcut for ‘Create Symbol’ (Mac: cmd + shift + K or Win: ctrl + shift + K).
Now simply select the logo you would like to convert to a symbol using the Move Tool or via the Layers Panel, and then click Create in the Symbols Panel. To make sure all of your symbols update at the same time, you’ll also need to click Sync.
Now if you copy and paste the symbol elsewhere in your design or across multiple artboards, when you make changes to that symbol they will be reflected in all other symbol instances, in real-time—which is extremely useful if a client requests bulk changes throughout a design or project.
To learn more about utilising symbols in Affinity Designer, check out this video:
7. Work with global colours
Colour plays a huge role when it comes to branding. When designing logos, it helps to keep a copy of your brand’s colour palette handy at all times. That way, you can jump straight to your palette and grab your chosen colour in an instant.
One easy way to do this is to create global colours, which can be instantly applied to any object in your design. If you haven’t decided on a colour palette for your logo yet, this also gives you the perfect opportunity to play around with different colour combinations.
Global colours can be created from an existing object by selecting the object, choosing a document palette in the Swatches panel, setting the Stroke/Fill colour selector, then clicking Add current colour to palette as a global colour.
They can also be created from scratch via the Swatches Panel. Select a document palette from the palette pop-up menu (or, if no palette exists, you can create one from the panel’s Panel Preferences menu). With your palette chosen, from the Panel Preferences menu, select Add Global Colour. Adjust the settings in the dialog, then click Add.
If you want to change the colour across your design at a later time, you can simply edit the global colour in the Swatches Panel—all objects using the selected colour will update with the new colour automatically and simultaneously. This is extremely useful if you ever need to rebrand.
8. Use stock images
With Designer’s Stock Panel, you can access a range of stock images—perfect if you’re looking to quickly and easily gather research material and design inspiration for moodboards and referencing.
The Stock Panel acts as an in-app image browser that connects to one of several photo providers. From the panel, you can search each provider’s images, browse image thumbnails and drag stock images directly to the page.