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7 Affinity Photo Tips for Beginners

affinity photo tips for beginners

Affinity Photo is a versatile image-editing tool; you can use it to make all sorts of changes to your photographs, from simple color correction to multi-layered image creation.

In this article, I’ll share with you some of the most helpful Affinity Photo tips to get you started. By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll be ready to dive in and start editing (and, in time, you’ll come to love using Affinity Photo to enhance your files).

A quick note before we get started: The key to mastering photo-editing software is a combination of learning and practice. I encourage you to read a tip, then practice until what you learned becomes easy. Only then should you repeat the process. If you try to learn too much at once, you’ll probably forget most of it and become frustrated!

1. Familiarize yourself with Affinity Personas

Personas are workspaces in Affinity Photo; they’re the areas where you carry out a variety of tasks. Each Persona has a specific focus. They are:

  • The Develop Persona, where you apply basic edits at the beginning of the RAW processing workflow.
  • The Photo Persona, where you’ll do most of your serious editing.
  • The Liquify Persona, where you can do advanced pixel manipulation.
  • The Tone Mapping Persona, where you can manipulate the image dynamic range.
  • The Export Persona, which is used when you’ve completed work on an image and want to save it in a particular format.

You’ll find the Persona icons at the top left of the Affinity window:

Affinity Photo Tips illustration of personas

To master each of these Personas takes considerable time and practice. Begin by familiarizing yourself with the purpose of each one. That way, you’ll know which workspace best suits your needs when editing.

2. Start by straightening and cropping your photos

When editing a new image, one of the first things you often need to do is straighten and crop. Fortunately, Affinity Photo makes these operations pretty painless.

You can apply a crop or a straightening adjustment in either the Develop or the Photo persona. Select the Crop icon from the Tools panel or use the keyboard shortcut (C).

A grid will be displayed over your photo:

Affinity Photo Tips illustration of crop and straighten

To straighten the shot, hover your mouse over any of the four corner handles. Your cursor will change to a curved, two-headed arrow, and you should simply click and drag in the desired direction.

To crop the image, click and drag on one of the four handles along the edge of the grid, then drag the edge until you achieve your desired composition.

3. Eliminate spots and distractions with the Removal tools

In the Develop Persona, you can remove spots using the Blemish Removal tool. Click on the relevant icon in the toolbar or press “L” on your keyboard. Your cursor will change to a circle; you can adjust the size of the Removal tool using the square bracket keys ([ and ]).

Then click on the spot or blemish you want to remove and watch as it disappears!

In the Photo Persona, you do have more control, so it’s easier to do complex clone jobs. Click the Clone icon in the toolbar or press “S” on your keyboard to select the Clone tool.

To pick your clone source area, press and hold the Alt/Opt key and click the relevant spot. Then paint with the brush over the pixels you want to replace. (As with the Blemish Removal tool, you can resize the brush with the square bracket keys.)

Cloning in Affinity Photo

4. Easily create selections using the Mask tool

If you want to adjust portions of your image while leaving other areas untouched, it pays to master the art of selection.

To make selections in Affinity Photo, hit the “Q” key to access the Mask tool. Then paint with a white Brush (hit the “B” key) over the area you want to select:

Affinity Photo Tips illustration of mask tool

To refine your selection, click the corresponding layer in the Layers panel and type Alt/Opt+Ctrl/Cmd+R. This brings up the Refine Selection window. You can then carefully paint over edges where you’d like to improve the selection accuracy. Click Apply to render the changes.

In the Refine Selection window, you’ll have many additional options to help you control the accuracy of your selection:

Refine mask tool in Affinity Photo

Once you’ve created a good selection, the sky is the limit! You can sharpen or brighten the selected area, add beautiful color grades, and so much more.

5. Use Live Filters for non-destructive editing

In Affinity Photo, you can apply non-destructive edits thanks to Live Filters. These are like regular filters, but they’re applied non-destructively like adjustment layers. You can mask them, change them at any time, and move them up and down in the layer stack. 

Live Filters can be used to sharpen your photos, adjust shadows and highlights, do denoising, and much more. To find the Live Filters options, click on Layer in the top menu, then select New Live Filter Layer:

Live filter example in Affinity Photo

Once you’ve accessed the Live Filters options, just experiment and have fun! They all work without affecting the original image, so you don’t need to worry about permanently modifying your photo; any change you make can be revisited and tweaked as much as necessary throughout the editing process.

6. Do some dodging and burning to improve your photos

The Dodge and Burn tools are possibly the most underused editing options you’ll ever encounter, but they’re two of my favorites. You can access them in the Tools menu or by pressing “O” on your keyboard.

Note that painting with the Dodge tool will lighten portions of the image, while painting with the Burn tool will darken areas down.

I do recommend setting the opacity lower than 100% to keep the effect subtle. Choosing to work on the Shadows, Midtones, or Highlights – an option available in the main menu – offers even more fine control:

using the dodge tool in Affinity Photo

As with any Brush tool in Affinity, you can adjust the size using the square bracket keys ([ and ]). You can also manage the softness of the Brush edge to suit your edit.

7. Add text to your image for a personal touch

For those who want to turn their photos into cool graphics, Affinity Photo offers two methods to add text: the Artistic Text tool and the Frame Text tool.

Select the Text icon on the tools menu or press “T” to initiate the Text tool, then choose one of the two options listed above. With the Artistic Text tool, you can click and drag to adjust your text size. This is great when you want to add just a little text to your image. 

You can also click and drag with the Frame Text tool, and you’ll see a text box that contains any text you type. You can then select the text to resize it, change the color, or change the font. Once you have your text in place, you can apply all sorts of interesting adjustments until it looks exactly as you want it.

Affinity Photo Tips text

Affinity Photo tips: final words

I hope you’ve found these Affinity tips helpful; they’re designed to whet your appetite and get you started on your Affinity Photo journey!

Once you dive into this editing software and understand the essentials, you may find yourself unable to stop. Editing photos to get them just right can be addictive.

Starting out with new software is challenging. Take your time and enjoy the process. Make time to practice these tips and any others that you pick up. As you gain experience, you’ll start to get a feel for how Affinity Photo works and what it can do!

Which of these Affinity Photo tips do you plan to use first? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Leaf with water drops
Nikon D800 | 55mm | f/8 | 1/400s | ISO 200

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Kevin Landwer-Johan
Kevin Landwer-Johan

Kevin Landwer-Johan is a photographer, photography teacher, and author with over 30 years of experience that he loves to share with others.

Check out his website and his Buy Me a Coffee page.

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