Are you a beginner to Affinity Photo? Great! You’re in the right place! This article will cover everything you need to know to get started with this incredible piece of software.
In addition to this article, you can also watch our video tutorial on the top 10 things beginners want to know how to do in Affinity Photo.
Be sure to download these sample images, so that you can follow along with this tutorial.
Affinity is pretty much useless if you can’t open your images inside of it, so this seems like a great place to start. Luckily for us, it’s super easy to do!
Just go to the top of the screen to File, and then press Open.
Select the picture that you would like to open.
To open multiple images, just hold down Shift and click on as many pictures as you want. Then press Open.
At the top of Affinity Photo, you can see that all of our pictures have been opened in different tabs. By clicking on the tabs, you can move between each image that you have opened. How convenient!
If you ever want to close a picture, you can hover your mouse over a tab, and then press the X that appears.
Navigating the Interface
Before you can edit your pictures, it’s essential to understand how Affinity Photo is organized. Fortunately, the interface is very user-friendly, so getting used to where things are will be a piece of cake!
On the left side, we have the Tool Panel. It holds all of the tools that you need for editing your pictures.
Whenever you click on a tool, different options will appear at the top. These options are located in what is called the Context Toolbar.
On the right side of Affinity Photo, we have the Studio. Inside the Studio, we have panels that give us a variety of options. The most important panels are the Color Panel and the Layers Panel.
If you ever want to add or remove panels from the Studio, go to the top of the screen to View, then scroll down to Studio. Here you can turn any of the panels off or on by clicking on their name.
If you ever want to reset the panels to the way they were when you first opened Affinity Photo, scroll down to the last option, and press Reset Studio.
Affinity Photo also gives us the option to customize the Tool Panel. Under the View menu, scroll toward the bottom to Customize Tools.
Now we can click and drag on any tool in the Tool Panel, and move it out of the Tool Panel to remove it.
To add a new tool, click and drag on any of the tools, and put them in the Tool Panel where you would like them to appear.
You can change the number of columns that appear in the Tool Panel at the bottom of the screen.
If you want to reset your Tool Panel back to its original form, press Reset at the bottom of the screen. I’ll also change mine back to 1 column.
When you’re done customizing your tools, press Close.
At the top left, there are different personas to explore in Affinity Photo. Right now, we are in the Photo Persona, which is where you’ll do most of your work in Affinity Photo.
We also have the Liquify Persona, the Develop Persona, the Tone Mapping Persona, and the Export Persona. Persona is just another word for workspace.
When you click on any of the personas, different tools and panels appear. Each persona is used for a different purpose, but most of the time you’ll stay in the Photo Persona.
Let’s learn how to crop and straighten our photos. This is a quick and simple way to make your photos look a lot cleaner.
To crop a photo, we need to select the Crop Tool, either by selecting it in the Tool Panel, or by pressing C on the keyboard.
With the Crop Tool now activated, we can click and drag on any of the white handles to bring in the crop.
When you like how the crop is looking, you can press Apply in the Context Toolbar, or you can press Enter on your keyboard to confirm the crop.
The great thing about cropping inside of Affinity Photo is that your original picture is still there.
Just press C for the Crop Tool, drag the handles out, and the previously cropped parts of your image will appear again.
Another great feature of the Crop Tool is that it allows you to straighten your pictures.
With the Crop Tool activated, press Straighten in the Context Toolbar.
Then click and drag to form a line on any part of your picture where it should be straight. In this case, drag a line across the horizon.
When you release the mouse, the picture will automatically be straightened in relation to the line you drew.
You can also rotate a picture with the Crop Tool. Just hover your mouse over one of the corners of the image, and then click and drag.
After rotating or cropping, remember to press Apply in the Context Toolbar, or press Enter on your keyboard to confirm your crop.
Cropping inside of Affinity Photo really is as simple as that.
A beginner to Affinity Photo might think removing imperfections from a photo is something that only professionals can do, but Affinity actually makes it really easy to do.
In this photo, we’ll remove the poles in the lower right corner.
Before we remove anything, we need to duplicate our image. Press Command J (Mac) or Control J (PC) to duplicate this image. In the Layers Panel, we can see that we now have two copies of the same image.
The reason that we do this is so that we can work non-destructively. We can keep the original image safe by working on a copy of it.
We can make as many changes as we want to our duplicate layer, and the original picture will stay safe and unedited.
With the duplicate copy ready, we can begin removing the poles in the water.
Select the Inpainting Brush Tool by clicking and holding on the Band-Aid icon, then scrolling down to Inpainting Brush Tool.
All we need to do is paint over an area in the photo that we would like removed, and Affinity will automatically remove it.
Inpainting is smart content removal.
For this example, I’ll paint over the poles, and Affinity will remove them from the picture.
Almost like magic, Affinity Photo has removed the imperfection!
In this next example, we’ll continue using the Inpainting Brush Tool, but this time, we’ll use it to remove some small acne from Ezra’s chin. But before we make any changes, we need to duplicate the image by pressing Command J (Mac) or Control J (PC).
Next, zoom into the photo to see the acne better. There are a few options that you can use to zoom in.
First, you can go to the top of the screen to View, then Zoom, then press Zoom In.
I strongly recommend that you memorize this keyboard shortcut though, because it can really come in handy.
To zoom in, the keyboard shortcut is Command + (Mac) or Control + (PC).
To zoom out, the keyboard shortcut is Command – (Mac) or Control – (PC).
To see the entire photo on your screen, the keyboard shortcut is Command 0 (Mac) or Control 0 (PC).
After zooming in, you can move around the document by holding down the space bar while clicking and dragging across the image.
Before we begin inpainting, there are a few options that you can change in the Context Toolbar. Generally, when you’re working with the Inpainting Brush Tool, you’ll want to change the Hardness to 100%.
You can also change the size of your brush by adjusting the Width. Because we’re working with small imperfections, we’ll want a smaller brush size. I’ll change mine from 64 pixels to 30 pixels.
A great shortcut to change the brush size is to use the bracket keys that are underneath the equal sign on your keyboard ( [ and ] ). By pressing the left bracket key, you’ll make the brush smaller. By pressing the right bracket key, you’ll make the brush bigger.
With all of the settings adjusted, it’s time to start painting over the acne to remove it from the photo.
By using the Inpainting Brush Tool, it’s extremely easy to remove imperfections from a photo.
As great as this tool is, it doesn’t always do a perfect job the first time you paint over something. If that’s the case with you, just try painting over the area again, and it should look better the second time.
Adjustment layers allow you to non-destructively change the colors of your photos.
To apply an adjustment, press the Adjustment icon in the Layers Panel.
Now you have many options for adjustments you can apply to the picture. As an example, let’s try applying a Black & White Adjustment.
The picture is automatically turned black and white, but in the Dialog Box, we can change the sliders to affect how light or dark each of the individual colors becomes.
It’s important to note that every adjustment has different options and sliders in their Dialog Boxes.
If we decrease the Red slider, all of the reds in the picture will become darker.
If we increase the Red slider, all of the reds in the picture will become lighter.
For this image, I’ll decrease the Red slider, and adjust the other colors to what I think looks good.
When you’re done adjusting the sliders, you can close out of the Dialog Box.
To see a before and after, turn the Black & White Adjustment off and on by pressing on the checkbox next to its layer.
To make changes to the Black & White Adjustment, double click on the Black & White Layer icon.
The Dialog Box will re-open, and you can make more changes to the sliders.
To use adjustment layers effectively, you need to know that an adjustment layer will only affect the layers beneath it. Because the picture is beneath the adjustment layer, the picture is being affected.
To delete a layer, click and drag it to the trash can.
As another example of adjustments, let’s try enhancing the colors of the picture.
Press the Adjustment icon.
Apply a Brightness and Contrast Adjustment.
With this adjustment layer, increase both the Brightness slider and the Contrast slider.
If we look at the before and after, we can see that the adjustment is a little too strong.
Double click on the Brightness/Contrast Layer icon in the Layers Panel, then decrease each slider.
Now when we look at the before and after, we can see that the adjustment is looking much better.
Beginners like to over edit their images, making them look fake. The more subtle your changes are, the better your editing will become.
Try to make multiple small changes to your pictures, rather than one big change.
As a final example, press on the Adjustment icon.
Apply an HSL Adjustment.
With an HSL Adjustment, we can increase the saturation of the colors in our image.
Increase the Saturation slider.
Now we can see how the HSL Adjustment is improving our photo.
If we want, we can see a full before and after by holding down Shift, then pressing on the other adjustment layer. Now if we turn them both off at the same time, we can see a before and after.
There are many other adjustments that we could use to enhance our photo, but we won’t go over all of them here. If you’d like to learn more about adjustments, check out our complete beginner course, where we spend an entire chapter exploring the adjustments inside of Affinity Photo.
A mask hides or reveals parts of a layer. Masks are very useful, because they allow you to apply adjustments to specific parts of an image, rather than having the adjustment affect all of the photo.
A white mask means the layer is visible, while a black mask means the layer is invisible.
First, let’s learn the basics of how masks work.
With the image layer selected, press the Mask icon in the Layers Panel.
We can see that a white mask has been applied to the photo. Because of this, the layer is visible. If we paint on the mask in black, then the parts where we paint will become invisible.
Click on the Mask layer icon in the Layers Panel to select it.
Select the Paint Brush Tool.
In the Color Panel, make sure the color is set to black.
The checkered background means that the image is not visible where we painted. Painting in black made the layer invisible.
Fortunately, we can paint in white at any time to reveal the layer again. Switch the color to white, and paint some of the layer back on.
We can see that as we paint in white, the picture is revealed again.
Just like any other layer, we can turn the Mask layer on and off.
I no longer want the Mask layer, so I’ll click and drag it to the Trash Can icon.
Now that we understand the basics of masks, let’s see how they apply to adjustment layers.
Press the Adjustments icon.
Apply a Black and White Adjustment.
The great thing about adjustment layers is that they come with a pre-built masks. This means that we can paint in black or white to reveal or hide our adjustments.
Select the Paint Brush Tool, then paint in black across the shell.
The Black and White Adjustment is invisible where I painted in black. Because of that, all of the color in the original image is now visible.
If you ever paint away too much, you can always switch your color to white, and paint to reveal the Black and White Adjustment again.
I would also suggest that you lower the Hardness in the Context Toolbar to 0%. If you paint with 100% Hardness, then there will be very defined edges wherever you paint, making it look unrealistic.
Because we have the Black and White Adjustment layer selected in the Layers Panel, when we paint in black and white, we are removing and revealing the Black and White Adjustment.
If we have the image layer selected, and we paint in black or white, then we are just adding white and black paint to the layer.
One of the most common mistakes that beginners to Affinity Photo make is having the wrong layer selected. So make sure you have the right layer selected before you begin painting. 🙂
Selections are very important in Affinity Photo. They allow you to target specific areas of a picture.
The easiest way to make selections is to use the Selection Brush Tool. With this tool, just paint across the part of the picture that you want to select. As you paint, Affinity will automatically detect the object that you’re trying to select.
Paint across the moon to see how this works.
If you ever select too much, you can always change the Mode from Add to Subtract in the Context Toolbar. By changing the Mode to Subtract, anything that you paint will be removed from your selection.
You can also change the Width in the Context Toolbar, depending if you want to select a bigger or smaller object.
Now that we’ve seen that the selection isn’t perfect, we can refine the selection by pressing Refine in the Context Toolbar.
As you can see, we have quite a few options in the Dialog Box.
With this selection, we can increase the Smooth slider to remove the jagged edges from the selection.
Now we have a nice smooth selection going around the moon. When you are satisfied with your selection, you can press Apply.
Now we can apply an adjustment layer, and it will only affect the part of the picture we have selected.
Press the Adjustment icon.
Apply a Recolor Adjustment.
The Recolor Adjustment is only being applied to where our selection was. This is because a mask was applied to the adjustment layer, right where our selection was. We can see this by looking at the Layers Panel.
The adjustment’s mask is white in the area we had selected, and black wherever we did not have selected.
We can exit from the Dialog Box.
To de-select the moon, press Command D (Mac) or Control D (PC).
Because our adjustment has been applied using a mask, we can use the Paint Brush Tool to continue to refine the adjustment.
Press B for the Paint Brush Tool.
Anywhere that is painted in white, the adjustment layer will be applied.
By using selections and the Paint Brush Tool, you can be very precise in the areas that a mask is applied.
The mask was already looking great though, so I’ll undo this paint stroke by pressing Command Z (Mac) or Control Z (PC).
Changing the Background
Changing the background of a photo is another quick edit that beginners want to know how to do. To change the background, we first need to make a selection of the part of the picture that we want to keep.
We could make another selection of the moon, or we could use a shortcut to reload our previous selection. At anytime, you can create a selection from a mask.
Just hold down Command (Mac) or Control (PC), and then press on a mask icon. In this case, press on the Adjustment layer icon in the Layers Panel, since the adjustment layer has a mask built into it.
This is a very useful shortcut to remember.
Now that we have our selection made, we can apply a mask to our photo. We need to have the right layer selected (in this case, the Background layer), and then press the Mask icon.
Just as before, our mask has become white where our selection was, and black everywhere else. Now we can press Command D (Mac) or Control D (PC) to deselect.
If all you want to do is remove the background, then you’re done!
Just apply a selection of whatever you want to keep, then apply a mask.
If you want to give your picture a new background, we can copy and paste this image into a new picture.
First, open a new picture. We can use the shortcut Command O (Mac) or Control O (PC) to open a new picture.
Select the desert photo, then press Open.
With our desert picture open, it’s time to bring in the moon.
Return to the moon tab, then select the moon layer.
Press Command C (Mac) or Control C (PC) to copy.
Go to the desert tab, then press Command V (Mac) or Control V (PC) to paste.
Notice that we only copied the moon, not the adjustment layer. If we wanted to copy the adjustment layer as well, then we would need to have had that layer selected as well when we copied the moon.
Now we can move and resize the moon layer by using the Move Tool. You can find the Move Tool in the Tool Panel, or press V on your keyboard.
You can use the blue handles to resize the moon. You can also click and drag on the moon to move it around.
If you want the selection box to disappear, you can click anywhere outside of the box.
We’ve now successfully added the moon to the desert photo.
Adding text is very easy in Affinity Photo. All we need to do is select the Artistic Text Tool. The keyboard shortcut is T.
With the tool selected, click and drag to specify how big you would like the text to be.
Now you can begin typing.
If you would like to modify your text, first, press Escape to exit type mode. With the text box still selected, we can use the Context Toolbar to alter the text.
We can change the Font to whatever we want.
We can change the text size as well.
In the Context Toolbar, we can make our text Bold, Italicized, or Underlined.
In the Color Panel, we can change the color of our text.
With the Move Tool, we can resize and position the text.
If you ever want to continue typing, select the Artistic Text Tool again, then click inside of the text box. Then you can continue typing.
After typing some more, you might need to get the Move Tool back out, and reposition the text box again.
Saving and Exporting
If you want to save a file so that you can keep working on it later, go to the top fo the screen to File, then Save As. This will save your document as an Affinity Photo file, so all of your layers and adjustments will be editable.
Any photos you’ve placed in the file will be saved as part of the Affinity Photo file, so you can continue to use them in your document, even if you delete the photos from your computer.
If you are completely done with your picture, and want to export it, scroll down and click Export.
Affinity has a wide range of formats for you to export your work. The two most common formats are PNG and JPEG.
JPEG is useful because it will export your picture to a small file size. PNG is useful because it allows you to preserve a transparent background.
Since this picture doesn’t have a transparent background, let’s export it as a JPEG.
Right now, you can see the Estimated File Size is 1.85 MB. If we wanted to, we could change the Size at the top of the Dialog Box, or lower the Quality.
By lowering the Quality just a little bit, you can dramatically lower the file size. Lower the Quality to 95%.
The File Size has almost been cut in half.
Now that we have a small file size, we can press Export.
Give your picture a name, and choose where you want it to be saved. Then press the Save button to export your file.
Whew! You made it! I hope you learned a lot from this overview of Affinity Photo.
If you’d like to learn even more, be sure to check out our complete beginner’s guide to Affinity Photo. We cover everything you need to know about photo editing in much greater depth.
Happy editing! 🙂