Outside of perhaps LumaFusion, Affinity Photo ($19.99 on App Store) is the most impressive app that I’ve ever used on the iPad. It continues to awe me with its sheer amount of depth, and the way that it’s able to closely mirror a full desktop experience on a tablet.

The problem with Affinity Photo is that it can be downright daunting for new users. As I’ll show you in this hands-on video, the app isn’t all that difficult to use once you understand a few basic features and mechanics. Join me as I walk through 25+ must-know tips for Affinity Photo beginners.

Use help and tutorials

Affinity Photo comes with a huge, searchable built-in help guide to assist with learning all of the app’s features. You can also access quick tool tips while on the canvas by using the question mark button in the bottom right-hand corner. On the main project screen, you’ll find several video tutorials and example files that you can use to learn more about the app as well.

Disable tutorials and samples

Once you have a decent grasp of how things work in Affinity Photo, you can disable the tutorials and samples that appear on the project library screen. Simply tap the gear icon in the upper-right hand corner, and disable ‘show tutorials and samples’ under the General tab.

Video walkthrough

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Access list of keyboard shortcuts

One of my complaints about Affinity Photo is that it doesn’t present you with a list of keyboard shortcuts while holding the Command key on a paired keyboard.

Instead, you’ll need to venture into the help section and search for keyboard shortcuts to find a list of available commands. And even then, the list is not complete; it’s missing a whole bunch of valid shortcuts.

Create a Project

Instead of dumping all of the files related to a certain project on the main library page, you can create a folder dedicated to the project by using the New Project option before creating a new file. This will provided a dedicated area inside Affinity Photo to house all related assets.

Like keyboard shortcuts, file management is not one of Affinity Photo’s strong points, but the ability to create dedicated project folders is helpful.

Importing documents from Mac version

If you save files in the Affinity Photo folder on iCloud while using the Mac version of the app, it’s easy to access those same files on the iPad by selecting the ‘Open From Cloud’ or ‘Import From Cloud’ options.

Hide the UI

Affinity Photo will automatically hide most of the app’s UI elements when you move towards the edge of the screen while manipulating the canvas, but you can hide the UI manually by tapping the ‘Hide UI’ button in the upper right-hand corner.

Pin Studios

Studios — located in the panel to the right of the main canvas, allow you to monitor and modify elements within the canvas. As you move about the canvas, the currently open Studio will disappear in order to give you a full view of your work surface.

Users have the option of pinning the Studio panel to keep it open for quick monitoring or modifications. To pin or unpin panels, tap the pin button in the upper right-hand corner of the currently open Studio.

How to Undo & Redo

Learning how undo and redo is one of the most fundamental things that any photo editor should learn. Affinity Photo features a pair of dedicated buttons just for this purpose.

How to access Undo history

The History Studio provides a full timeline of changes — with the oldest state being the topmost item in the list. You can tap an individual state to jump back, or use the slider at the bottom of the Studio to scrub through all available states.

Drag and drop images on canvas

Sadly, Affinity Photo does not yet support Split View on the iPad, but the app can still take advantage of iOS 11’s excellent drag and drop feature. Long press and drag an image from any eligible source directly to the Affinity Photo canvas. Once you see the green circle with a ‘+’ inside, release the image to drop it on the canvas.

Drag and drop into a new document

If you drag and drop an eligible item directly into the main Affinity Photo project area, a new document based on the imported photo will be created.

How to quickly zoom to fit

A two-finger tap will let you quickly swap between the current zoom location and a fit-to-canvas location.

Select other tools

Any tool that features an arrow in the bottom right-hand corner of the tool button features alternate tools. To access these alternate tools, select the initial tool button, and tap the tool button again to view all available options.

How to access layers

Layers are accessed via the Layers Studio, which is the topmost Studio in the upper right-hand corner. From there you can create new layers, rearrange layers, toggle layers, delete layers, etc.

How to use the Color Picker

Tap the Color Picker tool, which looks like an eyedropper, and tap and drag anywhere on the canvas. Once you do, you’ll see a loupe that provides a blown up view of the available colors on the canvas. Release your finger from the canvas to select the currently displayed color.

How to access the Color Wheel

To access the Color Wheel and other related color tools, you’ll need to open the Color Studio. The Color Studio is located right beneath the Layers Studio in the upper right-hand corner of the app. The Color Studio lets you manage and adjust colors, access a color picker, manage swatches, add palettes, and more.

Enable snapping

Snapping is an instrumental tool that can help you quickly align assets on the project canvas. Snapping can be enabled by tapping the Document button next to the Home button in the upper left-hand corner.

How to rotate canvas and assets

You can rotate the canvas by selecting the Rotate Canvas Tool located within the same button as the View Tool. You can rotate individual assets on a canvas by using the options within the Transform Studio, or by directly manipulating rotation via the rotation handle.

Input numerical values directly

Affinity Photo features lots of areas where you’ll need to insert numerical values, such as when adjusting rotation amount or asset dimensions. The app features handy sliders that allows you to easily adjust these values by hand, but also features a built-in custom numerical keypad for entering values as well.

To access direct numerical input, tap on a value instead of dragging your finger.

How to add text

My workflow often consists of adding text to images that I create for YouTube thumbnails, so needless to say I use the text tool a lot. To add text, tap the Art Text tool and tap the canvas to select the text insertion point. You can also drag your finger to configure the text dimensions before inserting text.

Text details, such as font and size, can be configured using the interface at the bottom of the screen. You can also use the Text Studio to modify text to a further degree. If possible, I recommend using an iPad Pro Smart Keyboard together with Affinity Photo for faster text entry.

How to change character position

Not only will you find basic settings like Font and Color inside the Text Studio, but you’ll also find settings that pertain to character positioning and management, along with paragraph spacing, justification, etc. Tap the Text Studio and select the Text Positioning option to reveal the full gamut of positioning tools. These include kerning, tracking, baseline settings, and more.

How to install fonts

A recent update to Affinity Photo makes it easy to install extra fonts via the cloud. Tap the Settings button on the main library page, and tap the Fonts tab. From there you can access iCloud Drive and select the font that you wish to install. Once a font is installed, it is immediately available to use within documents.

Adding effects

Effects like Shadow, Outline, and Gaussian Blur can be quickly added to canvas assets via the Layer FX Studio. Effects can be toggled via the switches next to each effect name, and customized by tapping on the desired effect.

Use the Selections Persona

Making selections is such a big part of the photo editing process that selections feature their own Persona, accessible via the lasso icon in the upper left-hand corner of the app. While in the Selections Persona, users are provided with a full toolset for performing smart selections, polygon and freehand selections, marquee selections, etc.

How to use alignments

Use the Transform Studio to gain access to advanced alignment settings for canvas objects. Using the Alignment Options link at the bottom of the Transform Studio, editors can access horizontal and vertical alignment along with object distribution settings.

How to export directly to a share location

One of the great things about Affinity Photo is its ability to export to a variety of different file types. File types include PNG, JPEG, GIF, TIFF, PSD, PDF, EPS, SVG, and more. The app allows users to export any of these formats to iCloud Drive, but you can also invoke the stock iOS share sheet to take advantage of features like AirDrop.


Affinity Photo, while not perfect, is an incredible experience for the iPad. It can take a while to learn its mechanics, but once you get used to the way the app works, it just clicks.

That said, Affinity Photo needs to improve in areas such as file management and keyboard support, but these are areas that can be fixed relatively easily.

Serif, the developers behind Affinity Photo and its sister app on Mac, Affinity Designer, have provided several major updates since the app launched. It’s safe to say that Serif will continue to provide valuable updates that lend notable enhancements to end users.

The 2nd-gen iPad Pro is the  perfect iPad for Affinity Photo

If you’re looking to invest in an iPad/Affinity Photo mobile editing setup, I definitely recommend using the latest generation iPad Pro. I’m currently using a 1st-generation Pro, and while it’s still no slouch, the 2nd-gen version is noticeably smother when editing in Affinity Photo.

Do you use Affinity Photo to edit on your iPad, or do you use another app?

Catch up on our other Affinity Photo features

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About the Author

Jeff Benjamin

Jeff produces videos, walkthroughs, how-tos, written tutorials and reviews. He takes pride in being able to explain things in a simple, clear and concise manner.