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Getting Started With Affinity

For my friends just getting started with Affinity Publisher, here’s a quick thread on the things I had to learn after making some early mistakes, which you can take or ignore at your leisure. There’s a lot to be said for learning the hard way, it just takes a bit longer.

First, go here and check out the tutorial videos. They’re all worth watching, because they show you where things are in the UI so you don’t have to hunt quite so much, and they give a bit of insight into how Affinity expects you to use the application.

Tutorial Videos

For more ideas, the Affinity Revolution channel on YouTube has more in-depth tutorials on how to achieve specific effects, although they mostly work with Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer.

If you’re laying out a game with a cover, you CAN but don’t HAVE to give your cover a page master. If you’re planning to print, though, you will want to design your cover for print as a separate file so that you can account for bleed, spine, and the needs of your printer.

That being said: SET UP A PAGE MASTER FOR YOUR MAIN BODY CONTENT.

This will save you so much time, and will allow you to go back and modify your page design without having to repeat your changes on every page.

You can add page numbers and section titles or fixed text to your page master, too. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

If you’re using artwork, I recommend keeping your art as separate files in the same directory as your publisher file, in a folder you can recognize. That will let you keep the file size down on your afpub.

HOWEVER.

If you’re collaborating with other people, you’ll need to share the ENTIRE DIRECTORY with your collaborators. DropBox, Google Drive, iCloud, whatever your cloud storage solution is, make that the place where you do your work and store the resources.

If you’re setting up a PDF to print for booklets, Publisher’s Export tool doesn’t allow for booklet paging, it just exports the pages or spreads one at a time. When it’s time to print, you’ll need to “Print to PDF” instead.

Affinity Publisher doesn’t currently add bookmarks when you export your file to PDF, which means you’ll need to find a tool that will let you add them. My current solution to this is to just not make games that are long enough to need a table of contents.

If that won’t work for your needs, you’ll need to do some searching to find the tool that works best for you. (If anyone’s found a good one, drop it in the comments here!)

Internal hyperlinks might break the export process if your file is set up as spreads but you export to pages. That’s a bug that’s been reported to Affinity, but to my knowledge it hasn’t been fixed yet.

If you’ve got the budget for them, Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo work really well with Publisher. That means that if you need to, you can do pixel art and vector art right from Publisher–but you’ll need Photo and Designer (respectively) to do it.

That being said, I actually don’t recommend doing art within Publisher if you can help it; what you want to do is create your art as a separate file, rasterize it or export it as a PNG, and then link it into your publisher file. The application can sort of choke otherwise.

(And that choking might just be because my MacBook Air is seven years old and just doesn’t have the CPU and RAM needed to process that complexity.)

I…think that’s everything I’ve learned? If you’ve got specific questions, don’t hesitate to drop them below and I’ll answer them as I can.

Oh, here’s one more thing, and it’s not so much specific to Affinity Publisher as it is about layout and design in general:

It’s okay. Take a breath. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to follow conventional wisdom. There are no “bad fonts” or “good fonts”.

When you start doing work on a professional level, you might begin to feel like you have to suddenly put deeper thought into every decision you make, to do your design “the right way”.

I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to do that to yourself.

Remember that unless you’re working with a company that has an established style guide, the only rules you need to follow are the ones that help you create the thing you want to make. Allow yourself to make mistakes, to go off the beaten path, to experiment and fail and falter.

Save off multiple copies of your file so that you can return to earlier drafts more easily–then leap off into the abyss and see what feels good. Diagonal text? Sure! Pink text on yellow background? Why not!

Do you. Make your thing. Ignore what’s not useful.

I once made a mod for Baldur’s Gate that turned all the text to Comic Sans, and used that mod as an official tutorial for how to change the game’s fonts. That tutorial is published, which means that on some level the official modified font for Baldur’s Gate is Comic Sans.

So do the thing you think you’re not supposed to do. Just go do it. No one’s going to stop you. Take that power for yourself.