You mention Gravit, which has an interesting background story to it. I believe it exists today because Freehand users rallied against Adobe when Adobe discontinued Freehand?
Freehand would have been a true Illustrator alternative, had it not been killed off by Adobe. Same for Creature House Expression - I absolutely love what creative tools and options Expression offered. Microsoft acquired it, re-developed it (but I still preferred the original), and then killed it off again. Expression still to this day pulls off things that would be hard to achieve in the current crop of vector applications.
If you look around on the web, you should still be able to find Expression 3.3 for both Windows and Mac. I believe it also runs in WINE.
As for Gravit: after all those years of development it is still way too basic in regards to features - compared, PhotoLine offers more vector illustration options, and PhotoLine’s primary focus is on bitmap editing.
Affinity Designer is coming along nicely. Good feature set. I still have not added Designer to my toolset, because for some reason the developers at Serif have not implemented a number of fundamental tools that other vector applications offer: vector patterns, symmetric node handles, arrow heads, an adjustable ruler origin, and other missing workflow enhancements that are missing for me. And some basic tools are extremely clunky to work with - for example gradients and patterns. Finally, the lack of vector warp/distortion in Designer is aggravating.
I mentioned some of these things to them, as well as the terrible custom bevel layer effect quality. Unfortunately, I got booted off the Affinity forum for comparing Affinity with PhotoLine too much. (Which I understand, but I did have good intentions - but the forum moderators felt differently.)
Until that time when Affinity Designer is improved I am using a combination of PhotoLine and Inkscape for vector editing (and sometimes I still run Expression 3.3 for artistic brushes). What is pretty cool is that PhotoLine’s developers allow Inkscape to be used as an external vector editor with live round-trip editing: once Inkscape is set up as an external application link and the exchange format is set to SVG, vector layers and groups of vector objects can be sent to Inkscape, edited, and saving the file will update the vector layer or group in PhotoLine. And the link remains live: keep changing stuff, and after each save PhotoLine updates the layers again.
I prefer this workflow now for various reasons:
- Inkscape offers pretty good vector editing tools. Transforming a group of selected nodes is for example supported.
- Inkscape offers many vector effects, and tools such as a good bitmap–>vector converter.
- Inkscape (as you mentioned) misses pre-press options and the lack of CMYK is problematic. But PhotoLine supports all that, and combining both applications gives the best of both worlds.
- PhotoLine’s new vector patterns and on-screen fill controls are excellent. Gradient and pattern editing is, in my opinion, superior to Affinity Designer at this point. There is no comparison.
- and PhotoLine’s vector toolset is actually not bad at all (does more than Gravit ;-).
I found that PhotoLine and Inkscape balance out their relative shortcomings in vector editing quite nicely.
Having said this, I am keeping an eye out on Affinity Designer, and I am planning on getting a license soon.
By the way, Blender has a number of tricks up its sleeve in regards to bezier editing as well. The dev teams working on the various vector apps could do worse than taking their cue from those.
As for Affinity Photo I can be quick: I prefer PhotoLine. There is just too much missing in Affinity Photo for the work that I do - I rely a lot on non-destructive editing, and PhotoLine blows Affinity Photo out of the water at this time (smart objects, instanced layers and masks, externally linked layers, smart live filter support, and more). Although I am jealous of Photo’s web/app export options, which are missing in PhotoLine, and the painting tools are somewhat better in Photo (but why Affinity’s devs refuse to add a stroke smoothing option eludes me).
But you are right: Krita is brilliant, and I combine Krita with ClipStudio for digital paint jobs anyway. Krita and PhotoLine work well together again with the app link, and both applications share similar philosophies regarding the layer stack, which is nice.
Aargh! If only we would have one app that would have it ‘all’.