PhotoLine V22 is out!

PhotoLine 22 was released this weekend. PhotoLine is a versatile all-purpose image and graphics editor, with support for both bitmap and vector in one application.

This release adds:

  • non-destructive vector path booleans
  • channel control per layer (for example, only activate the red channel)
  • multi-channel image support: duotones, tritones, etc. are now possible, including spot colour support
  • vibrance adjustment layers
  • a range of vector editing improvements: editable colours for vector patterns, transforming groups of multi-selected vector points, multiple selected anchor points can be moved together, and more
  • placeholder layers (comparable to smart objects) options have been extended
  • pages panel improvements
  • pixel grid and document anti-aliasing settings
  • PSD import loads vector layer masks
  • jpg2000 import and export with LAB support
  • PDF multichannel DeviceN support
  • the option to turn off scrollbars in the document window
  • the option to turn off retina resolution for document windows on Mac (speeding up processing without hardly any visible differences)
  • support for HaldCLUTs 3d colour tables
  • automatic table of contents generation for documents
  • many other workflow and tool improvements across the board.


Meh. I downloaded and tried it out. Looked like an eyesore when I first opened it up. Had to customise the colour of the UI to make it less so, but it didn’t change the very small and confusing icons layout. They really need to improve in the UI department, since the program looks lite it’s nearly two decades old by this point. Same for keybinds. Very few of the standard keybinds for essential tools are even mapped by default, so experienced Photoshop and Affinity Photo users will have a harder time finding stuff than is necessary. Not a very good user experience for newcomers.

A couple of cool ideas I noticed though. Creating straight lines in any direction felt pretty nice and the Magnifier panel to see your canvas up close without needing to zoom are nice. A shame the brush engine is pretty lackluster and there is no built in colour wheel panel that I can find.

The program is not without merit, but it has a long way to go before I would consider it as a serious contender to Photoshop or Affinity Photo for that matter.

I had similar thoughts when I tried it a while back.
I’ve found some of the tools quite interesting and overall the software seems to perform well.
Unfortunately, the outdated UI makes it difficult to work with it.
I hope the UI will get some significant improvement as, at that point, I think it could be an interesting option.

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I have a license of Affinity Photo, which I use for photo stacking and the odd panorama stack.

What I like in Affinity Photo:

  • 360 degree file support
  • much better painting tools compared to PhotoLine (I prefer Krita and ClipStudio over Affinity for this.)
  • some filters (like the lighting filter) are incredibly well implemented
  • complex blending with curves is a nice option
  • beautiful grids and snapping options
  • export persona has potential. (no preview, though?)

It is however severely lacking in major areas:

  • no 1bit image support
  • no duotone, tritones, etc. Multichannel is not supported.
  • RAW developing is destructive
  • liquify is destructive
  • no option to turn off anti-aliasing (the coverage map is not a solution)
  • no free transform option to drag one of the corner handles individually (I use this all the time)
  • a placed image’s pixels cannot be edited without losing its non-destructive transform. It even crops areas lying outside the work area when it is converted to a pixel layer.
  • no blend vector tool (designer, but PL has it and it is non-destructive)
  • no non-destructive dehazing
  • the bevel layer effect’s quality is unacceptable when using a custom bevel curve
  • the Curves dialog is extremely limited compared to PL and PS. Can’t even set white, gray, and black points.
  • no procedural textures without manual coding (PL offers simple to use procedural textures)
  • not possible to apply non-destructive adjustment layers to layer masks
  • not possible to place PDF files in passthrough mode (fonts are required)
  • missing file formats: dxf, pcx, tga, emf, jpg xr, jpg2000, webp export, img, icns, ico, sbm, cur, paintshop, rawimg, sgi/bw/rgb/rgba/in, dds, bmp
  • gradients and patterns are not exactly fun to work with. Bitmap layer based gradients are destructive
  • gradient editing is a chore compared to PL.
  • very limited sampling algorithm choice (PL offers Catmullom, MitchelNetravali and these can be controlled per layer)
  • no scripting language support
  • actions in Affinity are fragile and lack options
  • no non-destructive warp tool (limited)
  • no bitmap tracing to vector
  • dodge/burn does not work in masks
  • layers cannot be protected from editing. No control over which aspects of editing a layer should be protected.
  • issues with masking in general. Sub masks, etc.
  • no built-in image browser, or mini-DAM (Bridge) / image management
  • working with/editing image meta data
  • free rotation of canvas
  • lack of basic selection options
  • no layer instances with realtime updating
  • layers rather limited: not possible to combine varying bit depths and image modes.
  • layer panel functionality is very limited (no filtering, no search function). Thumbnail size control is limited too.
  • limited interoperability with external apps. In PL files can be sent to other apps, and even round-trip editing is often possible. G’MIC is supported this way, for example.
  • tool settings are not remembered.
  • no web export preview (really?)
  • no option to export files with sidecar native file
  • lots of missing basic workflow options in various tools and areas
  • For professional print work that goes beyond simple CMYK, Photo is utterly unusable.

While Affinity Photo includes a number of really good things, the overall workflow, bugs, stupid little limitations and missing options and odd quirky behaviour drive me away from it for anything but the aforementioned tasks.

And PhotoLine performs better with very large and complex files in my experience.

And I agree with you that PhotoLine’s GUI is in need of an overhaul. The default setup it ships with is… not good. It is actually very configurable, and can be made to actually look quite nice, and its workflow behaviour is very configurable as well. But this requires extra work, and first impressions do matter. Ideally it would ship with a PS-compatible workspace setup with compatible shortcut key settings as a choice (similar to Blender’s industry standard option during start-up).

Aside from the default GUI, other things PhotoLine is lacking in:

  • painting tools are okay’ish (inking is very good though), but are in need of an update. No mixing/blend brush, and compared to other brush engines it is rather basic. The painting tools’ GUI is rather technical. Needs to be more artist friendly.
  • no photo stacking, no panorama stitching. The devs are working on stitching, though.
  • no page templates/master pages (yet?).
  • new file dialog really needs an overhaul which includes visual presets.
  • preset management for fills, patterns, etc. needs an update to improve asset management. It is workable, but somewhat painful.
  • automatic masking (hair, for example) needs an update and be improved.
  • no symbols.
  • colour picker needs update. Trangle wheel would be nice.
  • animation function should be integrated in the main viewport.

Both apps miss a dedicated index bitmap image mode. And both apps will not allow for direct pixel manipulation with selections compared to Photoshop (which works better for precise pixel work).

No app is perfect, unfortunately. Don’t get me started about Photoshop. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Luckily both apps are affordable, and I use both. But 98% of the time for my image editing and compositing needs I work in PhotoLine, with a smidgen of Affinity Photo. I await every new version of both with much glee and anticipation :slight_smile:

For me personally PhotoLine is far more capable/non-destructive and a real workhorse that adapts to my workflow. Affinity Photo may look nicer initially, but when digging a bit deeper, the workflow flaws become very, very apparent.

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Are you sure you aren’t the Photoline developer in disguise, @Herbert123? :grin:

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Affinity Photo at the very least doesn’t stop your brush lines in the middle of drawing them. Yes, that happened constantly in PhotoLine, which makes it completely useless for me. It might have some features Affinity doesn’t, but PhotoLine just isn’t good enough to work with. The most baseline of expectations I have of a Photoshop-esque software just isn’t there.

Just to bring up an example of why I don’t like PhotoLine, take the canvas rotation tool for example. The one in PhotoLine felt very rough to use and not polished like the one in Photoshop. I would rather not have the feature at all if it is as unpolished as the one in PhotoLine.

Also, liquify in Photoshop is destructive for non-smart objects as well, so it isn’t a completely non-destructive workflow either. I would like to know of a photo editing software with a completely non-destructive liquify tool, since that would be a pretty sweet feature to have.

That’s strange. I work with a large Wacom tablet, and no issues here. What kind of tablet do use?

True, the one in PhotoLine is not GPU accelerated via OpenGL as the one in Photoshop and Krita. That said, I am working on a 1200ppi A4 RGB canvas, and while it is not as smooth as PS or Krita, it works fine.

But to go as far as saying that you do not want such a feature at all because it is not butter-smooth: in Affinity canvas rotation is only done in fixed degree steps. So it shouldn’t be in there either?

And I do actually agree with you that PhotoLine’s painting tools are not good enough to use for digital painting jobs compared to Krita, ClipStudio, Affinity Photo and PS. That is why I am using the first two in that list instead.

It’s good enough for compositing and masking work, though. But I can’t lie here: I also wish the painting tools were on the same level, and prevent me from switching even for relatively simple painting jobs.

Liquify in PhotoLine is fully non-destructive, even with ordinary layers. And correct: it is the only image editor that does this.

The Liquify tool generates a Liquify layer, which can be turned on and off, duplicated, and the layer opacity controls the strength of the effect (from -200 up to +200). It is also possible to create multiple layers, building up changes, and to move the layer or transform it for interesting displacement effects. I know of no other software that does this.

It is also possible to reduce the resolution of a liquify layer to improve the performance at very high resolutions.

Which for me is the opposite: I prefer PhotoLine over APhoto for image editing and compositing jobs, and Krita/ClipStudio for drawing and painting.

It also runs standalone on a portable USB key, and runs fine on very old hardware (unlike PS and APhoto).

I wish. Seriously. The software is developed by two German brothers on their own. I live in Canada. :slight_smile:

If I had owned the software or were the developer, I would have hired a professional GUI developer 10 years ago, and hired one more developer to implement a modern brush engine. And one more to develop a Linux version (PL works without issues in WINE, with LittleCMS colour management).

I just disagree with the notion that PhotoLine isn’t a very capable or usable piece of software. Although I do agree the brush/painting engine is holding it back at the moment. And the GUI still needs more work - though in all fairness the GUI has seen vast improvements over the first version I used when Adobe went rental. I can fly in this software now.

The developers are very receptive to fixing paper cuts and other feature requests. I recall how I asked for multi-layer EXR support, and it was implemented within a month. Last year I asked for EXR Blender z-depth normalization, and it was implemented a short time later.

Anyway, I love working in it, and I should stop yapping now. I can only speak for myself and my experience with PL. I work faster than I ever did in PS (which I had used since version 3). It replaced Photoshop for me professionally, and I have done thousands of jobs in it by now. Is it perfect by itself? Nah. No software is.


I understand. I’m pleased to read that you’re passionate about Photoline. :+1:

I’ve tried Photoline about two years ago or so, when I still owned a Mac. I agree that it’s a very competent piece of software, with a dated UI / UX in need of a refresh.

Germans generally have a reputation of being very thorough. In the Amiga days a German game development team called Factor 5 was a big inspiration for my game development team back in those days. Their technical achievements on the Amiga were cutting-edge and very impressive. The same goes for the software created by the German Cebas (finalRender, finalToon, Thinking Particles and more). I’ve worked with that for a number of years in the early 2000s.

I also own this piece of graphics conversion and editing software for the Mac: GraphicConverter. Like PhotoLine it’s created by an independent German developer.

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I would say every app has ups and downs.

What is actually genius about Affinity is how all three apps work together in Publisher.

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Absolutely. I wonder why no-one else before came up with that - really brilliant.

It’s just a shame the Affinity apps do not support 1bit image mode, nor will it output a 1200ppi 1bit image over a 300ppi multi-tone one in PDF. And with the Affinity devs confirming Photo will never support a 1bit image mode, that leaves out a wide range of specialty printing jobs.

In my opinion a mistake of epic proportions, because it is not ready for printing professionals, nor will it ever truly be if the devs persist in this. They have said they may include 1bit export, but that really is not enough.

Try the following: import a 1200ppi 1bit image in Affinity Publisher, then select that image, and switch to Photo. Result: Photo converts to a low resolution greyscale version. Switch back without making changes, and Publisher restores the original (not that it can be exported properly to PDF).

Edit a single pixel in Photo though, and it will convert it to a RGB image, and send that to Publisher. Not. Good.

Multi-channel images (duo-tones, etc.) are not supported either, further limiting the range of rather mundane print work that can be achieved with Affinity.

Which means Affinity is fine for regular CMYK bitmap print work, but that is it for now. A huge limitation.

And not a limitation in Adobe, Quark, Corel, or PhotoLine. Or even the old Freehand.

To be fair, spot colours are supported, so that’s good.

I bought all the three apps but there are so many issues that I use them very little.
When, from time to time, I decide to give Affinity Photo another chance then I find new problems.
The most recent ones: 1) Cannot select the content of an hidden layer and 2) When using a brush with the wet edges on, switching back to a brush from the basic category carries over the wet edges setting. It’s possible to turn this setting off in the brush preferences but then you need to do it for all the brushes and for other external brushes. And it’s not clear why this setting is on for some brushes and off for others in the first place.

I own Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer for both Mac and Windows (I was slightly annoyed to discover I had to buy the full version of both editors again after switching to Windows).

I’ve also got a Photoshop subscription, because it comes with access to the great Adobe Portfolio site platform, and the Photoshop subscription price more or less equals an Artstation Pro subscription, which comes without Photoshop.

So I still use Photoshop. :slightly_smiling_face: I’m so familiar with that after many years that I don’t have to think about anything when using it. Also, the Content-Aware fill tools and the new AI-powered smart selections are very good. I also like the easy management of alpha channels, compared to the less user-friendly alpha management in Affinity Photo.

Then there’s GIMP. It has improved in the course of years, but it’s still created by coders who seem to have trouble achieving a really efficient, artist-friendly UI / UX, and it still relies too much on even more user-unfriendly third-party plug-ins.

Let’s not forget how old Adobe is vs Affinity.
I am not defending Affinity but that dev time should be keep in mind.

In my workflow I hate switching applications to do vector and bitmap work.
With Adobe you have too. In the 90s I worked with many technical illustration apps
and Affinity brought some of those workflows back.

But I agree that like Herbet pointed out the lack of 1 bit images is concerning.
Not only for comic art but for many other applications - while I have to admit I never made a one bit image in my field.


I own both, although AP is very competent piece of software, I would choose PL anytime as my everyday tool, yes of course it looks “ugly” but at the end, the clients see the final result of what they ordered not the UI of the software where it was made.

There is one thing that I know 100%, AP will never get vector drawing display as vectors, always as pixels, and in my job I need both, what is pixel is pixel and what is vectors I need to see them as vectors and this is a mayor drawback for me. Forgot to says that in AP when you transform a pixel layer as mask the workaround to revert that mask layer as pixel is tedious to say at least. On the contrary, in PL just uncheck the mask property and ready to go.

Color match, is another thing that AP is lacking of currently, plus vector fills which PL has both and so far it works flawless.

Definitely. I quite like the direction Affinity is heading. That’s why I bought both Photo and Designer again after moving from Mac to Windows.

At the moment Photoshop + a great platform for my portfolio for € 9.99 a month is quite reasonable. Even Lightroom is included in that price, although I never use it.

Once Adobe decides to increase their subscription price, I’ll go back to Affinity + Artstation Pro.

Adobe has some good packages - if you use it a lot it is also quite ok because the yearly price is similar accumulated what you might have paid for upgrades in the past.

In the end it really comes down to what you need.

If Adobe would be the best people would not have left it for interface design using Sketch.

I think it is pretty fair to say that Affinity Photo is really more a photo editor less an imagine manipulation app for Graphic / Print design.

Their stated point of not supporting a 1 bit work environment is in deed a little odd.

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An understatement.

Did you know that PhotoLine is the only image editor that supports full layer support for 1bit bitmap editing? Not possible in Photoshop, for example.

It makes things much, much simper when working on highres 1bit b&w scans.

You mean all the adjustement tool and further filters?

Yeah Photoshop has many that are not fully functional with every image/document bit level

Yes, filters and adjustments can be applied to 1bit layers, but most make no sense, of course (because many are meant to be used by RGB/HIS/LAB images and channels.

Layers work fine, though. Even transparency and blend modes are supported (but be careful not to turn on anti-aliasing, otherwise partial transparency is introduced). Not all blend modes work with 1bit images, of course.

Interestingly enough, neither Affinity or PhotoLine have a dedicated indexed colour mode. PhotoLine does have a reduce colour adjustment, which loads PAL palettes, so it is workable. But for pixel art I prefer to use Pro Motion NG, which works exclusively in indexed mode and supports layers/blend modes, etc. Photoshop again cannot work with layers even in indexed mode. It really shows the age of Photoshop, and how little has actually changed in the past 20 years.

I mean, even Photoshop’s 16 bit mode is actually 15bit (+1) with 32768 values. Again a legacy decision made at a time when processing power and memory were limited, but still not fixed in the current version of Photoshop.

That is why I am not such a fan of Adobe.

I feel that they tack on new stuff to make the apps look modern yet don’t touch the underlying infrastructure.

And don’t get me started on what they did with Freehand.