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In this article, I’ll be explaining all the main areas of the Affinity Photo layout for total beginners. I won’t go into full detail about every aspect of every feature in every persona (you’ll learn more about personas in this article) for Affinity Photo in this article as there are tons of features, but I will cover the main things you need to know about the layout.

You can also check out the video version of this article directly below, or scroll past for the full article:

Without further delay, let’s get into it!

Affinity Photo has 8 main layout areas, as shown in the photo above, that are mostly dynamic – with almost every area changing based on the “persona” you have selected. The main layout areas, as they are numbered in the image above, are: 1. Menu Bar, 2. Persona Toolbar, 3. Toolbar, 4. Context Toolbar, 5. Tools Panel, 6. Document View, 7. Studio, and 8. Status Bar. I’ll cover each of these areas at a beginner level in this article.

Persona is the term Affinity uses for “Workspace.” Because Affinity Photo uses a dynamic user interface, the program sort of revolves around the Persona you have selected. You can choose a persona to work in using the “Persona Toolbar” towards the top of the window (labeled “2” in the image above). There are 5 personas total – with the Photo Persona being the default workspace, represented by the Affinity logo on the far left of the Persona Toolbar.

I’ll explain the Affinity Photo layout mainly within the Photo Persona workspace as this is the default workspace when you first open the program.

1. The Menu Bar

At the very top of the interface is the “Menu Bar,” outlined in yellow in the image above, which contains all the menu options for your selected persona. For example, the menu options you see right now are for the Photo Persona (the icon for which is indicated by the red arrow in the image above). From the Menu Bar, you can perform actions like opening a new image (File>Open), saving your composition (File>Save), editing your preferences (Edit>Preferences), adding filters (Filters menu), or finding Help (Help Menu). The Menu Bar gives you access to all the program’s features, though there are often quicker ways of finding these features, like via the Tools Panel or the Toolbar.

2. The Persona Toolbar

Below the menu bar is the Persona Toolbar (outlined in yellow in the image above), as I’ve already mentioned. Here you’ll see the 5 personas you can choose from, which include the Photo (red arrow), Liquify (orange arrow), Develop (blue arrow), Tone Mapping (light green arrow), and Export (white arrow) Personas. Each Persona is its own workspace that contains tools, settings, and panels that relate to the main functions of that persona. For example, the Photo Persona contains all the tools, settings, and panels that relate to photo editing and photo manipulation.

3. The Toolbar

Affinity Photo Toolbar Photo Persona

Next to the Persona Toolbar is the Toolbar (outlined in yellow in the image above). This is essentially a quick-access area for common actions or features for a particular persona. In the Photo Persona (red arrow in the above image), you’ll see auto-adjustment icons (underlined in light green), selection actions like select all, select none, and invert selections (underlined in white), an icon to add a quick mask along with some settings for the quick mask via a dropdown (underlined in blue), grid and snapping options (underlined in red), an “assistant manager” (light green arrow)– which I’ll explain in more detail later, layer stacking order icons (underlined in purple), an alignment tool (blue arrow), and icons for placing items relative to active selection areas (underlined in pink).

If I select a different Persona via the Persona Toolbar, the icons in the Toolbar will change. For example, if I click on the “Liquify Persona” (red arrow in the image above), the icons in the Toolbar change (yellow outline in the image above). I won’t get into all the Toolbar icons for every persona, but know that these icons are dynamic and allow you to quickly access actions for each persona. I’ll click back on the Photo Persona to proceed with this tutorial.

4. The Context Toolbar

The next area in the Affinity Photo layout is the Context Toolbar (highlighted in yellow in the above photo). For those of you familiar with other photo editing programs, this is essentially your Tool Options bar – which displays custom tool settings based on the tool you have selected. In this case, I have the “View Tool” selected (red arrow – this is the equivalent to the Hand Tool in Photoshop). Since this tool doesn’t really have any tool options to display in the Context Toolbar, by default the image’s metadata (information about the photo like image size, color space, camera and lens information, etc.) along with the document’s display units (in this case “pixels”) is displayed here when this tool is selected.

If I click on a different tool, like the Gradient Tool (red arrow in the image above), the information in my Context Tool bar (outlined in yellow) will change to now display the tool options for the gradient tool.

5. The Tools Panel

Below the Context Toolbar on the left side of the user interface is the Tools Panel (outlined in yellow in the image above). This area contains all the available tools for working on an image or document. When you click on a tool icon to select a tool, your mouse pointer will change to reflect the tool you have selected, and the Context Toolbar will display the tool options for that tool.

Some tools are nested within tool groups, which you can access by clicking and holding your mouse on that tool group (red arrow in the example photo above), then hovering over the tool you want to select and clicking your mouse to select it (blue arrow). You’ll know there is a tool group when you see a little white triangle in the bottom right corner of the tool icon in the Tools Panel.

Each tool has a shortcut key to quickly select that tool, and tools within the same tool group share a shortcut key. For example, hitting the “M” key selects the first Marquee tool – the Rectangular Marquee Tool – in that tool group. Hitting M again will cycle to the next tool inside this tool group. I can continue hitting the M key to cycle through all the tools in this group until I get back to the first tool once again.

6. The Document View

The main area to the right of your Tools Panel is the “Document View” (outlined in yellow in the image above). This area will display the pixels from all the visible layers of your image or document. By default, your document view will likely not contain rulers (denoted by the red arrows in the image above). To enable rulers around your document, hit ctrl+r (on Windows) or cmd+r (on MAC).

Finally, if you have more than one document or image open, you’ll find tabs for each opened composition at the top of the Document View. The tabs display the composition name, whether or not the composition has been modified, and the zoom level. If you have just a single image/document open, the top portion of the Document View will contain just a single tab at the top. Each tab also contains an “X” at the far right side of the tab to close out your image or document without closing out Affinity Photo.

7. The Studio

To the right of the Document View is the area Affinity Photo refers to as the “Studio” (outlined in yellow). This area contains various panels – organized using tabs – that perform various functions. The panels in this area will change depending on the Persona you have active via the Persona Toolbar.

The most important panels in the Photo Persona, in my opinion, are the Color (red arrow), Adjustment (blue arrow), Layers (light green arrow), and Transform (orange arrow) panels. Honorable mentions include the Effects and Navigator panels.

You can also add additional panels to your current persona by going to View>Studio (red arrow in the above photo), and checking any of the available panels. If you already see a checkmark next to a studio panel’s name, it means it is already active and therefor visible. Some panels will show up in the original studio area amidst the existing panels, while others may show up in a different location.

For example, the “Batch” panel, outlined in orange in the image above, shows up to the right of the Tools Panel, while the “Paragraph” panel (outlined in light green) shows up as its own floating panel. You can uncheck any panel to hide any visible panels (I’ll do this for the Batch and Paragraph panels to return back to the default setup).

Like other photo editors (i.e. Photoshop and GIMP), you can click and drag the tabs of panels to relocate them if you want to customize your workspace.

8. The Status Bar

At the very bottom of the Affinity Photo layout is the Status Bar (outlined in yellow). This area displays key modifiers or shortcut keys for a selected tool, as well as additional information on how to use a select tool. The status bar will change even within a single tool. For example, when you draw a gradient (using the gradient tool – red arrow – on a pixel layer), hovering over various parts of the gradient will bring up different information in the status bar (for example, hovering over one of the gradient endpoint – i.e. the light green arrow in the image above – will bring up the key modifiers shown in the Status Bar in the photo).

That’s it for the Affinity Photo Layout! Check out more video tutorials and article from Pro Photo Vector to learn photo editing and graphic design.