Affinity Ipad

The new Sidecar functionality in macOS Catalina and iPadOS allows you to combine the benefits of your iPad’s touchscreen and Apple Pencil with your Mac. In this article, we’ll explore the configuration and benefits of using Sidecar alongside your Affinity apps.

With Apple’s 2019 operating system upgrades, you can connect your Mac and iPad to extend or mirror your desktop onto your iPad’s display. You can then draw on your iPad using an Apple Pencil to edit documents in your Affinity Mac apps.

Sidebars appear on your iPad screen and can be repositioned to suit your preferences. On the left or right is a set of keyboard modifiers and shortcuts. At the top or bottom of the screen is a Touch Bar containing context-sensitive tools for your Affinity app—like the one found on MacBook Pro, yet available through Sidecar on other Mac models.

The ‘Move to iPad’ option (available upon clicking any window from your main desktop) lets you interact with the window directly from your iPad, so you can take advantage of pencil pressure and other dynamics even while your iPad is not actively attached as a second display.

Connecting your devices via Sidecar

You’ll need a Mac running macOS 10.15 Catalina and an iPad running iPadOS 13. Sidecar can work with a wired connection (Lightning or USB Type-C) or wirelessly. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Handoff must be switched on for a wireless connection to work.

Sidecar will stay connected within a range of 10 metres (30 feet); both connected devices must be logged into the same iCloud account in order for Sidecar to work.

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To connect your devices using Sidecar, open the AirPlay menu and choose your iPad. When Sidecar is in use, the AirPlay menu changes to an iPad icon. Click it for instant control of what is displayed on your iPad: whether it mirrors or extends the Mac desktop and shows additional Mac shortcuts alongside the desktop. There are also links to display and Sidecar preferences.

Tip: If you don’t see the AirPlay icon near the right end of your Mac’s menu bar, go to System Preferences, click Displays and turn on Show mirroring options in the menu bar when available.

Sidecar works with one iPad at a time, but it can be used alongside additional external displays.

To switch from wired to wireless or vice versa, disconnect the Mac from the iPad using the AirPlay menu bar icon, then reconnect.

Moving apps between displays

After you’ve first connected to Sidecar, your iPad will become a secondary display by default, allowing you to drag apps and other things directly between your devices.

You can also move app windows between your devices by hovering over the green button at the top-left corner of a window and selecting the Move to iPad option.

By switching an Affinity app to Separated Mode (Window > Separated Mode), you can move your desktop canvas to your iPad, to take advantage of the Apple Pencil and iPad gestures, and arrange toolbars and panels on your Mac’s screen. For example, spread two fingers apart on your iPad’s screen to zoom in on fine details in your artwork, or use iPadOS’s text-editing features to copy, paste and undo using the on-screen keyboard.

Affinity Ipad Pro

Other iPad features remain available while Sidecar is running—just swipe up from the bottom of the iPad screen to switch to another app; the connection to your Mac will be maintained.

You can open another app in a floating window to one side of your Affinity apps, for example, to follow a tutorial in Safari.

  1. Find an app’s icon in the Dock, on the Home screen or in Spotlight search results.
  2. Hold a finger on it till it pulses, then drag it.
  3. Use another finger to return to your Affinity app.
  4. Drop the second app on top of your Affinity app to open it in a Slide Over window.
Tip: If the Home screen icons begin to jiggle during step 2, keep holding the app icon and tap Done at the top right, then carry out the remaining steps.

To return to the Mac desktop on your iPad, tap the Sidecar icon in the iPad’s Dock.

Using the iPad as an extended or mirrored display

As with other secondary displays, you can use your iPad to expand or mirror your Mac desktop.

With your Mac and iPad side by side, you can move the pointer between screens and position windows on either screen, allowing you to organise your tools across each of your devices.

Tip: To move the pointer between screens in a way that reflects their relative physical positions, go to System Preferences’ Displays pane, click the Arrangement tab and drag the screens’ representative rectangles into the desired positions.

Using Affinity Publisher with the Pages panel on your iPad screen is a great way to access your page arrangement through the iPad while giving you access to each page in full screen mode on your desktop. Similarly, you might keep your canvas and the Layers panel on different displays when using Affinity Photo or Affinity Designer.

When working with a marked-up version of a piece of artwork, you can arrange it so that client feedback is shown on your iPad while you implement changes on your Mac’s display. You can add additional notes while you work using the Apple Pencil.

Mirroring your Mac desktop through your iPad screen is great for sharing your work with others, allowing you to showcase features such as node alterations and shape transformations.

With Sidecar enabled, you can edit an embedded image directly on your iPad with a live update taking immediate effect on your Mac’s screen, which might be mirrored to a conference room display for your team members to collaborate.

You can also check and preview PDFs prior to export on your iPad screen.

Apple’s Sidecar documentation (available here) includes an explanation of Sidecar’s sidebar tools and the touchscreen gestures you can use to control Mac apps.

On your desk or on the go—pick up right where you left off when you swap machines.

With the Affinity apps being available on iPad—plus a shared document format that means all the features from the desktop apps are supported—a number of portable and convenient workflow options open up for those who divide their time between desktop machines and portable devices.

Getting your head around how the file ecosystems of desktop and iPad interact, however, is not always as straightforward as you would hope. We’ll tackle a sample workflow and address some common questions and issues when interworking between these two platforms.

Let’s look at the most efficient ways of interworking between the desktop and iPad versions of the Affinity apps.

In order to make the most of Affinity’s unified file format, which allows us to pick up our work on the iPad versions and perform some editing before passing it back to desktop (or vice versa), we need to understand how the iPad version’s file management works.

The iPad version effectively has two storage tiers: internal app storage and external common storage. Whenever you create a new document, import an existing document or develop from a RAW image, that information is stored within a private folder accessible only to the app it is saved in (e.g. Affinity Photo).

In order to make the documents accessible to other iPad apps and cloud storage, we must specifically save them to common storage—don’t worry though, it’s not that complex!

Let’s walk through a typical workflow example and we’ll examine different ways of importing the document and then saving it back out.

Example workflow

Here’s an image I’ve been working on with the desktop version of Affinity Photo. As you can see, there’s a reasonably complex layer stack so I’ve performed quite a bit of editing already. I now want to transfer this .afphoto document file to my iPad so I can continue working on the go.

If you’re running macOS, one quick option is to AirDrop your document to the iPad and it will automatically open in the appropriate Affinity app.

Another option is to save the document to cloud storage. As an example, I use Dropbox, so I have the Dropbox app installed on both my MacBook and the iPad (it’s available for Windows machines too). I just save my work to a directory on Dropbox and I can then choose to import it on iPad.

Affinity Ipad Export

Before we go any further, let’s examine the distinction between importing and opening with the iPad apps. You’ll notice we have two options:

  • Open From Cloud
  • Import From Cloud

The way these two options differ is in how the file is saved externally when using the Save option on the document/welcome screen.

  • If you have opened from cloud, the app will write back over that file in place. For example, if you opened an .afphoto document file on your iCloud Storage, it will overwrite that same file.
  • If you have imported from cloud, the app will completely ignore that initial file on cloud storage. The edited document will be saved either to On my iPad or to iCloud Drive depending on your user setting.

For the purposes of the workflow, I’ll use Open From Cloud so that I can write back to the same document file on cloud storage.

Once I’ve got the document open on iPad with the layer structure intact, I might decide to do some further editing.

I’ll quickly add an HSL Adjustment Layer and increase the Saturation to around 45 percent. What I want to do here is apply this adjustment selectively to the bird on the feeder.

Affinity Ipad Text Wrap

To do this, I’ll move across to the Channels studio, tap the three dots icon next to the HSL Shift Adjustment Alpha channel and choose Invert.

Now, with the Paint Brush Tool, I’ll reduce the Hardness to 0% and make sure my colour is set to a pure white (so we’re adding back to the mask).

Using an appropriate brush width, I’ll then paint the HSL effect back in over the bird.To finish off the image, I’ll apply a Levels Adjustment layer and give the image some more contrast. I’ll set the Black Level to 5% and the White Level to 85%.

Having made my edits, I then want to pass this file back to my desktop machine—perhaps to double check it or prepare it for print.

Closing the document down automatically saves it and returns to the welcome screen. We can now tap the menu icon next to the document and choose Save. This will overwrite the initial document we opened through Dropbox, so once it’s synced we’ll now be able to open it back on desktop:

This is just one example of interworking between the desktop and iPad apps. Here are some common techniques and suggestions for making the most of Affinity’s unified file format:

Techniques and suggestions

Choosing where to save

What if you don’t start editing on desktop? You may have created a new document on iPad, e.g. by importing a RAW file or editing an image straight from Apple’s Photos app. When you use the Save option on the welcome screen, this will either save your document out to On My iPad or iCloud Drive—you might want to save it straight to another location though.

To do this, you’ll need your document open. From the Document menu, choose Save a Copy. This will open a dialog where you can specify a filename and also choose whether to save the undo history with the document—a useful feature, but just be aware that it will increase the document’s file size.

Once you’ve (optionally) renamed the document, tap Save and you’ll be taken to a directory listing to choose where your file will be saved:

As we’ve seen with the main example, the saved document file can then be opened with the desktop version of the relevant Affinity app:

Exporting straight from iPad

If you finish editing your work on iPad, you don’t need to pass it back to the desktop version if you simply wish to share it as a common file format like JPEG, TIFF, PNG etc—you can export straight to these formats from the iPad apps.


Simply access the Document menu and choose Export. You’ll be presented with an export dialog where you can choose your file format. In this example, I want to save my image as a TIFF (which is lossless and avoids compromising on quality) so I can share it on image hosting and portfolio websites.

The only change I’ll make is to set ICC Profile to sRGB as the document is in a wider colour profile, and it needs to be converted to sRGB in order to avoid colour-based issues when uploading and sharing.

We can then tap OK and we’ll be presented with the same directory listing dialog seen previously, allowing us to choose where to export our TIFF file.

Working between iPad apps

The major benefit of a unified file format is that you can swap documents between the different Affinity apps. For example, you can open an .afphoto document in Affinity Designer and vice versa with an .afdesign document in Affinity Photo. If you work exclusively on iPad, you don’t need access to a desktop machine to achieve this.

Let’s say we want to take that Ladybird document I’ve been working on into Designer for iPad and add some vector work to it. I’m actually going to use the welcome screen Save feature to save the document out to either On My iPad or iCloud Drive. I’ve got my default save location set to iCloud Drive, so when I save the document it will be placed into an Affinity Photo directory within the iCloud Drive root directory.

With the document saved, we can then open Affinity Designer and choose Open From Cloud, then navigate to and open that Ladybird document.

Now the document is open in Designer, I’ll add a few vector curve strokes to the design, then close it down and Save it back out to its initial iCloud Drive location. I can now re-open it in Photo using Open From Cloud, or even open it on my desktop device which synchronises with iCloud Drive—with the below image, I’ve opened the document in the desktop version of Affinity Photo which supports all features from Designer including the vector curves.

Which cloud storage apps?

A common query is which cloud storage app and storage plan to go with. If you’re Mac-based, you can already take advantage of iCloud Drive‘s seamless integration between macOS and iPad, and the storage plans are reasonably priced so you can easily upgrade when necessary.

If you’re using Windows, you can also download the iCloud Drive app which will allow you to sync between iPad and devices running Windows.

A good option that is OS-agnostic is Dropbox. You can download the app on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS and file syncing is snappy and reliable. The web interface version is also quite streamlined if you quickly need to view and download files from a web browser.

Other options that are useful if you don’t want to be tied to one platform or ecosystem include Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.

When investigating other cloud storage options, be sure to check if they integrate with the Files app on iOS—this will ensure you can save and open directly from the Affinity apps to cloud storage (and vice versa) and make the workflow as smooth as possible.

If you wish to swap files between desktop and iPad within the same network, looking at Network Attached Storage is also an option. There are a myriad of external hard drive options that can interface through WiFi and enable you to easily swap files between devices. Like with cloud storage apps, do make sure to research particular models and ensure they integrate well with the iOS Files app—sometimes you may be reliant on the manufacturer’s own file management app, which will complicate the workflow process and likely be more restrictive. Ideally, you’ll want to look for devices that simply add another option to the Locations entry in the Files app.

Further viewing

Affinity Ipad

Hopefully this article has helped shed some light on the file management between iPad and desktop, and indeed even between separate apps within the iPad ecosystem on its own. I would also recommend viewing some of the video tutorials available on the Affinity website, particularly those relating to opening, saving and exporting, for a video-based guide of how to manage documents: