We all dream of one day starting our own business. And Edit Sliacka did just that.
After six years working as a freelance designer, producing illustrations for children’s books, magazines and posters, she and her partner Alex launched their own games studio, Mr. Fox and Friends.
The couple wanted to be more in charge of their working lives, parenting schedules, and their own goals and deadlines. The plan was to focus on a specific niche: mobile games for children aged two and a half, and upwards.
But this wouldn’t just require a change of pace for Edit, but a dramatic change in illustration technique.
Shock to the system
Edit’s illustration approach suddenly had to shift from bitmap brushwork to vector-based character, background and UI design, making the jump to a vector illustration tool necessary.
It’s a point in her career that she recalls with some intensity.
“It didn’t go well, I hated it!” she admits. “I literally cried with frustration, thinking I would never be able to draw properly using vectors,” she recalls. “I really missed my beloved raster brushes that I had been working with for years.”
Thankfully, in 2014, a new Mac design tool appeared on the scene that revolutionised Edit’s approached to illustration.
“I’d been struggling with vectors for what felt like forever,” Edit explained. “But then my partner Alex learned of Affinity Designer as soon as it launched - he is on top of all the tech and designer news more than me.
“I saw the sample work of Jon Ball of Poked Studio, and Sascha Preuss of Bubblefriends, whom I knew from Twitter. And I thought: ‘Okay, if Sascha can use this for his professional artwork, then I will try to as well.’ And I was amazed!”
Things take off
Affinity Designer immediately instilled a new sense of confidence in Edit. “I loved how intuitive the work was from the very beginning with Affinity,” she enthuses. “I didn’t have to learn it at all. I just started to illustrate, and since then, I’ve used it every day and for every job.
“I love that I can use brushes to create texture and still be able to manipulate that, along with all the other elements in one app. I’ll often sketch things first, but I usually change almost everything a hundred times during the process, so using Affinity Designer makes it a lot easier.”
Having an infinite undo history has saved her more than once, she adds. “It recently allowed me to easily recover two whole days of work I lost by deleting the contents of a job and carrying on with something new in the same file by mistake. I just rolled back the History and saved it out to a new file, I could have sobbed, I was so relieved.”
See Affinity Designer in action
Edit’s mix of game studio work and freelance projects means she switches between disciplines, creating digital artwork for the web; producing books, calendars and posters for professional printing; and of course, game assets in multiple sizes for different platforms and devices including iPad, iPhone, and Android tablets and phones.
“I mainly use the vector-based Draw persona, clipping textures inside shapes by drag and drop, and using gradient transparencies and blend modes to layer textures and colours,” she explains. “Also, it’s better to use vector illustrations for animating in games and apps.
“Plus, with vector work the output can be at any size or many sizes, which is good for the cross-platform Mr. Fox and Friends games, and Affinity Designer does it all. I find myself experimenting with Affinity every day now and when I can I show it to my illustrator friends as well.”
Juggling life and work
As well as the Mr. Fox and Friends games, Edit also still work on freelance commissions, including children’s books. “My latest book, made with Affinity Designer, is about Little Red Riding Hood and I’ve really enjoyed working on it,” she smiles. “I’ve also produced a poster for a library with loads of literary characters for kids.”
Most of all, she values how well she and her husband work as a team. “I’ve appreciated having Alex to keep me on track,” she says. “It’s sometimes been hard to raise a family, work freelance, and create a new venture as well, learning how to manage things.
"Self-discipline, routine, starting the day early all help me fight procrastination, along with with reminders of your goals and a wonderful partner.”
The couple both work from home and share parenting responsibilities, so they’re able to give each other time to work alone, as well as working together on Mr. Fox and Friends games.
“We break work into chunks through the day and finish into the evening when the kids are in bed, making sure to unplug and relax too. “It’s been worth every step to get here: to be working from a home studio, creating artwork, producing games, and spending time with my boys is amazing.
“I love my work, I am very happy that people enjoy it, and I appreciate every opportunity I get to create an illustration!”
Learn more and download Affinity Designer
Download a free 10-day trial of the Apple Design Award-winning and 5-star rated Affinity Designer app for Mac from the Affinity website at affinity.serif.com/designer. The app is available to buy without subscription for one low price on the Mac App Store.
Affinity apps for Windows will have exactly the same feature set as the Mac apps that have set the creative world alight, as well as sharing the same single file format that has become a core feature of the Affinity suite. Being cross-platform makes the Affinity range ideal for inter-agency collaborations and creative workflows, and for a huge number of design studios, photographers and freelancers.