Affinity Designer: Creating a Neutral Noise Fill

While creating a recent Skillshare class, using Affinity Photo to create digital cyanotypes, it occurred to me that the process could also be created using Affinity Designer as it’s packed with many of the same adjustments layers that Photo, making it incredibly versatile to use. Pretty cool, right? The one thing it’s missing though? Live Filters, which are non destructive, creative adjustments like lighting, rippling, blurs, and, in the case of my class, noise.

Sometimes you just need a little noise right? Even if it’s just to give your digital work a little more of an analog feel. Noise is a lot of creative power packed in to a relatively boring adjustment.

While Designer doesn’t have a Noise filter, it DOES have a way of adding noise… it’s just not obvious. So I wanted to create this quick tutorial on how to create a neutral noise Fill that you can have on hand, to use as an overlay, whenever you need it. The benefit of creating a neutral noise fill is that it let’s me easily create a noise layer that covers everything it’s clipped to, rather than having to do it shape by shape.

Alright, let’s get started…

Using a Neutral Fill Color

First things first, create a shape. It doesn’t matter what shape you use, it just needs to be something you can add a fill to.

I want a fill color that is completely neutral because I plan to use the Overlay blend mode when using my noise layer. Using a neutral gray color will ensure that the colors beneath my noise layer won’t be impacted. Let me show you what I mean…

Take a look at the two sliders below.

The first one shows a side by side comparison of my green leaf shape with nothing clipped to it (left side), compared to one where I added a neutral gray leaf shape over the top (HSL 0,0,50) set to Overlay. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. There is no change to the color because neutral gray, on Overlay, won’t adjust my color.

On left (no overlay at all) | On right (Neutral Gray overlay set to Blend Mode Overlay)

Compare that to the one below where I tweaked the HSL of the gray fill just a bit. Again, left side is the original green leaf shape, with nothing clipped to it. The one on the right has a cool, gray fill (HSL 0,0,29) clipped on top of it, again set to Overlay. Notice that it darkens my leaf up significantly and that’s not what I want if I’m just trying to add some noise.

On Left (no overlay at all) | On right (Cool Gray overlay set to Blend Mode Overlay)

So, when creating your fill, if you don’t want to impact the colors beneath your noise layer, you simply want to add noise, start by creating a neutral gray fill, “HSL 0,0,50” like below.

(At this point, I should note, you can’t add noise to an empty layer, there needs to be a fill color in place.)

HSL Slider showing the neutral gray color 0,0,50

Adding the Noise

Alright, let’s add some noise to our neutral, gray fill.

On the iPad version of the app, the noise slider is front and center in the Color Studio though may get overlooked. Look just below the color wheel/sliders and you will see two sliders: Opacity and Noise.

The desktop version is a bit hidden. Again, go to the Color Studio and you will see an opacity slider right below the color wheel. Click the little dot beneath the word Opacity and the Noise slider will pop up.

All you need to do is select your gray shape, and start dragging the slider. I like to slide mine all the way up to 100% because I would rather control the amount of noise by using the opacity slider in the Layers panel.

Using Your Neutral Gray Noise Fill

Now you have your neutral gray, noisy fill but what do you do with it? Well, let’s say you want to add the same amount of noise to an entire layer which has multiple shapes in it, like the cover photo of this blog post?

Rather than adding noise to each, individual object, I added a layer over the top of everything using the rectangle tool, filled it with my noisy, neutral gray fill, set the blend mode to Overlay and adjusted my opacity. (see below)

What if I want to use this in future documents? Do I need to start over each time? Nope! Read on…

Creating an Application Wide Swatch

In Affinity Designer, you have the ability to create either a document or an application wide palette. As you would expect, document palettes are specific to whatever document you created them in and application wide are available in the current and future documents. I have several application wide palettes set up based on my needs. One is specific to my favorite seamless pattern colors, another is for my floral illustrations and I have one, really broad one of “Go to Colors.” (admittedly, that one is a bit outta control so I don’t recommend that)

So we’re going to save our neutral gray, noisy fill so that we can use it at any point to create a noise layer or shape for clipping.

Step 1. Set up the Application Wide Palette

In the iPad version of the app:

  • Go to the Color Studio
  • Choose Swatches at the bottom
  • Head to the hamburger menu at the top of the studio and choose, “Add Application Palette”
  • If you would like to rename the palette (recommended if you’re going to create several different palettes) go back to the hamburger menu and choose, “Rename Palette”

In the Desktop version of the app:

  • Go to your Swatches Studio (if you don’t see it, go to View > Studio > Swatches to open it)
  • Head to the hamburger menu at the top right of that studio and choose, “Add Application Palette”
  • Again, if you would like to rename the palette, go back to the hamburger menu and choose “Rename Palette”

Great! Now you have an application palette that you will be able to access in any canvas, any time you need it.

Step 2. Adding the Fill to the Palette

In the iPad version of the app:

  • With your application palette open and your neutral gray, noisy fill selected, go to the hamburger menu and choose, “Add Current Fill to Palette.”

In the desktop version:

  • In your Swatch Studio, with your fill selected, click on the icon that looks like three squares and a plus sign next to the name of the palette.

That’s it! Now, you have a neutral gray, noisy fill that you can always access whenever you want to add a noise layer to your work; no need to recreate it each time.


If you have any questions about the above, please don’t hesitate to ask below.

If you would like to check out my full length classes all about Affinity Designer, head on over to my Skillshare channel where you will find a number of Designer classes ranging from beginner to intermediate as well as classes in many other digital art apps. (If you aren’t already a member, clicking the link will give you one month of unlimited classes free.)

Find my shorter tutorials on Affinity Designer tutorials, and more, on my YouTube Channel. I will be adding tons more content here, my YouTube Channel as well as my Skillshare channel, so I hope to see you again soon!

Thank you for stopping by and Happy Creating!

I am a self taught illustrator, photographer and teacher, located in the Chicago area. I believe in sharing my knowledge whenever I can, allowing students to grow in their own craft, whether it's photography or illustration. I am a Top Teacher on Skillshare where I share my knowledge of the Affinity and Adobe suites, Procreate and more. I also have a YouTube Channel where I share short form tutorials that complement my classes on Skillshare. I share my creative space with my husband, painter Joe Smigielski, and our three entertaining and nutty felines: Jack, LuLu and Sadie.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.