Pixelmator, a $29.99 Pixel Editor from the new Mac App Store

Full-screen mode, layers and layer masks, support for 16-bit grayscale TIFFs: all one could wish for!

Full-screen mode, layers and layer masks, support for 16-bit grayscale TIFFs: all one could wish for!


Another Apple Software Update yesterday brought the Mac App Store and with it some software gems not to be passed by. One of the highlights for me is the $29.99 Pixelmator, which I’ll review in stages in this article.
I’ve been dragging my feet in getting a current Photoshop version, all the while updating my hardware and Mac OS X versions through several iterations. And I’ve been dragging Photoshop CS 2 with me over these changes. For my use, there was no advantage or eagerly expected functionality in newer versions. “Content aware fill”, my a… mple behind! I don’t need to clone out whole mothers-in-law so often.
On the other hand, PS CS 2 got slower and slower with time. The reasons were it running in Rosetta but also a fair amount of software cruft, I surmise.
Other pixel editors I had a look at in the meantime lacked in implementation of the one key feature that makes Photoshop so valuable for me: layers and most of all layer masks.
When I had a look at Pixelmator on the newly opened Mac App Store, I was flabbergasted. It is as if Photoshop had taken a dunk in the candy-colored paint bucket and emerged again with most of it’s functionality intact.
Even most keyboard shortcuts work, like cmd-alt-0 for actual pixels on this misfocussed Eric Whitacre snapshot

Even most keyboard shortcuts work, like cmd-alt-0 for actual pixels on this misfocussed Eric Whitacre snapshot


The implementation of layers is almost the same, too, with the insignificant difference that there are no presets for adjustment layers. You just highlight a layer and do the adjustment on that.
Layer masks can be painted on, here I highlighted Eric's beautiful hair with a gradation layer

Layer masks can be painted on, here I highlighted Eric's beautiful hair with a gradation layer


And as the lead photo shows, layer masks also take a gradient. I’ve yet to find a PS CS 2 functionality I couldn’t duplicate in Pixelmator. Oh yes, there’s one feature where it is lacking: it has only 1/20-th of the price. 😉
Pixelmator plays nice with Aperture, which has grown to be my preferred image management and RAW file conversion program. It acts as an external image editor and nicely gives the pictures back into the Aperture library.
I’ll be adding more impressions as I take Pixelmator through it’s paces.

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