Pixelmator 1.1.4

Pixelmator 1.1.4

Instant Filters: This Zoom effect takes time to render in Photoshop, but happens instantly in Pixelmator, thanks to Core Image.


Apple loads iPhoto ’08 as standard issue onto every Mac sold, and while the app makes sharing and organizing photos a super-cinch, iPhoto doesn’t offer much of the power of Apple’s real-time Core Image technology. So is there room for a Core Image–savvy contender in the sub-$100 category of image editors? Pixelmator seems to think so. The Pixelmator app offers a $59 alternative to Photoshop. While we love the real-time filter effects, there’s a quite a bit that does not thrill us with this initial offering.


Pixelmator’s clean, uncluttered interface looks like a tweaked version of Photoshop Elements, with the familiar tool palette on the left side and the layers palette on the right. Anyone who’s used basic image-editing software will feel at home within moments, and the level of integration with your existing images is notable: Pixelmator has an image browser that hooks directly into your iPhoto libraries, Pictures folder, or Photo Booth images, which is convenient. But we couldn’t select any other folder on our various drives, a frustrating limitation. On the other hand, Pixelmator can open just about every bitmap image format currently in use.


All the expected editing tools are here: clone brush, magic wand, paintbrushes, gradient tool, softening and sharpening tools, and more. They all work relatively well, but lack some of the control offered by comparable tools found in Elements. The overall layers implementation is decent, with the full array of Photoshop blending modes, but forget about Photoshop’s Layer Styles or nondestructive adjustment layers for color-correction work. This also means that you can’t apply a single color-correction pass to all the layers of a multilayered document—you’ll need to do each layer individually, which could mean serious work in a densely layered composition.


Filters are where Pixelmator shines, with comprehensive support for Core Image routines, delivering a cornucopia of visual effects that aren’t available in Photoshop, such as a hexagonal mosaic and an array of kaleidoscopic distortions. And many of these filters function in real time, something you’ll quickly learn to love.


Pixelmator has some noticeable problems, however, that make it tough to recommend as a primary image editor. It lacks grids and rulers, which makes precision a pipe dream. When you’re using a filter, and the filter dialog is open, you can’t zoom in and out of an image—you have to cancel out of the filter, zoom to the view you want, and then reinvoke the filter. In some ways, the app’s performance is quite good. Tweaking the controls of the Unsharp Mask filter, for example, resulted in instant onscreen image updates. But it completes other tasks at a glacial pace—in our testing, for example, applying a 40-pixel feather to a rectangular selection caused the beach ball to spin for almost 15 seconds, a digital eternity. And using the soften tool, often required us to hold down the mouse button for a few seconds to start blurring the image, even on our 2.16GHz MacBook Pro, which is just not acceptable.


The bottom line. Pixelmator is a decent first attempt at creating an affordable image editor, but Photoshop Elements 6 (4 out of 5 stars, Jun/08, p58) offers a more robust toolset and enhanced capabilities for only $30 more. If your budget is tight enough that $30 is a deal breaker, download Pixelmator’s 30-day trial version to see if the Core Image filters offer enough value to compel you to add it to your toolbox.


COMPANY: Pixelmator Team Ltd.

CONTACT: http://www.pixelmator.com/

PRICE: $59

REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.4 or later

Briefly fun before it grows repetitive. Weapon and boat upgrades gives sense of progress. Certain ships and tiny character photos true to movies.

Even wind direction has little affect on unrealistic sailing. Boring pacing between waypoints. Easily sinkable enemies pose little threat.




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Weak review. Pixelmator is geared to the Mac from the ground up. Based on open source and Apple technology. Adobe refuses to embrace anything created by Apple. I'm keeping their bloatware off my brand new iMac 3ghz. I find that Pixelmator has been serving my needs just fine. It's only going to get better. You can hardly say that with Adobe software. It's getting worse and slower with every expensive release.


David Biedny

If you're going to say that Photoshop Elements 6 is not a significant upgrade from Elements 4, well, that's just wrong. The sheer amount of power packed into that program is truly stunning, so much so that I think that LOTS of people who might have purchased the full version of Photoshop will likely save lots of cash and get Elements instead. From the extensive color correction options, layer-based effects and non-destructive Adjustment layers, to the flexibility of Bridge and the quality of RAW image import and processing, there is really nothing that can compete with Photoshop Elements 6, in the under-$100 imaging category. You want to load hatred on Adobe, that's your prerogative, and I'm glad you're satisfied with Pixelmator, but from an agnostic, results-driven point of view, Elements is a MUCH better investment and vastly superior application, for not much more money than Pixelmator.



Pixelmator is now at version 1.2.1. Has been for quite sometime. Please check the current version before posting your review. Most of your concerns have been resolved in the current version like rulers and grids.


David Biedny

I reviewed the version that was available when the piece was written.

I'm glad to hear that rulers & grids have been implemented, and it's good to know that performance issues have been dealt with - I'll look into the update - but those weren't the only problems I encountered. There were lots of other things I just didn't have the space to get into with the word count limitation of the review - and I still feel that this software has some big holes, in terms of being more useful for things other than resizing and cropping images. No Adjustment layers - all color correction work is destructive. This is a major productivity drawback.

OK, I downloaded the latest version, opened a 10 megapixel image, created a new layer, did a Select All, chose a foreground color, and did a Fill. It took almost 8 seconds, on a G2 dual processor tower with plenty of RAM and scratch disk space. The exact same operation in Photoshop Elements 6 happened instantly. Pixelmator's Unsharp Mask is no match for PSE6's Adjust Sharpness command, a critical tool for anyone working with digital photos. There's so much more, but at this point in time, the Pixelmator value proposition is just not very strong, IMO. That's not to say this couldn't change on the future, and I'll say this, it's certainly better than Nolobe's Iris, for less money.


David Biedny

That's a dual _G5_ tower...

And as far as the software "coming along nicely", reviews tend to be written with respect to the current state of the software, not the potential value it might represent after a couple more years of engineering work. I'll be happy to look at later versions and offer my professional opinion of them, and I'm all for healthy competition in this space. I'd LOVE to see someone come along and give Photoshop (Elements or otherwise) a real run for the money, but so far, I've not seen anything that can rise to the challenge.



Your review is of a fairly early version. It is now at 1.2.1. Grids and rulers are in. There have been some general speed ups of operations and many bugs squashed. It is not Photoshop (any flavor) but it is coming along nicely.



What is this?

Come on Maclife, a 10 year old kid would have done a better copy and paste job.

Don't you have proof reader.

It's the third mistake this week I notice


Roberto Baldwin

Three mistakes out of approx. 30 posts. Hey, I'm getting better!



Troll Hater

c'mon, Anonymous poster. Instead of posting vauge, random criticisms, how about putting your real name, sign up as a mod or author, and post your own well-written, professional articles?

This is the third time this week i've felt compelled to answer some douchebag with nothing better to do than gripe about stuff...



This isn't even the current version. Pixelmator is on version 1.2.1 now, and there are significant changes since 1.1.x



" Briefly fun before it grows repetitive. Weapon and boat upgrades gives sense of progress. Certain ships and tiny character photos true to movies.
Even wind direction has little affect on unrealistic sailing. Boring pacing between waypoints. Easily sinkable enemies pose little threat."


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