Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ask Ron: What do you think about Pixelmator 2.04?

Pixelmator - Pixelmator Team

Aleem Hossain asked me on Google+ what I thought about Pixelmator, so I thought I’d give it a try. This is Mac app that is only available via the App Store with no Windows counterpart. It’s designed to be a Photoshop alternative, but realistically it’s more like a Photoshop Elements alternative.

Since it runs on the Mac OS, it can open any RAW files supported by the system so I had no trouble opening my 5D Mark III and D800 raw files. Now there’s no raw processor so I couldn’t control how that RAW file was opened, but it did seem to be have the same way was you’d see in iPhoto. I did notice that some filters worked fine but others really struggled with these big files, so it supported but didn’t really like RAW files. In my opinion its best to use this product AFTER you’ve done your RAW conversion in Capture NX2 or DPP.

I was also able to open some of my Photoshop file with layers, but others failed. I’m not entirely sure what it didn’t like about some, but the behavior seemed to be on par with what I saw using Perfect Layers in my Perfect Photo Suite review. Perfect Layers is now free, so if you just need layers then this isn’t necessarily a must purchase product.

After using it for about an hour I reached the following conclusions:

  • It’s performance is great with JPEG’s, but sluggish with RAW files 
  • Fantastic selection of built-in filters
  • Layers and content aware healing make it a great tool for those who can’t afford the Adobe alternatives
  • I’ll still keep using Photoshop, but this isn’t bad at all

Here’s a little video that I made where I explore some of what’s available in a simple overview.

Play in HD

Some filters like Film Stock seem exciting, but really don’t do much. Others like Bulge & Dent mimic the Liquify filter, but its as nasty to use as spot healing in Lightroom. However, there’s lots of really cool and unusual filters that are decent which you’d usually have to pay extra for in Photoshop.

I didn’t see any way to use my existing Photoshop or Lightroom filter with this product, so you are out of luck there. There’s also key things like the fade feature and channels palette that Photoshop users will likely miss.


If you can afford Photoshop then I still say get it (especially CS6) as it’s still the king with no serious competitor. However, if you are just getting started and don’t have any budget for software then Pixelmator is a great solution for Mac users to get started.

You’ll be able to do basic editing of your image and even some advanced stuff thanks to the content aware healing brush, stamp tool, layers and an excellent array of built in features. It’ll be happiest with your JPEG’s, but it will work on your RAW files with a bit more sluggish behavior.

Snapseed by Nik Software and Perfect Photo Suite are other good Photoshop alternatives, but neither product is as powerful with portrait retouching as Pixelmator. However, those products also have a lot of features that Pixelmator doesn’t have so I’d really call them more complementary than competing products.

At $29.99 at the time of this writing, you can’t go wrong. I’ll still use Photoshop, but I picked this up just for the filters. You are getting a $30 product so set your expectations accordingly, but I still think it’s a no brainer purchase for Mac users just for the filters alone.

Click here to buy Pixelmator on the AppStore. You can also try it for free for 30 days, so you can’t really go wrong.


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