App Directory: The Best Image-Editing App For Mac

App Directory: The Best Image-Editing App For Mac

When you think of image editors on any platform, your mind goes straight to Photoshop. For most of us, paying Adobe’s high costs will get us an app that does more than we really need. As a result, we feel Pixelmator will win the hearts of most users on the Mac. It handles just about every image-editing task you’d think to throw at it for less than the cost of two months of a Photoshop subscription.


Platform: OS X
Price: $US30
Download Page


  • Layer-based workflow allows for flexible adjustments
  • Several image adjustment tools for a variety of options
  • Layer styles save time when creating common effects
  • Includes a robust set of filters for image alteration and manipulation
  • Supports importing and exporting several popular image formats
  • Several helpful retouching tools, including a healing brush helps you easily remove unwanted blemishes and even objects in photos
  • Beautiful filters for quick image enhancements, colour changes and popular “retro” looks
  • Support for OS X Mavericks features like tags, multiple displays, and App Napp
  • Excellent brushes and painting tools
  • Over 160 awesome effects
  • Open and save in PSD, TIFF, JPEG, PNG, PDF and many other popular formats
  • Save images in iCloud for automatic syncing across all your Macs
  • Share photos directly from Pixelmator via email and to popular social networks
  • Works seamlessly with existing Photoshop documents

Note: This doesn’t even begin to dive into the features in Photoshop, which are too long to name here. You can visit Adobe’s official Photoshop page to learn more, but even they don’t detail every single feature. Your best bet is to make use of their 30-day trial and explore for yourself.

Where It Excels

Pixelmator does so much for such a low price. Thanks to Adobe, we’ve come to expect powerful image editing tools to cost at least a few hundred dollars. You can buy Pixelmator for only $US30, and it will do most everything you need. Cost-efficiency doesn’t make an app worth buying, of course, but you can do so much with this one that it’s hard to believe the price is so low.

If you take a look at the feature set you’ll notice it looks a lot like Photoshop’s. You won’t find some things (more on that later), but it can do the tasks most of us care about. You can repair photos with the healing brush, manipulate the structure of an image with the liquify tool, make all sorts of colour adjustments with common tools like curves and levels but also employ filters for quick edits, save to a variety of formats (including Photoshop) and a lot more. Pixelmator has shapes and drawing tools too, in case you’re creating images that aren’t just photos. You can add styles to those shapes, photos, or other elements quickly. The same works for layers. Pixelmator works a lot like Photoshop but with a more user-friendly and attractive interface. If you don’t feel like paying for Adobe software anymore, a small learning curve will have casual Photoshop users working well in Pixelmator very quickly.

Another huge advantage? Pixelmator is very fast. You don’t have to wait for much of anything. It utilises a lot of OS X core technologies to stay optimised, and in version 3.0 FX the developers rebuilt its engine with speed enhancements in mind. The software just runs very quickly. For those with older hardware who feel Photoshop chugs along at too leisurely of a pace, Pixelmator will operate with less lag.

Where It Falls Short

You’ll realise Pixelmator isn’t Photoshop in several areas if they pertain to you. It doesn’t have a Camera RAW plug-in, which is immensely useful for those who shoot in RAW. It’s practically an application in itself. Pixelmator also can’t handle HDR (only through artificial means) animation, 3D rendering, colour management, fine-grained space-efficient web image export, and a variety of other specific tasks that you may or may not need. For most, these shortcomings will not matter. To photographers and designers, however, they might. Of course, if you focus on photography and require complex editing you may prefer using Photoshop Lightroom anyway, and can use Pixelmator for your other image editing needs. Regardless, if you don’t need anything mentioned here you won’t feel Pixelmator falls short at all.

The Competition

If you don’t want to pay the hefty cost of Photoshop, you’ve come to the right section. Here are a few options that can help you do some of what Photoshop can do for a much lower price.

Adobe Photoshop ($20 per month) still reigns king as the image editor of the “elite” but not of the people. If you need to handle more complex tasks or have every feature imaginable at your disposal, you want Photoshop. Of course, you’ll have to pay for that privilege. Photoshop, as many of us know, doesn’t come cheap.

GIMP (Free) has been the go-to open-source image editor for a while, and it can do many things Photoshop can do. If you prefer Photoshop’s interface, however, you might want to check out GIMPshop (Free) instead, as it is basically the same program made to emulator the style of Photoshop.

Seashore (Free) is another image editor based on the GIMP’s technology, but has an interface that fits more with Mac OS X. It also focuses on providing basic image editing tools for most users rather than acting as a full replacement for Photoshop (or other expensive image editing software). If you just need to make basic edits, it is worth a look.

LiveQuartz ($2) is another simple image editor. It comes with layer support, brushes and other tools, plus a few basic filters. It’s another decent option for basic edits.

Pixen (Free) is a more specialised image editor for pixel artists. It’s worth mentioning here because Photoshop’s tools for low-resolution artwork are pretty bad and Pixen makes for a good supplement (if you need one).

Lifehacker’s App Directory recommends the best applications and tools across multiple platforms.

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