Rapid Review: Pixelmator for iOS and macOS

Image: Pixelmator

The iPad may have started its life as a content consumption device but over the last eight years, since its release, it has evolved through a combination of upgrades from Apple and the release of many accessories into a valid alternative to a traditional computer for many people. One of the key apps many people need is an image creation and editing tool. Pixelmator fills that gap with a powerful suite of image creation and editing tools for iOS and the Mac.

What Is It?

Pixelmator is an iOS and Mac app that lets you create and edit images. It's similar to Photoshop, and supports sharing as .psd files so you can move images from Pixelmator to Photoshop easily if that's your preferred desktop image editor, but doesn't require an annual subscription or come with a hefty price tag.

The iOS and macOS versions have most of the same features although they do implement them in different ways because of the inherent differences in the two operating systems.

It's important to note there are two versions for macOS - the original release of Pixelmator which is now at version 3.7.1 and a Pro version that adds a bunch of extra features with a higher price tag.

Requirements and specifications

Mac system requirements OS X Yosemite, or later
iOS operating system requirements iOS 9.1 or later. Works on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

What's Good?

When I started looking for an image editior to use on my Mac and iOS devices, I wanted a tool that let me easily shift between platforms without losing a bunch of functionality as I transitioned between platforms. My main uses are for editing images I use to accompany stories and cleaning up some personal photos.

But from time to time, I do a few fun projects. For example, I used Pixelmator to produce my wedding invitations and I often use it to edit photos used at social and community events I'm involved with.

Basic tasks such as selecting regions are easy. On iOS, I can use the Magnetic selection tool to grab the edge of an object in an image and then use the Free selection tool for other parts of the image all in one action. Changing colours, removing objects and adding effects are straightforward on both platforms.

Whenever I hit a roadblock and can't work out how to do something, I can jump on Pixelmator's YouTube channel and find a tutorial that guides me through what I'm trying to do.

File format support is broad. Pixelmator for Mac is compatible with PSD, JPEG, TIFF, PNG, WebP, PDF, GIF, BMP, TGA, JPG-2000 and it supports Photoshop images with layers.

The iOS version supports syncing over iCloud and Apple's Handoff feature so you can start editing on your iOS device and then continue from where you left off on your Mac. It also supports Split Screen and iOS's sharing tool for sending images to Photos or to other apps such as chat services and email.

I've not encountered any problems when starting to create on aimage on platforms and then continuing on the other.

What's Bad?

Even after using Pixelmator for some time, I still run into a few quirks. For example, applying some effects such as blurs, requires some trial and error. As someone who uses Pixelmator daily but only dips into some features occasionally, there are times when it doesn't behave the way I expect.

That aside, the biggest challenge with any complex app is the learning curve and practice so I expect that as I use more advanced features over time that I'll become more competent.

Should You Buy It

Pixelmator for Mac is available through the Mac app store. It costs $46.99. The Pro version costs $89.99.

Pixelmator for iOS is available through the iOS App Store for $7.99.

At those prices, Pixelmator is a more than viable alternative to Photoshop, which is expected to come with a full iOS app next year. Pixelmator is feature rich, well supported by its developer and well worth considering for Mac and iOS users.


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