Mac and iOS users are spoiled for choice when it comes to photo editing tools, but there’s a reason Pixelmator is mentioned in the same breath as Adobe’s excellent creative suite.
While it lacks that ecosystem’s range of features and ability to dovetail with seemingly every other artistic software, it offers enthusiasts and beginners (like me) an impressive amount of power at a much more appealing price.
We’ll be breaking this review down into the Mac and iPhone/iPad versions of the software.
Put simply, Pixelmator on macOS is a joy to use. On a mid-2015 iMac (albeit with 24 GB of RAM) it ran impressively well, and on a late 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro everything feels instantaneous.
That’s down to the developer’s continued optimisation work, with Pixelmator on Mac continually ahead of many similar apps in terms of adoption of macOS features. Working with Apple’s Metal graphics, with MacBook Pro touch bar functionality, and Catalina support, it’s a dream companion for any Apple user.
In fact, we were able to connect an iPad Pro using macOS Catalina’s Sidecar function and use the Apple Pencil on the tablet to cut out images in a heartbeat.
As with Photoshop, Pixelmator is layer-based. This not only makes it instantly familiar to users but means that if you’ve spent any time with Adobe’s application a lot of what you’ll do in Pixelmator can be done using muscle memory.
Whether it’s cutting out images as we mentioned earlier, instantly colour matching, or simply adding effects like “Light Leak” to make your latest snaps Instagram ready, there’s plenty of power here for an impressively low price (£29.99 on the Mac App Store).
If you’re a budding designer, there’s plenty more than the powerful photo editing suite here. Pixelmator offers a full suite of painting tools, as well as the ability to sculpt vector shapes and logos as well as Typography features that allow for stunning custom images.
Not only is it powerful, but it’s convenient too – users can use extensions within the Photos app to retouch and add distortion to photos without even needing to open Pixelmator.
We’re pleased to report that Pixelmator on iOS (and iPadOS) is similarly well optimised.
It crams in almost every feature from the macOS release, and thanks to the power of the latest iPhones and Pixelmator Team’s impressive harnessing of it, photo editing is more powerful than the likes of Lightroom’s free tier – with a one-off fee of £4.99 instead of a monthly subscription.
A smart two-pane system means that whichever device you’re using has enough room for the smallest of details, although we would advise on using an iPad as opposed to an iPhone.
Not only do you get Apple Pencil support, but you’ll also be able to use a much larger display with which to tweak your images. It’s easy to do since the app has cloud support to keep files in the same place.
In truth, it’s simply impossible not to recommend Pixelmator for the vast majority of users. If you’re deeply entrenched in Adobe’s ecosystem you may struggle to make the jump, but for a casual user like myself, it offered everything I could possibly ask for in a photo editing application.