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First Look: Pixelmator image editor for the Macintosh

The image editor for the rest of us By John Virata

The Mac OS doesn't have a whole lot of image editors available for it due in part to the excellent iPhoto application that ships with every Mac. Why should a developer build something for the Mac that ships with every Mac? And not everyone needs the power of Adobe Photoshop, nor wants their hands held with Photoshop Elements (though Elements is a great image editor/organizer). So it came as a surprise to me (a new Mac user) that there is an image editor on the market that provides a lot of the most commonly used functions that Photoshop (and Photoshop Elements) offers, but at a sub $60 price point. Yes Pixelmator, which the developers call the image editor for the rest of us, is just $59.  The Pixelmator team is two brothers working out of London England. The application is two years old, and in that short span, the developers have created a fairly powerful image editor that deserves to be on any Macintosh user's hard drive who doesn't need or want Adobe Photoshop.

Use of Mac OS X technologies
Pixelmator uses a variety of technologies available in Mac OS X that helps to enhance the application's usability. It takes advantage of Core Image and Automator (and OpenGL) and supports ColorSync and Spotlight. It also uses the host Macintosh computer's GPU and memory. For this review, Pixelmator was tested on a 13-inch MacBook Pro with 4GB RAM and a 500GB, 7200rpm hard disk drive. In addition to using Pixelmator's tools to tweak and enhance your images, you can also set Pixelmator up to automate some of the more mundane tasks by creating actions for resizing and exporting your images, among others.

For $59 you get a very professional looking interface complete with many tools that will help you to create different and wonderful image creations. The interface features a gray background of which you can choose to show and hide the various palettes, including Brushes, swatches, scratch, tool options, rulers, grids, etc. It has most all of the common tools found in other image editors, including crop tool, pencil, eraser, brush, magic wand, lasso, paint bucket, text, and selection tools among others.

Image enhance

Export capabilities

It has painting tools, retouching tools, selection tools, support for layers, and a full complement of color correction tools. What is missing is the Photoshop only healing brush tools, red eye removal, and other proprietary Photoshop tools. This is not to take away from Pixelmator, if you want those specific tools, then you'll have to buy Photoshop. What Pixelmator does offer is a whole lot of bang for the buck.


Pixelmator also offers color management profiles that enable you to choose a color profile and assign it to your image. These profiles include, Universal (print, display), Web (Web images sRGB color profile is used), Advanced (ProPhoto, NTSC, sRGB, DCI, COlor LCD, etc).

Color management

Layers support


For Photo browsing, Pixelmator relies on iPhoto. Selecting Photo Browser from the view menu will launch a mini photo browser window (about the size of an iPod touch) complete with search capabilities. It also gives access to the iPhoto Library, events, albums and Smart Albums.

Glass filter


Light tunnel

Dent with controls

First Impressions
Pixelmator is a surprisingly easy to use image editor for the Macintosh that sports many of the same features found in editing applications such as Photoshop, Photoshop Elements on the Macintosh as well as Windows based image editors. One thing that stands out with Pixelmator is the interface. It is a simple yet elegant interface that belies Pixelmator's power. The application can open virtually any image file format and offers support for nearly the same export formats. It has a large number of filters and a full complement of image enhancement tools including the capability to tweak an image's levels, curves, exposure, brightness and contrast, colorize, hue and saturation, desaturate, color balance, as well as the capability to change the canvas and image size.  It has all of the tools that you'd expect in an image editing application to help you tweak and enhance your images as well as create new images from your existing images, or new images entirely. It is a full featured image editor and it is only $59. For more information, and to purchase or download a trial version, visit

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at
Related Keywords:macintosh image editor, image editing, digital photography, photo editor


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