Design & UX
By Peter North

Have You Tried Pixelmator?

By Peter North

When it comes to image editing, Photoshop is clearly the most popular software for the job, but it’s also the most expensive. Hobbyists and professionals alike use Photoshop, but many utilize only the most basic Photoshop features, and as a result they’re probably not getting their money’s worth. Buying Photoshop for simple tasks like cropping an image or adding a text overlay is a lot like swatting a fly with a sledgehammer.

There have been several attempts to dethrone Photoshop as the best choice for basic image editing. For example, GIMP has secured a small following over the past few years as a free Photoshop alternative. It may lack some of the features and functionality of Photoshop, but GIMP beats Photoshop handily in terms of price: Standalone versions of Photoshop can cost hundreds of dollars, and buying Photoshop as part of a Creative Suite can cost thousands. The appealing zero-dollar price tag on GIMP has kept it in the running as a less expensive, less powerful image editing option.

Pixelmator is the latest Photoshop alternative to gain a following. It seems to combine some of Photoshop’s robust power with the low cost of lesser alternatives. Pixelmator is not free, but at $30, it still holds a competitive advantage over Photoshop’s painfully high price tag. Pixelmator also offers a fully-functional 30-day trial for those who would like to try it for their image editing needs.

Pixelmator could be a solid, affordable Photoshop alternative.

According to the overwhelming amount of 5-star reviews in the Mac App Store, Pixelmator appears to be giving Photoshop a run for its money. Consider this review from a customer familiar with both applications:

Pixelmator 2.0 may not have all the bells and whistles of Photoshop CS5, but it’s nevertheless a very powerful editing application. It’s got everything you need to edit your photography. That means layers, masks, paths, lots of filter effects, etc., and it can process RAW files. [It’s] the best $30 I ever spent, take the word of a Photoshop expert with 12 years of experience.

Because it’s a smaller, less expensive program, it would be hard to argue that Pixelmator is as powerful as Photoshop. But, there does seem to be room in the market for a reasonably powerful, reasonably priced image editor.

Are you a Pixelmator fan? Have you tried their 30-day trial? Do you think it can measure up to Photoshop for basic image editing?

  • Ryan Kinal

    Oh, man, no windows version? I would have immediately paid for this product, were there a windows version.

    • On the PC side, we have had PaintShop Pro for as long as Photoshop has been available, if I remember correctly. It’s amazing software that handles both vector and image manipulation beautifully. Corel owns it these days (

  • Adam

    I am a hobbyist who just took on a web project for a local non profit and was frustrated at the tools I was finding for free on the mac. I found pixelmator a few days ago and finished the design the next day. It was great for what I needed. I will be buying it once my trial expires. Now to find a good dreamweaver alternative…

    • David

      What are you using dreamweaver for? If it is mostly a text editor then I HIGHLY recommend Sublime Text 2.

    • I highly recommend just getting into a solid text editor. Dreamweaver is alright for learning web dev stuff, but nothing beats a good text editor. Sublime 2 for instance, is fantastic, and on Windows, Mac and Linux.

  • Yep, you can produce Photoshop quality graphics affordably! I have used Pixelmator for a few years now and it just keeps improving at an incredible rate. 2.0 is the best yet.

    As members of the Pixelmator community we are trying to show the neat things you can do with this great app with some easy, fun tutorials

    Try them out!

  • I could and would use it every day if they would make a PC version…. :(

    • Felix A

      Absolutely second this!

    • JC

      I’m with you on that one!

    • Have you tried Fireworks, Photoshop’s “little” brother? It’s not as cheap as Pixelmator, but works flawlessly with both vectors and bitmaps, with pages, layers, great gradient tools, etc… been using it since the old Macromedia days and v CS5 is excellent.

      I’ve also used Photoshop, but the vector tools aren’t as sturdy as Fireworks’, IMO.

  • Robert DeSimone

    That looks suspiciously like Gimp’s interface…

  • Yes, I work with Pixelmator for about half a year now. It doesn’t have the power of Photoshop – but as web designer I would only need the basic features of PS. So Pixelmator does a good job in this section. It’s fine, and it has the better price :)

  • You can’t beat Photoshop – you can pick up an old version of Creative Suit – maybe CS3 or CS4 – pretty cheap. CS3 still does everything you need. But I’m sure Pixelmator does a good job for those day to day tasks. I’m not an Adobe salesman by the way… just putting my opinion out there.

  • Hi Peter,

    Thanks for the tip. I’m heading over to the App Store now to try out Pixelmator.

    P.S., You stated, “There is certainly no argument that Pixelmator is as powerful as Photoshop, but ….” Whereas I believe you meant to say, “There is certainly no argument that Pixelmator is *not* as powerful as Photoshop, but ….” ;-)

    Thanks again!

    • Peter North

      Hi Randy.

      I’m glad you appreciate my recommendation. I may explore Pixelmator in depth and write about my findings.

      In the last part of the article, I did in fact mean that presenting Pixelmator as more powerful that Photoshop would be a difficult argument to make; Pixelmator is $30 and Photoshop (depending on the version) is usually more than ten times the cost. Photoshop also takes up much more disk space and has higher system requirements, suggesting that it’s generally a “bigger” (and presumably “stronger”) program.

      I’ve clarified the last sentence. Thank you for pointing it out!

  • Cary

    The best value in a basic image editor is free and it’s web-based. I’m surprised no one here has yet brought up

  • Hitch

    Corel’s Paint Shop Pro is cheap ($60) and has most of PS’s abilities too.
    It’s a tried and true PS substitute.

  • Jurgen

    Shame there is no Windows-version. But as someone already said: we have Paintshop Pro. Which was actually great software (and much easier and more intuitive than Photoshop) up to version X. That’s Paintshop Pro X. That was the first version after Corel bought the software from Jasc. In my opinion this is still the best version. The versions after that (currently at X4) are worse, because Corel turned it into a photo-editor with a bad interface. So try to get a hold of PSP X, and be happy. I use it every day, and only reverting to the dreaded Photoshop if absolutely neccesary. Which is almost never.

  • Anthony

    paint dot net does most things for a nice price (free).

    with a few custom plug-ins, it goes some way to doing everything I need – not that I’m a graphic designer by any stretch of the imagination…

  • I used to work with Photoshop until I started with InkScape. I need to do more than just editing pictures. I need to create graphics as well.

    In this sense, InkScape is the best for me and it’s open source – thus no cost.

    One thing though, since it’s a vector program, I often export the graphics as png or convert them to gif/jpeg using GIMP.

    And it’s available for Windows AND Linux (Ubuntu in my case).

  • Alex

    Oh, man, no Linux version?

  • there will never be win/lin version, they are hardcore mac guys who would never touch windows crap…. sorry, reality check.

  • I would say the best alternative to Photoshop is GIMP which is completely free and available cross platform.

    I used to use Paint Shop Pro (and still do), but I now use GIMP for the flexibility of a) removing backgrounds and b) when I need to use a brush.

    Highly stable and highly recommended.

  • Sparknegi

    i am not much familiar with all these tools or software as i never used them as much. although Photoshop is the most common image editor but i rarely come across using all these tools..but i think whatever is the alternative Photoshop cant be beated so easily.. it is the first and most popular image editor..

  • True its not as jazzy as Photoshop but it definitely solves the purpose and in a very stylish way. Excellent app. In fact one of these make you phone experience all the way better.

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