Pixelmator for Mac
is not Photoshop -- but it might as well be, for how those image editing features that it does have are powerful, and easy to use. It also might as well be for the majority of people who aren't full-time PS professionals. If your work needs Adobe Photoshop, then you know it -- and can make the decision about paying the modest subscription cost to use it. Pixelmator handles an ever-growing number of the most common image tasks that most people need, and we are particularly fans of the separate iPad version
, which has recently been updated. Today, we're taking a look at that iPad version.
As you'd expect, there are many advanced features of Photoshop that are not in Pixelmator -- you're not going to extrude a 3D shape and wrap text around it -- but there are also more basic differences that can catch you out. For example, take a large image in Pixelmator and reduce its size. This is something we do a lot, and it works well, but you can't reverse it, you can't change your mind and go back -- not without loading up the original image and starting all over again (unlike the Mac version). When Pixelmator for iPad reduces the size of an image, it must do so by deleting pixels, and it does this permanently: scale the same image back up again, and it will be much blurry and pixellated.
Since we don't often play around with different sizes, it's much more common that we know exactly how big we need an image to be: we know where we're going to use it, we know whether it's going to be a tiny image here on the site, or whether it's going to be projected in a presentation. So we routinely get an image, change its size, and move on to the next. For that kind of straight-in, straight-out work, Pixelmator is fast. One small oddity: we found we can't type in the size we want on our external Bluetooth keyboard -- we have to use the on-screen keyboard for that one feature.
Still, tapping on the glass is part of why we like this app: you feel like you're manipulating images with your hands. That's especially true when you're applying any of Pixelmator's many effects: you tap one button to add noise to an image, for instance, and then you get an onscreen kind of thumbwheel, so you can specify how much of the effect you want.
Maybe we're not the biggest fans of effects: we're usually using Pixelmator to prepare an image for a specific purpose, and we've probably paid a photographer, so we're not going to dabble much with turning things into collages -- but you can. You can start with an entirely blank image, too, and start painting with your finger or a stylus as much as you fancy.
We really do not believe that cost should be a significant factor in any software decision: the primary issues are whether the apps do what you need, and whether they're good at it. The secondary issue is how much you're going to use it, and then maybe a third might be the cost. Pixelmator for iPad is very, very good at certain things, and we use it regularly, we actually enjoy using it.
That's all we need to recommend this to you, but the fact is that it is also preposterously cheap. The iPad version is just $10 on the App Store
(there's also a more-powerful Mac one for $30
on the Mac App Store, also insanely cheap). As yet, the app is not available for the iPhone, but we would like to see it on the iPhone 6 Plus someday. Pixelmator requires iOS 8 on iPad or OS X 10.9.5 and later on the Mac.
Who is Pixelmator for:
Anyone with an iPad, and an image to edit.
Who is Pixelmator not for:
Professionals who really need the power of Photoshop.
-- William Gallagher (@WGallagher