Another Graphic Editor

Pixelmator website

Thanks to my Wakoopa account I discovered this new little app called Pixelmator. Quoting the weekly mail from, it is the 5th most popular Mac graphics editor and:- trying to do what Photoshop couldn't: make a simple to use graphics tool that doesn't create a lesser end result.

After mucking around with it on this fine sunny Saturday afternoon, I was quite impressed. The interface, has some neat features that make it really cool to look at. I like the fact that I could add a mask directly to the 'background' layer, and the fact that is just opened my raw files no fuss. Generally though, it doesn't do anything special that photoshop doesn't. Of course I'm lucky Photoshop forms part of my job so it is provided for me, therefore cost never need be an issue. More troubling though was the way curves and levels handled colour. Pixelmator handles colour in exactly the same way that photoshop does, so that is a big no-no for me anyway. Also a quick test with levels seemed to indicate that pixels are indeed 'destroyed as I worked, one of Photoshop's most troubling problems, and one never talked about.

Some screen grabs to show how I test these apps quickly and easily.


First a test file I make to see how some of the basic tools work and to check the way colour works at a default level.

test file for editing apps

The file was easy enough to create, for the grey-scale measurements, the colour wheel a bit more difficult and I would need more time to make sure it was 'correct'. Even so the blue is meant to be a value of R0, G0, B255, and it looks off on my monitor, which was calibrated only a few weeks ago.

A feature I quite liked was the way tools and their options were enlarged while in use.


On my test file at a zoom factor of 200%, there was evidence of banding, bit of a concern, no higher bit depth editing available, not surprising given the price I guess, but the banding would/could be an issue for larger prints?


Raw Files.

I was very excited to see that the tool just opened the raw file I asked it to, no questions asked, again though, some processing controls at this point would be nice, even if it was just exposure, contrast and white balance.

no raw tools

There seemed to be some problems in some areas of the file, in terms of colour, but this could be the lens or the software.


Here is the file opened in the raw processor of Photoshop, and, the evidence points to the software; but not conclusively.

same file psp

Colour Editing

This software works the same as photoshop ie incorrectly, using both curves and levels. Lobster, made by Ian Lobb, goes into an in-depth discussion about why and how Photoshop handles colour incorrectly. Have a read for more information and background on this issue.

Firstly levels. An image made of pure colour, in this case, red, should display some changes when applying changes using the levels dialogue, none were apparent. Note the position of the sliders and the readout from the measuring tool.

fail x 1

Curves; same situation

fail x 2

Pixel Destruction?

Just like photoshop, these two screen grabs of a simple albeit heavy move with the levels tool suggest some data was lost.

levels 1

The second image below show excessive gaps, which suggests some loss of data.

levels 2

Photo Browser

Like any good app these days, the facility to 'browse' stored photos is a must and this app has that facility. However, because I have tested several of these tools over the last 6 months, or because of the apps shortcomings, I was unable to locate my external drives where all my photographs are kept. Pixelmator, very cleverly found my small iPhoto library. I however, rarely use it, and so many folders had been created by apps like Lightroom and Aperture already, I gave up trying to locate my files on my external drives.

Whether it is my system of organisation or the applications approach I'm not sure, but the option to choose the location of my files, somewhere in the preferences for example would be a huge improvement.
photo browser but where's my desktop and other folders?

long long long list

Colour Management.

One of the least understood and most important aspects of digital photography is colour management. Pixelmator's approach is simple and easy to use, a real plus for a such a piece of software aimed I'm assuming at a level of the market that may not really need to know or care.

colour manangement wow


All the usual suspects here. I guess standard these days. One standout feature though that Photoshop doesn't do is allow you to add a mask to the default image, or as Photoshop calls it 'background'. However I forgot to screengrab it, and am too lazy to go back and re-do it, you'll just have to trust me.

the usual suspects and more

One of my favourite techniques is to use adjustment layers in Photoshop to enhance and manipulate my images, Pixelmator doesn't seem to have the option despite being able to mask a background layer, ah well can;'t have it all I guess.


brushes options

The options for the brushes, were somewhat buried I felt. [Of course at no point did I read the manual] but once found were easy to use and modify brush types and sizes, exactly the same as Photoshop.

Here they are, the stand settings for brushes really.


Maybe the jitter options on, hue, saturation, lightness, are different, again not a tool as a photographer I use a great deal, so hard to say how useful it could be.

Value, but...

At 50 bucks US, it's a good piece of software. It has some major strengths, is easy and intuitive to use. If you were starting out in the design industry it's a real replacement for Photoshop. Pro photographers though, well, with Aperture and Lightroom really kicking Photoshop's arse at the moment, I doubt you'd bother.

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This page contains a single entry by s2art published on March 28, 2009 7:29 PM.

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