Pixelmator 2.2 is a legitimate Photoshop replacement that costs $15

Pixelmator 2.2 is a legitimate Photoshop replacement that costs $15

Summary: While Adobe moves to a subscription model for its defacto-standard Photoshop application, a scrappy, Mac-only image editor stands to gain market share from users put off by the idea of subscription software.

TOPICS: Apple, Software

I'll start out by saying that real, hardcore pixel-pushers will probably only ever use Photoshop. (The same can also be said for Adobe's other powerhouse tools like InDesign and Illustrator, there's just no replacing them.)

Pixelmator 2.2 is a cost-effective replacement for Photoshop - Jason O'Grady

But then, there are the rest of us who'll probably never exploit the depths of Photoshop, and only use a handful of the same basic features over and over again. For most Mac users, Adobe Photoshop is overkill.

When Adobe announced this week that it was killing its Creative Suite (which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, among others) as packaged software in exchange for Creative Cloud (CC), a pure-play subscription model, you could almost hear the cry of designers across the globe screaming at their Wacom tablets and color calibrated monitors. 

Our own Andrew Nusca covered the earth-shattering announcement at Adobe Max in Los Angeles, California, for Between the Lines. Adobe's FAQ and press release provide additional details. CC Complete pricing is as follows:

  • $49.99/month for new Creative Cloud members (annual commitment)

  • $29.99/month for existing CS3 (or later) licensees (annual commitment)

  • $19.99/month for Student & Teachers (annual commitment)

  • $19.99/month for a single app

  • $69.99/month Creative Cloud for teams

  • $39.99/month Creative Cloud for teams using CS3 (or later) licenses

After the initial shock that Adobe had one-upped Microsoft in the software subscription race had wore off, two things immediately came to mind. First, it might be time to upgrade from CS5 to CS6, just in case I really need Photoshop's extra muscle. And second, it's time to find a replacement for Photoshop that better suits my needs (and budget).

Hands down, the best replacement for Photoshop on the Mac is Pixelmator, which is available for $14.99 from the Mac App Store. I've been testing Pixelmator 2.2 Blueberry, which is due to be released on Thursday, May 9 (as a free upgrade, natch), and it's an amazingly tight piece of code that's extremely fast, functional, and beautiful at the same time. In fact, it performs the half dozen or so tasks that I use Photoshop for, better than Photoshop did.

My image editing workflow revolves around editing pictures for the web (as you see in these pages), some color correction (mostly levels, curves, and exposure), adding the occasional annotation or watermark, and manipulation of image size, canvas size, and save for the web. While I'll occasionally dive into masks and layers, its an infrequent effort at best. All photo management is otherwise handled by Aperture (another decision that I may reconsider.)

Pixelmator handles all of these tasks with ease, and makes me wonder if I ever needed Photoshop in the first place.

Pixelmator 2.2 Blueberry comes with more than 100 new features and improvements, including:

  • Smart Shapes Tools, which let you quickly adjust a shape's outline with easy-to-use controls to get just the look you're after

  • Shapes palette packed with dozens of readily available shapes that are as easy to add as dragging and dropping

  • Shape Style palette, so you can effortlessly create more polished and advanced shapes

  • Convert Text into Shape, which allows you to convert type layers to shape layers, and then easily apply gradients, shadows, strokes, or even reshape individual letters

  • Smart Move Tool, which knows when you are working with image or shape layers, and gives you just the options you need at that time

  • Paint Selection Tool, which is the simplest and the fastest way to make even the most challenging selections in your images with just a few brush strokes

  • Light Leak Effect, which makes it easy and fun to create stunning, retro-artistically illuminated images from any of your photos.

If you don't want to pay a king's ransom for periodic bursts of image editing, purchase Pixelmator and buy a MacBook Pro with the savings.

Topics: Apple, Software

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  • Pixelmator 2.2 is a legitimate Photoshop replacement ...

    i wonder how it compares with gimp functionally ...
    • Paint.NET

      Or how does it compare to Paint.NET on Windows..
    • So

      I see gimp doesn't require X11 any more, so that's good. The Downloads page is a tad confusing as we see "Fink version - We don't know if it will build." Hey, don't knock yourself out.

      I know, I know, I got the source code, I should be ecstatic because license dogma.

      I'm sure gimp can do more. But, for the price, Pixelmator is my choice as it does almost any thing I want. Yes, still my choice, even compared with a free thing. Besides, it's App Store so there's iCloud syncing. That's been handy.

      And to be honest I wrestled with gimp back in the day and burned out on it. Yeah, that happens, people get tired of annoyances and move on. Pixelmator has its quirks, could use a user-specified rotation angle, but I got the things I expected to do with it done within a reasonable time. That's all I want.

      Still, nothing wrong with choosing gimp. Maybe something a little wrong with going around and posing those passive aggressive questions.
      • I find Gimp really clunky on the Mac

        But it is so very powerful. On the other hand, this looks like it might be better for creative, non-technical projects. The UI looks gorgeous. It has a touch of iPhoto to the look of it.
    • OK, this isn't supposed to be a comprehensive head-to-head comparison but..

      Heck, I'm wondering how it (Pixelmator) compares with Photoshop. Not a single mention of what someone might be giving up by moving?
    • Functionality is irrelevant if usability

      is a total nightmare.
      • Agree 100%

        And the biggest example is GIMP. Very powerful with lots of belts and whistles ... but a nightmare to uses. What is the point of being powerful if people have a hard time figuring out how to do even the most simple things .... and lets not talk about figuring out how to do the difficult stuff.
        • GIMP? Hardly.

          GIMP's interface falls into the mildly crufty territory. At least on PC/Linux. Can't vouch for mac but I doubt it is much different. Hardly "nightmare".

          All the simple stuff is easy to do and can be found with menu navigation just like Photoshop.

          It also seems to be about the only thing that is a true Photoshop Competitor. Only reason I could think not to use GIMP would be if someone handed me a free license for Photoshop or I was a professional graphics guy.

          Now Blender OTOH.... actually has a pretty slick interface but the learning curve.... my god, the learning curve.
          • Need to check out Xara...

            Xara Photo & Graphic Designer
          • Also for Linux too...

            Xara Xtreme for Linux
    • GIMP

      Gimp works on windows
  • X11

    Thanks for the heads up! I haven't used Gimp in a while, so I didn't know they finally made it native. I'm downloading now. :)
  • One small problem...

    All of that sounds great - really - but the web is full of stories of Pixelmator crashing any MacBook with an NVIDIA card. Fix that (APPLE) and I'm onboard
    Gerry Atric
    • Pixelmator / NVIDIA crash - FIXED

      Gerry, that problem was fixed with the OS X 10.8.3 update.
  • Not a Photoshop alternative

    Suggest anyone looking for a photoshop replacement try the Pixelmator demo first. The app is was $32 in Australia when I bought it based on several reviews saying its a photoshop replacement and I never use it. Feature wise its lucky to be 5% of photoshop
    • Much more than 5% of Photoshop

      As the article notes, hardcore Photoshop users will bend over for Adobe to keep the tool that they know how to use well, and works for them. But for *most* of us, who don't make a living with Photoshop, a $15 tool like Pixelmator is more than sufficient. The *only* thing I'm missing is Layer Styles, something that is on the developer's "to do" list, and which I suspect we'll see sooner rather than later. Pixelmator is an incredible value, and I'm happy to support the developer with what is little more than the cost of a few lattes...
      • I see your point

        but there are too many articles flying around claiming "Photoshop replacement" when it is not. The closest thing available now is GIMP, although not as simple to use as Pixelmator, its free and more powerful.
  • Ink

    Ink is another one to give a go. I have used GIMP but as others have said, its a bit overkill but if you are a serious photo editor then it is worth the learning curve and will be around for a while.
    Rann Xeroxx
    • Ink??? Really???

      I'm guessing you don't do anything fancy .... because Ink pretty much does nothing.
  • Paint.net

    I agree with BP314 Paint.net is fantastic but runs on Windows only.
    Pixelmator appears to be an almost exact copy of it. Too bad we have to pay $15.00 for it when Paint.net is free with constant updates to it from the community.