Pixelmator 2.2 is a legitimate Photoshop replacement that costs $15

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.
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor on

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.

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