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Review: Pixelmator 1.6

About a year and a half ago (January 7, 2009 to be exact) I wrote a review of Pixelmator as a potential light-weight image-editing software. At that time I found it a very useful and inexpensive image-editing software that was well worth its $59.00 cost. (Download from

A new version of Pixelmator (1.6) is available as a free upgrade to current Pixelmator owners, but a word of caution goes along with it. Pixelmator has been rewritten for Snow Leopard 10.6 and the new version will not run on 10.5 Leopard. Much of its underpinnings have been rewritten for 64 bit support and tuned to take advantage of the multi-core CPUs that Mac has been utilizing for some time.

The results are increases in speed, with Pixelmator claiming starting up twice as fast as previously, and opening images two times faster than Adobe’sPhotoshop©. It’s new painting engine claims to run four times faster than the previous version, and claims that filters are applied faster than those in Photoshop©.

I have no tools to effectively measure these claims but I can say that using the new 1.6 version of Pixelmator gives a much snappier and more efficient feel than I previously got when using the program. In fact, in a few short days it has become my first stop for quick editing on my MacBook Pro when I am in the field.

Here’s the old introduction window on top and the new one on the bottom; added to the new version is OPEN RECENT IMAGE which replaces the original START USING PIXELMATOR.

(Out with the old…)

(In with the new…)

Pixelmator Socializes…

Pixelmator 1.6 also gained quite a few tweaks and bug fixes—over 320, in fact—all of which give it a more streamlined and snappier feel. One of the newer and more useful features for me is the ability to provide sharing images directly to social sites like Flickr, Picasa, and Facebook.

Also new is the direct import from devices like cameras, scanners, iPhones, and iPads. Also on the list of improvements are new transforming tools, a redesigned printing engine, and new Automator actions to allow trimming and watermarking images.

Seen below, the IMPORT menu allows us to connect to any device that is already plugged in to the computer

The EXPORT menu opens a window with choices for the kind of export the computer operator desires.


An image can be exported as JPEG, PNG, TIFF, PHOTOSHOP, PDF or OTHER, and OTHER opens up a considerable list of options.


Choosing OTHER allows the following list of options to be accessed.



Still another export function that I almost forgot to mention is the EXPORT FOR WEB function…



…which gives us the usual quality control function for controlling the file size of the exported image.



The clean layout makes it easy to access the most used tools and keep track of layers.

One of the little niceties in the overall finish of the PIXELMATOR application is found in theTOOLS menu in that the selected tool enlarges itself so that it is easy to see what tool is selected at any given moment. This easily overlooked nicety is simply an example of what I wish all image editing programs would look at in what I might call the “fit and finish” of an application. Here, PIXELMATOR has done an excellent job.

Let’s run quickly over the changes that have appeared in the PIXELMATOR 1.6 update:

  1. Major Performance Improvements. Every part of the Ap has been fine-tuned to increase speed and a performance, with the addition of full 64-bit architecture support being one of the most significant changes.
  2. Layer Groups are now possible. This means that layers can be grouped in a logical order and you can reduce clutter in the layers palette.
  3. Flicker, Picasa, and Facebook. You can now directly publish your image to Flicker, Picasa, and Facebook.
  4. Import. You can now easily import images from cameras, scanners, and multifunction devices such as the iPhone.
  5. New Transforming Tools. New transforming tools are redesigned to be more precise and powerful and yet much easier to use.
  6. Bug Fixes. Overall a number of previous inconsistencies have been corrected. These minor—yet irritating—quirks have been ironed out and smothed over to increase the overall pleasure and speed of using PIXELMATOR.

For those who might want a complete run-down on PIXELMATOR I refer you to the January 7, 2009 article here on, This overview of the new features in the PIXELMATOR 1.6 update just reinforce my conclusions that this is a good alternative program for the budget conscious designer or student who can use PIXELMATOR on an Apple computer. A free trial is downloadable, and the $59,00 price tag is a real deal. I recommend it to the student or the designer on a budget.

By Dr. Michael N. Roach

Dr. Michael N. Roach is a retired Professor of Art from Stephen F. Austin State University. His 33 year teaching career spans the silver to digital age. His images have been shown throughout the American South, Russia, Ireland and France; some of them are in the permanent collection of the Combes Gallery at The American University of Paris in France. An avid Mac Computer advocate he teaches workshops on digital imaging and courses in Adobe Photoshop as well as digital printing for the Fine Arts.

7 replies on “Review: Pixelmator 1.6”

It’s a great product for creating web graphics, especially since Photoshop changes colors on you and Fireworks is too expensive.

I agree with Kubricklove as well: I wish it had a healing brush though I can use the cloning brush as MadBadCat also said. Maybe sometime before too long it will have that. It would be worthwhile. Though I have Photoshop CS5 on my laptop, I also have Pixelmator and I have set the image-opening preference to go to it on opening new images. It’s quicker, and I can do most of my editing with it; if I have to, I can go on to PSCS5.

That is a good point. Since I never incorporated the healing brush in my workflow, I hadn’t considered that it might be an issue, but now that you mention it…

The only thing keeping me from the purchase of Pixelmator is the lack of a healing brush. I know one can use the clone tool the same way, but I don’t want to go backwards 5 years or more when it comes to the touch up tools that I use the most. I really do want to buy this application, just waiting on the healing brush.

Thanks for the heads-up Anthony; hope readers take note. It’s an easy program to work with.

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