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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©.

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The Pixelmator Challenge: Dr. Roach

While teaching a recent Photoshop workshop, a local Community College recruited me to conduct a sort of ‘finishing up’ workshop for students at the end of their second year of Photoshop classes in a strictly Macintosh lab. I was charged with showing them that while they had two semesters of Photoshop behind them, that there were a lot of subtle things yet to be done and which hadn’t been covered in their coursework.

Sure enough, at the end of the session a question arose, just as I had expected “What do we do when we no longer have access to school machines and software?” A good question. Even though Adobe’s Academic Pricing Policy deeply discounts Photoshop for students, in these economic times, even that price is beyond the means of many students.

Usually when asked about an alternative to Photoshop I recommend Photoshop Elements from Adobe, but our webmaster suggested that I also look at Pixelmator ( which is an image editor with a similar look to Photoshop and is touted as “… image editing for the rest of us” and at $59.00 US it just might be. It runs on Macintosh OS X 10.5.5 and later. So I downloaded a copy and tried it out.

Pixelmator weighs in at a 121.2 MB in size download (56.6 MB compressed) for the basic application and an excellent 81 page manual can be downloaded separately at the website.

Pixelmator reminds me of what I remember Photoshop 3 (or perhaps 4) was like (I’ll have to depend upon memory here as I no longer have copies of the older versions of Photoshop before the CS versions, and I no longer have a computer that would run them even if I did) but, in their day they were the state of the art, and with it I did some fabulous work. Pixelmator can do equally as well and is a bargain at the price.

Visually, it resembles Photoshop though it is slightly limited in tools and abilities. The learning curve is minimal. Any student who has had an introduction to Photoshop should have no trouble picking up the operation of Pixelmator.

For the student on a limited budget but who does own a Mac computer, I now have an additional suggestion for a Photoshop substitute. It isn’t Photoshop but it will do a good basic editing job and is neither as daunting nor as expensive as Adobe’s flagship product.

If you are a Mac user on a tight budget, Pixelmator is definitely worthy of consideration.

Read Alicia Vogel’s review of Pixelmator here.

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The Pixelmator Challenge: Alicia Vogel

I really love Pixelmator as a painting program.  It has Photoshop-like brushes and a Painter feel.  I popped a sketch I had started in Painter in and was able to fully block it out and have a decent detail pass in a matter of hours.  For me, its simplicity is a big plus. With Photoshop and Painter,  I get dazzled by all the options and end up forever tweaking all the tools. 

In the future I’m going to do all my pre-painting in Pixelmator and then tweak either in Photoshop or Painter.  I’ll see how December’s Al works with it.

It does lack the gazillion brushes that either program has, so I did have to rehash some old tricks back when Photoshop was 3.0.  But it’s just plain fun to work in.

I would say this piece took me around five hours, and it’s more than decent groundwork. I did a similiar type piece using a combination of Painter and Photoshop, and it took twice as long.  The traits that Pixelmator has in common with Photoshop and Painter combined with it’s simplicity makes it a joy to use and keeps me concentrated on the actual painting instead of being all fidgety with the brushes and options.  I also realized yesterday as I was putting some refining moves on it that the final results look like my non-digital acrylic paintings.

On the negative side, I really missed my palette knife tool.  And I couldn’t find a use for Pixelmator’s "starry" brush.