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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.

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.

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