The private school where I work near my home in Chicago is also home to hundreds of students and faculty and nearly that many Macs and PCs (not to mention plenty of iPads and a growing number of Chromebooks).
That means both faculty and students need someone to support dozens of Mac and Windows applications for classroom use. Even those with an artistic gene still look for bargains and most of the time I point them to a favorite, Pixelmator.
The Kid In Town
Pixelmator is much like Photoshop Lite. It’s a mostly full-featured image editor for Mac users, perfect for drawing, painting, designing, and editing images; especially photographs. The learning curve is lighter than Photoshop and it’s a one-time-only purchase rather than an ongoing pay-by-the-month-forever subscription plan.
Pixelmator will be familiar to anyone who used Photoshop in the past thanks to the charcoal design and floating palettes of tools. You’ll be able to correct and repair images, combine tools for an infinite array of options (or, near infinite; I didn’t do a count, but anything beyond what Pixelmator can do probably is overkill, blur and sharpen, enhance colors, drop in vector graphics, and add an array of text tools– all for about what Adobe charges for three months of Photoshop.
The app is packed with effects, based in eight groups– blur, distortion, sharpen, tile, stylize, halftone, generator, and more. Settings have both a simple slider bar to adjust each element, but also a numeric equivalent for more precise controls.
And, yes, the whole thing works on layers, just like in Photoshop so you can blend until the cows come home. Pixelmator also has editing extensions which can be used in Photos on your Mac. There’s much to like, especially the price tag. A nominal $29.99.
The very same price will get you Pro Paint for Mac, also packed with hundreds and hundreds of tools, filters, effects, and more. The overall look and feel and the interface is similar to Pixelmator, but different in one important way.
Pro Paint places tools and settings around each image instead of multiple floating palettes. Different strokes for different folks, folks. Otherwise, the similarities in capability and tools are stunning.
Pro Paint lists itself as something of a painting app for the Mac, but it’s really an image editor in the same vein as Pixelmator. It opens and exports most of the basic Mac image file formats, including RAW. There are built-in tools to create and editor vector-based files.
The question almost any budding graphic designer or photographer wannabe will have is, ‘Which one?’ Fortunately, both come with a try-before-you-buy option. Pixelmator has both a Mac and iOS version. Pro Paint does not but does publish a number of other Mac and Windows graphic and media apps so they’re not exactly new to the game.
Personally, and it’s subjective, Pixelmator is more fluid and substantially more Mac-like in day-to-day usage than Pro Paint.