Everybody knows what Photoshop does but far fewer people know how to make graphic design and enhance photos on Photoshop. Why? Photoshop is expensive, complex, and has an long learning curve (which explains the many Photoshop books and online courses available).
Are there Photoshop alternatives? Sure. Affinity Photo and Pixelmator come to mind, but there are many others, including Acorn and the much renowned GIMP for Mac. What if you’re a Mac user on a budget and all you want is something good but Photoshop-like?
‘It’s Just Pixels’
If Photoshop is the big dawg in graphic design and photo manipulation apps, and Photoshop Elements is something akin to Photoshop Lite, then what is PixelStyle? Photoshop-like. Or, maybe, Photoshop Ultra Mini. Whatever it is, there is plenty of value in the feature vs. price comparison.
First, PixelStyle has a free try-before-you-buy option so you can compare it to Pixelmator and others. PixelStyle works and looks and feels much like what you would expect from Photoshop Ultra Mini, from the charcoal layout and tools to the brushes and filters, layers and effects, and more.
PixelStyle can be used as a drawing app, too (just like Photoshop) with more than 100 drawing brushes– pencil, airbrush, watercolor brush, chalk, charcoal, neon pens, and more, which can be used to create oil paintings, sketches, textures, and more, all of which have different sizes, shapes, hardness, and blending modes. You know, just like Photoshop.
And, just like Photoshop (and, to be fair, like most Mac graphic and photo enhancement apps) PixelStyle has multiple layers, layer groups, layer effects, and dozens of filter effects with blending modes. Everything can be selected, flipped, aligned, transformed, skewed, moved and there’s even support for Alpha channel editing.
You’ll be able to add text layers and effects, including shadows and stroke, inner and outer glow, files and even irregular shapes with options to transform text. All the standard font manipulation tools are available, too, including kerning, bold, underline, italics, and so on.
The app handles most standard Mac graphic file formats from TIFF to JPEG, PNG to GIG and BMP. Oddly, I couldn’t get it to open a Photoshop PSD file. One layout and interface feature I like is having all the tools for each image on a single window instead of multiple tool palettes floating all over the screen.
You will note many similarities between PixelStyle, Pixelmator, and even Photoshop itself. The developer, EffectMatrix, is from China where intellectual property laws are more of a suggestion, but the developer also has half a dozen other Mac graphic and video apps, some of which have a nominal price tag, a decent reputation, and plenty of value for the money. There’s much to like here.