Pixelmator Pro 2.1.2 Coral verdict
Pixelmator is not the most powerful photo editor you can get by any means, but this Mac only photo editor, illustration and painting tool covers the basics with speed and efficiency and a light touch that is actually rather endearing. It is also very useful as a lightweight all-round graphics tool for when you need to add text, captions, annotations or diagrams to your photos.
+ Inexpensive to buy
+ Very fast
+ Efficient and engaging
+ Perspective correction and retouching
– Quirky approach takes some learning
– Lacks the depth of full-blown pro rivals
What is Pixelmator Pro?
Pixelmator Pro is a Mac only application that is part photo editor, part vector illustration program and part digital painting tool. It’s really rather hard to categorise because it straddles several genres. Photo editing is probably its most prominent role, but it weaves in text, graphics and paint tools to take photos in a different direction to most photo editors.
• See also: Best image editing software – what to look for, how to choose
In a way, it’s a little like Photoshop, but radically different at the same time. Like Photoshop, it’s aimed at multiple disciplines, not just photography, but, unlike Photoshop, it’s very, very quick, both in startup time and editing tasks. It’s also available for a one-off license fee, not a subscription.
Who is it for?
Pixelmator would be ideal for photographers looking for a fast, lightweight adjustment tool that can also handle layers, masking and minor retouching without all the fuss of Photoshop.
But its strongest appeal is perhaps for broader ‘digital artists’ who use photography alongside design, illustration and even hand-drawn digital painting. It’s really useful when you need to turn photos into diagrams, infographics or even posters.
It’s not very expensive and not terribly deep in its features, but it would be a mistake to cast it as an ‘amateur’ program simply because of that. It’s fast and streamlined and does what it does without the ‘bloat’ that can make other programs hard work.
If you want a powerful photo editor, you’re probably better off with Photoshop or Affinity Photo. For professional illustration and digital art, you might want to look at Illustrator or Affinity Designer (or Corel Painter, if you’re a Windows user) instead.
What Pixelmator does is combine these disciplines in a speedy, lightweight package. It’s like an inexpensive odd-job tool that can do more than you think and turns out to be more useful than you expected. For example, the illustrations in these articles on composition were created in just a few minutes using Pixelmator’s vector tools and image layers.
How useful is it?
Pixelmator Pro is designed to be used as a standalone application, but would also make a great external editor for Lightroom Classic or Capture One. It’s good at layers, masking, retouching and general image enhancements.
There are no adjustment layers (you have to duplicate a layer instead), and the masking tools are relatively basic – but for many composite image and layering tasks, it has all you need, including opacity and blend mode controls.
Pixelmator does not do HDR, focus stacking or panorama stitching, and while it does have a variety of film presets, light leak effects and a grain tool, it’s not really a strong rival to an analog effects tool like Exposure X6, ON1 Photo RAW or Analog Efex Pro (DxO Nik Collection).
Its real strength lies in its speed and efficiency rather than any great depth. It is ideal for photographers who need to merge their work with illustration, poster design or digital art, and Pixelmator Pro offers an intriguing cross-discipline approach to this kind of artwork.
Are the results good?
Some features in Pixelmator Pro really stand out. Its perspective correction tools look odd at first but are wonderfully effective for correcting perspective by eye rather than with sliders and marquees – Pixelmator Pro makes it super easy to fine-tune perspective quickly and by eye.
The Heal tool is terrific. You paint over an object and it goes away. If you miss a bit, you paint over it and that goes too. And if you accidentally smudge a detail or erase an edge, you can fix it with the clone tool and its intuitive live preview.
And the object selection tool is so simple and effective it makes you smile. It automatically identifies and masks an object or area as you drag, previewing the selection with a yellow mask, and is especially good at following object edges.
Pixelmator Pro also supports LUTs (Lookup Tables), so that if you have LUTs from other software or packages (I use Lutify.me LUTs) you can drag them into the Pixelmator LUTs folder to make them accessible within the program. You can even convert LUTs into Pixelmator adjustments or save a set of adjustments as a LUT.
Is it worth the money?
At just $39.99, Pixelmator Pro gives you a lot for your money. There’s also a fully featured trial to help you make your mind up before you have to spend any cash.
Whether it’s worth it will depend on what you’re looking for. If you want in-depth photo editing, you’ll probably be better off with the much more powerful (and much more technical) Affinity Photo. If you want AI driven ‘reality enhancement’, take a look at Luminar AI instead.
But if you want a basic but effective photo editor ‘lite’ that also crosses into vector graphics, paint, type and design tools, Pixelmator Pro is very good value.
Judged purely as a photo editor, Pixelmator Pro is a little light on features but does make up for it with speed and efficiency – and some unexpectedly effective tools.
Its real strength, though, is as a cross-discipline application for creatives working not just with photography, but illustration and type too, and who value speed and originality over technical depth.