While there’s no shortage of image editing applications for the Mac, it’s safe to say that Pixelmator is one of the top contenders when it comes to more ambitious tasks. It might be too much to say that Pixelmator is a full replacement for Photoshop, but it does offer a wide variety of features which will satisfy the needs of many.
Today, Pixelmator received an update, bumping it to version 2.1, codenamed Cherry. And if you haven’t picked up a copy yet, now’s a good time to try it out, as it’s on a summer sale for only $14.99. After the break, we’ll take a look at the changes and how they’ll affect your workflow.
Take a close look: Retina-Ready
For all those Retina MacBook users, it’s finally time to enjoy working with Pixelmator again. While complaints about apps not being ready and ugly to look at surfaced pretty much immediately after the rMBP was shipped, the team behind Pixelmator went to work and updated the entire user interface to meet the new demands.
As you can see, all buttons and interface elements have been upgraded; of course that in turn means that the size of the application has increased as well, but not significantly (from 59.1MB to 68.6MB). I’m not on a Retina Mac, so I couldn’t take full advantage of preview version I had for testing, but I think the differences in the icons as shown above clearly indicates that Retina users will have a lot more fun now.
Work everywhere: iCloud Support
If you work on different Macs, iCloud support will make your life a lot easier. Instead of having to remember to save your stuff to some accessible place – Dropbox, for example – Pixelmator will automatically offer you the option to save your work to iCloud.
Consider, though, that iCloud storage is not unlimited. Every user gets 5GB of storage for free, and previous MobileMe owners get 25GB, but those will be downgraded after one year to the standard 5GB. While it takes quite some documents to fill up this much space (your purchased music, TV shows, apps, books and photo stream images don’t count against free storage), edited images can grow large sursprisingly fast. And with all those other apps offering iCloud sync as well, you might want to keep an eye on what you store there. If money doesn’t matter, you can upgrade iCloud with additional storage with up to 50GB for $100/year.
So, iCloud’s support is nice, but it might not be the most important addition for most of us.
Effects Browser (Formerly: Filters)
While Pixelmator is a lot easier to use than Photoshop (and a lot cheaper, too), it still requires some getting used to. Especially novices to the entire image editing process will have difficulties finding their way.
To make it easier to touch up photos without having to know exactly what you’re doing – thereby aiming much more for the consumer segment – Pixelmator removed its Filter menu and instead implemented the Effects Browser.
So, instead of having to know (or guess) what Motion Blur, Linear Bump, Pointilize and all those other complicated words mean, now you can actually see the effect on a tiny thumbnail. Moving your cursor horizontally across a thumbnail will show you the progression of the effect’s strength.
In a way, its very convenient to have the Effects Browser, which can either show all effects at once or only certain categories, depending on your selection. Beginners especially will find this of great value – not having to blindly apply effects to simply find out what they do.
Oh, and you can add effects to a Favorites category. Often used effects will end up there anyway, but by right-clicking a thumbnail in the Effects Browser you can add anything there manually.
Vintage, Miniaturize, Black & White, Rain & Snow
Apart from bringing us the Effects Browser, Pixelmator also created five completely new effects for Cherry. As with all other effects, simply dragging an effect onto an image applies the changes. Before those are final, you can adjust the effect strength or dismiss it, if you don’t like it after all.
Professionals rejoice: Alignment Guides
This new feature will be a benefit to all users, but especially to those with some advanced tasks ahead of them. If you use Adobe InDsign (well, Pages has it too), you will value the alignment guides, which will indicate the relative position of an object to another.
That means, if you drag an object around, at some point these lines will appear if the dragged object lines up with the edges or center of the other object. While some might wonder what that is good for, designers will appreciate the help. Instead of having to manually set up guides to align objects, Pixelmator now helps on its own. Definitely one of the best features in this update.
Mountain Lion – Sharing and other goodies
While the update speaks of “enhancements to take advantage of the latest OS X Mountain Lion technologies”, it becomes most apparent with the new sharing features in Apple’s OS. Instead of having to save a file before you can share it, you can now send or share it within Pixelmator itself.
The team behind Pixelmator did a really great job on this update – Retina users will rejoice about not having to stare at pixels anymore, beginners will finally understand filters and advanced users will see a significant speed increase in their workflow thanks to Aligment Guides.
I didn’t experience any issues with Pixelmator Cherry (mind you, I only got to test it for a few hours), but the update seems stable and considering all the new goodies, you should hit that Update button soon.