Meet the New Pixelmator Cherry

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.

All user interface elements have been upgraded for the Retina display - here's a comparison of the normal sized icons and the Retina ready ones

All user interface elements have been upgraded for the Retina display – here’s a comparison of the normal sized icons and the Retina ready ones

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.

Quickly apply effects by dragging them from the Effects Browser onto the image

Quickly apply effects by dragging them from the Effects Browser onto the image

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.

The new vintage effect offers many adjustments

The new vintage effect offers many adjustments

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.

Alignment Guides take the guesswork out of positioning objects

Alignment Guides take the guesswork out of positioning objects

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.

Thanks to Mountain Lion you can now share your work from right within Pixelmator

Thanks to Mountain Lion you can now share your work from right within Pixelmator

Verdict

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.


Summary

Pixelmator is an image editor aimed both at beginners and professional users who are looking for an alternative to Photoshop.

9
  • Vadim

    “The team behind Pixelmator did a really great job on this update”, but only 9/10.

    The guys did an amazing job, and this update is worth much more than its current price. It must be 10/10! Dear Mac.AppStorm, your scores to the recent app reviews are really confusing :) Please re-consider your rating policies.

    • Quine

      I agree – this deserves a 10/10. The other day a minimally useful app got a 7/10 even though the reviewer was justifiably critical of it. Considering the new features and free upgrade price for existing users, this definitely should earn a 10/10 in my opinion.

      Also, great work Pixelmator team! I bought Pixelmator a long time ago because I knew it’d grow to be fantastic, and I love the huge and timely updates!

    • http://www.appforthat.de Julia Altermann

      HI Vladim,

      Julia here, I wrote the article about Pixelmator.

      The reason I gave it “only” 9/10 is that I still see a lot of improvement for Pixelmator. Mind you, it’s a fantastic app and I use it on a daily basis. At home, it has replaced Photoshop for me which I’m using at work.

      Because of switching between these two apps I’m also reminded that certain features are still lacking (layer styles, certain finesse in some tools etc). Without them, Pixelmator is still an excellent app with an unbeatable price (at the moment), but there are areas of improvement if it wants to be the “image editor for the rest of us”.

      I didn’t give it a full score because I think that there is still potential for some important features which will not just satisfy pro’s like me but also intermediate users. Giving it a 10/10 would – for me – indicate that the app is perfect and has a feature set that can only be enhanced, not improved.

      Cheers!

  • Seth

    Looks like some decent features for the novice user, but until it has non-destructive editing most professionals won’t be able to make the move. I hope that’s next on the list.

  • Lenny

    Awesome, I used to use gimp but sorta waited for this to be on sale, because pixelmator can do the same (or maybe even more) but it has a better UI that makes it more user-friendly opted opinion and for the current price, it’s almost a must buy… Now back to making crazy stuff with pixelmator :P

  • Marc

    Pixelmator is a great soft but it’s still lacking in some areas (vector shapes).
    Also, it has failed me several times (pdf export, vector shapes offset after reopening a document, move layers, size of exported files).

    I like it very much, but there are many areas where it can’t compete with Photoshop (and Px’s team said that their focus is somewhere else).
    On the other hand, Px is sometimes more pleasant than Ps to use (user friendliness for beginners).

    For some it will be a total replacement, for others it will be just good enough for quick photo retouching / Drawing / Mockups.
    For my needs Ps has always been reliable, Px a bit less (but price is not the same).

    This is a great update – congratulations to the team, but the soft is not perfect and there is still room for improvement.

  • Beatrix Willius

    I’m still waiting for an interface where I can read the text. Grey on black in tiny type isn’t working for my eyes.

  • B30

    But there is one big downside of Pixelmator, it just supports the OS X Versions/Autosave crap (NO “Save” or “Save As”).

  • Josh

    I’m thinking of getting Pixelmator – would you recommend this for making logo’s? Or is there a better suited app that is relatively cheap?

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