Photoshop, Watch Out: Pixelmator 3 FX is here

iWork is Apple’s answer to Microsoft Office, and its pro apps directly compete with Adobe’s Lightroom, Premiere Pro, and Audition. But when it comes to Photoshop, the alternate even Apple itself shows off these days is Pixelmator.

Just over 6 years after the first version of Pixelmator was released, the 3rd version of Pixelmator is here with a slightly new name: Pixelmator 3 FX. This new version brings the long-awaited layer styles along with new liquify effects and a brand new, faster-than-ever editing engine.

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 8.34.24 PM

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 8.35.18 PMFirst up: the new non-destructive layer styles. The one feature I personally was missing the most from Pixelmator versus Photoshop, layer styles make it easy to add shadows, gradients, strokes, and more to your layers. It’s not something you’ll want to go overboard with, but it’s a great way to stylize text and more without having to do any tricky photoshopping techniques to get everything to look like you want. Combine that with Pixelmator’s great shape and text tools, and you’ve got a simple way to trick out any design.

Then, there’s the liquify tools, which make retouching pictures simpler than ever. You can use the bump tool to increase anything in size, or the pinch tool to shrink — tools you can put to use to make details pop, or to tweak photos to the way every they are on every magazine cover. The warp and twirl tools give you even more fun ways to experiment with your photos. Throw in the power Pixelmator already had, including a healing tool that can remove objects from photos automagically, and the clone stamp tool, and you’ve got all the photo touchup tools you could want.

One complaint against Pixelmator for quite some time was that it’d always save files in the Pixelmator format unless you went through its export options. That’s gone now, too, and you can select the format you want right from the save options, or tweak a .jpg picture and just hit CMD+S to save it back to is original format. It’s simple and easy.

Best of all, Pixelmator is faster than ever with a new image editing engine that’s powered by the best of OS X Mavericks. It’s up to twice as fast at most edits, and Apple even showcased it on the new Mac Pro Performance page instead of Photoshop, a first for the company. Pixelmator has always been one of the first apps to adopt new OS X features, and it’s a leading example of the power of the built-in image editing libraries and more in OS X.

Pixelmator Liquify Tools

For anyone trying to avoid Adobe apps, it’s easier than ever on the Mac. There’s alternates to everything in Creative Cloud on the Mac, and the alternate apps keep getting better. The Pixelmator team has done an incredibly impressive job of making a best-in-class image editing app for the Mac, one they keep making better with free updates. They’ve filled our main complaint in Pixelmator versus Acorn, its closest Mac competitor, so the fight’s closer than ever.

If you don’t have a copy yet, it’s time to download the trial and consider getting your own copy. It’s that good, and at $29.99 one-time compared to Photoshop’s $19.99 per month, it’s quite the steal.


The got-to Photoshop alternate on the Mac now sports layer styles, liquify effects, and a rewritten engine that's faster than ever.