Pixelmator Pro wants to be the Photoshop killer on macOS


The team behind Pixelmator is releasing a brand new app today called Pixelmator Pro. As the name suggests, it is a more powerful, refreshed version of the company’s original image-editing app. You can buy it today for $60 on the Mac App Store or try it for free.

It is a fully native app that takes advantage of most of Apple’s native APIs. While Adobe is still struggling to release Photoshop patches for macOS High Sierra, Pixelmator Pro is already using Apple’s latest APIs.

Pixelmator Pro has all the tools you’d expect from an image processor, such as a smart selection tool, retouching tools, painting tools, all sorts of color adjustment effects and more.

Pixelmator has been teasing us for a long time about this app and it’s finally here. I’m looking forward to testing it out.

  • rick gregory

    Hmm. Will be interested to see how it compares to Affinity Photo. One of the things missing from it and Pixelmator are print-oriented features (CMYK handling, etc). Not important if one never deals with print but if you want to replace PS you can’t ignore that market entirely.

    And, of course, if you trade things will clients who use PS or need to tightly integrate into an Adobe workflow…

    • Kip Beatty

      Sorry, keep looking if your after pro press settings. You can’t even control which color space is used when opening RAW images (chooses AdobeRGB 8-bit rather than the preferred ProPhoto 16-bit).

      • rick gregory

        sigh. Yeah, if they hope to dethrone PS, they need to deal with that stuff. Frankly, both the regular Pixelmator and Affinity Photo are quite good for editing images destined for online use. Fashionable as it may be to consider print obsolete, it’s not. Look, for example, at all of the catalogs in the mail this time of year. Or all of the magazines. ALL of those need CMYK controls and integration into a print workflow.

  • Kip Beatty

    It’s a very, very nice upgrade to Pixelmator. The interface is gorgeous, use of Mac tech is so refreshing compared to using Adobe apps like Photoshop, and they’ve done some nicely innovative things with effects (the string and circle UI is very intuitive). It also works beautifully with the new “Edit With…” feature in Photos. However…

    Layers, they messed up layers. You can’t apply image adjustments (color, white balance, exposure, etc.) to layers. They are made to the background layer even if you’ve created a duplicate. Doh!!!

    There also isn’t any layer opacity adjustment, which is a big omission when it comes to layer multiple images and effects. The lack of opacity adjustment for layers is a real killer and makes the layers feature so much less usable.

    Finally, there are no custom crops. You can only crop based on a very limited set of preset sizes. No 16:10, no 2:1, no custom.

    These things matter to me, they may not to you. There are other issues for me as well, like lack of color space control*. That said, it’s a great 1.0 release. I’m enjoying my time with it, even if I’ll still need Lightroom and Photoshop for most of my work. I’m really excited to see where this app goes as I imagine it’ll continue to improve regularly and I can’t wait for the iPad version to drop as well.

    *You can’t set preferences for image types. RAW files, for example, always open in AdobeRGB at 8-bit. When working with RAW, I prefer the wider ProPhoto space at 16-bit. I can change this, but I have to do it manually every time I open a RAW image. This is something that the user should be able to set in preferences. You can, FWIW, in standard Pixelmator.

    • “no custom crops”. Deal breaker for me.

    • rick gregory

      Wait… you can custom crop in regular Pixelmator – it appears as Constrain at the top of the active image. Pro doesn’t have that???

      • Kip Beatty

        Nope, not at this time. They tell me an update is coming with a lot of enhancements to crop. There are a number of things in Pixelmator standard that haven’t yet made it to Pro. However…

        An update just dropped for the app which fixes a lot of little bugs and annoyances. One of the biggies is color adjustments to layers now remain layer specific. A much needed fix/enhancement.

  • John Kordyback

    I’ve kind settled into using Affinity Pro on my iPad and MacOS. For me (I’m just simple hobbyist Sor, please don’t hurt me) it’s terrific. I feel that AP and Pixelmator have more than enough power for most people.

    I’ll be honest, I’m sure Adobe has a good product suite but I avoid them due horrible experience with Flash. It’s amazing how one product can colour one’s view of a whole company.

    • Kip Beatty

      Nothing wrong with using Affinity and/or Pixelmator, and definitely not something we’d hurt you over. 🙂

      You’re right, for many (most) people they’re all you need. Heck, for most people the new Photos app has all you need.

      I do like Pixelmator Pro better than I like Affinity FWIW. If I’m going to use Affinity, I’d rather just use Photoshop which is still more powerful and more familiar. Affinity is very Photoshop like without actually being Photoshop (I guess that’s good if you want Photoshop but don’t want to use Adobe products).

      If you like the UI and ease of use of Apple’s Photos app, but wish it had more power and features, take a look at Pixelmator Pro. It’s very “Photos-like” in its UI and layout, but it’s infinitely more powerful.

  • Kip Beatty

    Not for nothing, but I hate the title of TechCruch’s article and others like it. Pixelmator (Pro or otherwise) isn’t now, nor will it ever be, a “Photoshop killer”. It does maybe 10% of what Photoshop does, but that’s fine. It can be great at what it does without being Photoshop. Lots of people don’t need Photoshop. However, many people do and titles like the one above set expectations all wrong and lead to a lot of unhappy customers.

    • Mo

      Way down in the article, the writer answers the editor’s stupid headline directly.

  • Mo

    I want Pixelmator, Affinity Photo, and Acorn all to succeed. Adobe needs much more vigorous competition.

    • Caleb Hightower

      Agreed. I hope Pixlmator, et al, don’t sell out to Adobe either. I think they make a compelling app that will see real success if they keep at it, refining it and adding essential features/tools.

      PS is more than worthy of owning it outright, but for $120-$240/year its pricey and doesn’t yield the innovative growth it once commanded. Maybe Pixelmator will encourage Adobe to rewrite a modern version of PS

      • Mo

        In at least one lively Loop comment conversation, I reminded folks that Adobe’s original core apps are pretty mature at this point. It’s all minor refinements at this point, seems to me. Just about all they can add to, say, InDesign, are new macros.

        • Caleb Hightower

          Right. I like me some CC, but at $600/year, it’s nearly pure gravy for Adobe. A recent PS update included some new icons for file types, and an endless list of tweaks to an already long list of features. There’s nothing in the update I could live without.

          However, the flip side to this, for those of us who bought Adobe stock back in 2009 have seen the price rise 600%-1,100%. So there’s that too 😉

          • Mo

            You aren’t kidding about the stock price. You can almost see the month they released CC by looking at the chart. Gravy, indeed.

        • Kip Beatty

          There are some things that Adobe is doing that interest me. I very much like where they’re heading with Lightroom. They’ve taken the FinalCut X approach and have released a completely new version that’s much faster, much more fluid, and much better designed for today’s workflow with near 1:1 functionality with the iPad app.

          Like FCPX when it was first released, it’s not nearly as feature complete as LR Classic, but it’ll get there and be a much better app when it does.

          I’m also intrigued to see where they go with machine learning and AI in terms of selections. Their recent demo shows promise, and this is likely the future of making selections (still the most time consuming process in photo editing). This is an area where an unknown third party may beat them to the punch, but given their expertise in image selection and the money they have invested in this, I expect Adobe will lead the way.

          Now, if they’d just drop the damn Adobe UI conventions and let their apps be actual MacOS apps I’d be much happier (full screen, versions, Metal support, etc.).

          • Mo

            I’ve heard mixed reactions to Lightroom’s changes, but I’m glad to hear it’s a program that’s getting significant changes of some kind.

            And I’ve been complaining about Adobe’s UI since before Creative Suite. Their shitty chrome has never been an improvement on macOS. That’s Microsoft-level arrogance.

      • Kip Beatty

        PS is so much cheaper now at $9.99 per month than it was to own outright. You used to have to spend about $1k to buy the app, then about $300 per year to upgrade. Sure, you could skip the upgrades, but you were very quickly behind with the image services, print houses, and marketing firms if you did. Adobe was adding features like crazy through the 90’s and 00’s.

        Given what it cost to buy and keep up-to-date with Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Quark XPress, etc. for many years, I greatly appreciate the low barrier to entry now. It’s $49 per month for every app they make, and you can stop and start anytime without penalty. The apps are also updated much more frequently with small enhancements and the occasional big feature as they no longer hold it all for a big paid upgrade.

        I think we’ve all gotten so used to the inexpensive iOS app economy that we’ve forgotten how painful owning software (the big apps) used to be.

        • Mo

          In my experience, the print houses and service bureaus my employers and clients have dealt with over the decades have always been very tolerant of companies (and individuals) who skipped upgrades. At least one print production rep personally informed me that her company ran multiple versions of programs like InDesign.

          In many places I’ve worked, “what it cost to buy and keep up-to-date” did not often involve buying every major upgrade, especially if a stable workflow was in place.

          The major objections about CC’s pricing were never about comparisons to iOS apps. They were about the loss of purchasing flexibility for freelancers, many of whom have traditionally held off upgrading until their primary clients did.

        • Caleb Hightower

          I see your point. Monthly rental vs. one-time payout for PS was a wise move for Adobe and it does make sense to me. I just think they’ve stalled on innovating PS (along with AI & DW) and therefore the price no longer represents it’s long-term value. PP’s 6-year cost (assuming significant annual updates) is ~$360. PS’s 6-year cost (assuming a minimum of improvements) is $720. As a user I see value in PP and excessive overhead in PS. Is the extra $360 for PS worth having all those additional features? I’m not so convinced anymore.

  • joshluiskir2

    Not for nothing, but I hate the title of TechCruch’s article and others like it. Pixelmator (Pro or otherwise) isn’t now, nor will it ever be, a “Photoshop killer”. It does maybe 10% of what Photoshop does, but that’s fine. It can be great at what it does without being Photoshop. Lots of people don’t need Photoshop

  • I just use GIMP on the Mac since most of what I do is for online/website use. I use Pixelmator and a few other apps on the iPad when I’m working there. But we have to keep Photoshop and Illustrator around for my wife since it really is still the king for handling output for print to newspapers/magazines and such. Unless one of you all know a good alternative for that? Does Affinity handle print publication output well? Even if it did, I don’t know of a great alternative to Illustrator yet…