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Pixelmator Pro: How does it compare to Photoshop CC?

Photoshop is the undisputed king of photo editors, but for many years the developers of Pixelmator have challenged this throne, especially for amateurs and part-time workers. But in 2018, the Pixelmator team provided Pixelmator Pro, targeting professional Photoshop users. But can $ 59.99 Pixelmator Pro replace Photoshop, which will set you back at least $ 9.99 per month and as much as $ 52.99 per month?

If you do heavier printing work, you rely on other Creative Cloud apps, or if you're connected to a workflow depending on some of the connected features available in Creative Cloud, I can save you some time: forget about it. Adobe offers a decent deal for subscribers: between online storage, fonts and other workflows, and you won't easily recreate it with a single application. However, if you just need to work with images and manipulate them online, which is probably a large number of users out there, Pixelmator Pro offers some benefits for much less money.


Let's start with the Photoshop interface to start a new document.

 Starting a new document in Photoshop.

And compare it with Pixelmator Pro:

 Starting a new document in Pixelmator Pro. ]

As you can see, Pixelmator Pro is more streamlined. This is an overall theme: Photoshop has as many features as its overwhelming interface, while Pixelmator Pro sacrifices obscure features for ease of use. You will find it all the way through the software, and as you might expect, there is often a balance between ability and simplicity.

In fact, Pixelmator Pro may start too little and offer a little more than a large, dark gray shale for your work. No layers, no apparent tools, just a large rectangle of work area. If you move the mouse to the right, the toolbar appears with a beautiful fade. This polish continues throughout, as fades and physics create a more tactile experience than what only appears.

 Fades and Physics in Pixelmator Pro

This attention to detail is a testament to the Pixelmator Pro's Apple-esque design, and it goes through the engineering work that we come to in an instant. There are some palettes that float over the interface, but this is a relatively small grip. (The most notable exception is Apple's system-wide color picker, which looks old these days and spelled up at the bottom left of my giant screen every time I opened it.)

A number of photographers have been annoyed by Pixelmator Pro & # 39; s lack of interface customization. In Photoshop, you can change the default dark gray to black, white or more eyeball-friendly medium gray. Without going into why eye strain can be a problem with a "dark" interface (you can read more about it here), let's just say there's a problem the Pixelmator team might want to fix in the future.


] Photoshop presents layers of thumbnails of different sizes and adds masks or clipping layers visually. This interface has been around since the first few days in Photoshop.

Pixelmator Pro offers the option of non-visible layers (default), a thumbnail view and a list view.

In total, Pixelmator Pro has many fewer layer options. Compare what happens when I right-click a layer in Pixelmator Pro and do the same in Photoshop:

 Pixelmator Pro's context menus versus Photoshop

Photoshop is an F-15 compared to Pixelmator Pro & # 39 ; s commuter beam here. If you work with Bert Monroy level, Photoshop choices like giving team colors or putting them in folders are an absolute must. For the rest of us, these options are probably overkill.

However, Pixelmator Pro has a few layer tricks, which name layers of machine learning. This automatic layer naming is a clever time saving if you include a bunch of images that all make at the same time and you want to avoid "Laying 1" through the "Create 9999" problem. Does it work? About as reliable as some AI jobs these days, that is, it does a pretty decent job. It was able to detect a cat, a tree, a food and a car, but hilariously marked a couple of dice as "food" and a traffic cone as a bottle. The odometer pressure may vary, but it is a starting point. You can also control-click on the layer to bring up other possible names. Probably Pixelmator Pro will improve over time, but the closest match to the image of the dice was "game control", which is still quite fun.

 Doctors named by machine learning

Talking about, perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Pixelmator Pro's implementation is its inability to make a layer adjustment that affects all layers below it. Do you want to convert the image to black and white? You must either merge the image or apply black and white adjustments to each layer that misses the storage point.

The reason for this limitation stems from the non-destructive nature of what you do for each team. Non-destructive editing can be very cool, or it can frustrate you. For example, if you zoom into a portrait and eliminate blisters, saving and closing the file, opening it again later, these fixes will not be "burned in" to the image itself. They can be attacked! Each team carries a memory of what was done with it. Unfortunately, by "escaping" the repairs made with the Repair Tool, you will lose everything the repair tool will change. There is no history palette like in Photoshop that allows you to selectively repeat through revisions. It's a bummer, and the biggest drawback in Pixelmator Pro can be this lack of a History palette. If you're hooked on that tool in Photoshop, it's hard to find in Pixelmator Pro.

Having said that, Pixelmator Pro uses countless MacOS features, including Versions, which lets you move from previous stores with ease. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, the macOS features of Pixelmator Pro give it a bit of an edge over Photoshop. By relying on MacOS features like Metal 2, Wide Color and CoreML (which drives the machine's learning features), Pixelmator Pro moves like a speedboat to Photoshop's battleship. I set up the Pixelmator Pro launch to do a lot of my photo work, just because (on a 277-inch iMac anyway) it started immediately and ran like a cheetah. Talking about which, Pixelmator Pro is not compatible with OS X 10.0 Cheetah-only 10.13 High Sierra and up. The latest version looks good on Mojave.

Wrapping the discussion of teams, if you do extensive masking work in Photoshop, you should have a small adjustment period with Pixelmator Pro. Clipping layers do not exist as they do in Photoshop. Instead, there is a solution that is detailed here. It's masks, but they work pretty much like in Pixelmator, which is not comparable to Photoshop. The good news is that Pixelmator Pro uses machine learning to help you make choices, and you have a variety of ways to change your choices.

Editing Tools

Of course, Pixelmator Pro offers the usual package of image editing tools, such as choice, painting, vector shapes (including text), color and effect and warp tools, as well as a series of color pixels and pixel repair tools. These are not always as deep as Photoshop, but the vast majority of tools you will probably use are there, including something called Recipes, similar to Adobe Lightroom's presets. If you adjust a picture in a specific way and want to use the same series of adjustments to other images, you can save it and use it later. You can even drag these recipes into the Finder and share them with other Pixelmator Pro users.

One of the things I love about Apple's Photos app is the magic White Balance tool, and thanks to CoreML, Pixelmator Pro also uses machine learning to adjust this critical element of your photos. Instead of twiddle with a bunch of settings, Pixelmator Pro intelligently analyzes the scene and does a good job of correcting colors. Photoshop seems to be lacking in this area. In fact, I preferred the Pixelmator Pro color control tool – but remember the lack of alignment layers and maybe it's a wash, depending on workflow needs. One small drawback would be Pixelmator Pro's minimalism compliance here, as only a few tools are available in the color palette first. You need to add tools such as Hue & Saturation and Levels, but you can save tool selections as a default or a preset.

 Add tools to the color palette.

The effect palette has the usual distortion, blur, style, sharpening and styler tools that you will probably find in any image processing app. With both color and effects, you'll see a handy series of thumbnails between the canvas and the tools, with a variety of presets waiting for you. You can add these, again streamlined repetitive work once you've found just the right mix of adjustments. A recent update to Pixelmator Pro added to Automator workflows in addition to batch processing images.

Another Pixelmator Pro tool that I began to prefer over the Photoshop equivalent was the machine-learning fast-speed tool. Photoshop users are undoubtedly accustomed to their tunable magic wand and speed dialing tools, but I found myself appreciating the speed and accuracy of Pixelmator's Quick Selection tool.

Nevertheless, Adobe has added a Select Subject feature that uses the company's Sensei AI to make the best guess about actual objects in an image. Which is better? Honestly, your mileage will vary depending on many factors. I found both to be adequate and usually needed some adjustment. In both programs, you can add or subtract your selection, and with Pixelmator Pro you can draw the overlap of two choices. A single button in Photoshop allows you to select a portion of the image and make it a mask.

The repair tools in each application are slightly different in ways that are worth noting. In Photoshop, Adobe has worked for many years on the Content-Beware Move Tool, allowing you to cut out a boat in the water and move it so that water in what would otherwise have been a big hole in the underlying layer. It works pretty well and is just one of the repair tools in Photoshop. Others include a red-eye removal tool, a patch tool, and a variety of healing tools that allow you to remove things like sky lines by painting only.

 Pixelmator Pro repair tool.

Likewise, the repair tool in Pixelmator Pro allows you to remove things you don't want. In the picture below, I took out the generic "person's silhouette" you see when you log on to a Windows 10 machine. I've also tried to remove the pink-skinned person in the background. As you can see, the results vary depending on the complexity of what you are trying to do and the surrounding pixels are available. Photoshop has an advantage here, born from many years of R&D.

 Before trying to remove the pink-skinned person

 results after attempting to remove the pink-skinned person with Pixelmator Pro.

Web work and other new features of Pixelmator Pro

Since its launch, Pixelmator Pro has achieved a number of features, but perhaps most notable are tools that appeal to anyone who creates websites. There is significantly improved SVG support, support for Apple's High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF), and a great tool for sliding and exporting images. Disc tools allow you to create large images in smaller ones, making them easier to load online.

Vectors can now be created and edited as in Pixelmator, and there is a robust set of vector shapes and tools. However, if you want to make vector degrees exclusively, you will have Sketch or Illustrator.

Pixelmator Pro boasts new advanced compression options, export presets and a truly handy Quick Export tool that makes it much easier to Wrangle Web images than in Photoshop, at least if you value speed and efficiency. This is yet another area where Photoshop's juggernaut loads of features will scare you. For those who care, Pixelmator Pro now supports the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar.

Another new Pixelmator Pro feature is automatic color adjustments using machine learning, which is useful when working with a bunch of images. But Apple's Photos app basically gives the same engine here. You can also customize the toolbar, see live previews, and choose colors. Finally, to help you figure out all of these new capabilities, the Pixelmator team has added a variety of video tutorials, not that there is no shortage of Photoshop tutorials.

Almost these new features have, Photoshop has had most of them for a while. As I said at the beginning, if you are using an advanced, multi-application and cloud-based workflow for your sites with Adobe's Creative Suite, everyone may feel like riding a tricycle after you've driven your motorcycle.

Picking Your Pixel Pusher

Change is never easy. If you are looking for dunk Photoshop and are considering Pixelmator Pro, I will ask what is missing in Photoshop bugging you the most. For me, it's performance. By throwing all sorts of functions into the mix, Photoshop has been inflated.

To use a car analogy, Photoshop is a crossover SUV, capable, but not very effective. It tries to appeal to a wide range of users with a giant toolset, most of which you can never use, just as most SUV owners never take their cars offroad. For comparison, Pixelmator Pro is a Ferrari. It's not the car you take out in the snow, but the one you love to drive because it's fast and fun.

Finally, I found myself using Pixelmator Pro over Photoshop. When I needed something done quickly and efficiently, I would start Pixelmator Pro in an instant and be happy (and finished). But if I needed to make complex text effects or handle dozens of teams that needed a global customization, I'd shoot up Photoshop and spend some time getting to business.

Bottom line? Serious users can't really consider Pixelmator Pro as a Photoshop replacement, given the wide range of tools that Adobe has packed into its image manipulation needs. However, if you are a photographer whose needs include tonal adjustments, some pixel replacement, and perhaps a bit of vector graphics on top, all distributed with the speed and beauty of a real Mac app, you can just love the Pixelmator Pro's capabilities and low cost.

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