Hands On: New Pixelmator Pro 1.0.5 brings Machine Learning to image editing

Posted:
in Mac Software edited December 2017
The new Pixelmator Pro is best described as what you would get if Apple had designed its own image editing suite.




For ten years Mac users have had a strong and constantly improving image editor called Pixelmator and for three years, so have iOS users. Now the makers have introduced Pixelmator Pro 1.0.5 for Mac. It's not an update, it's a radical new app that brings more Photoshop power to more people.

There: it only took two sentences before we mentioned Photoshop. Pixelmator was always compared to Adobe's famous image editor and now Pixelmator Pro is being described as a Photoshop replacement. The makers don't call it that but reviews do and really it's meant as a compliment more than a fact.

So forget Photoshop for a moment. What Pixelmator Pro does is bring professional image editing tools to the Mac and it does so in part by exploiting the latest macOS features.




Specifically, Pixelmator Pro uses Apple's Metal 2 graphics to speed up image editing and it also leans on Machine Learning. So if you drag an photo into Pixelmator Pro, the app will have a good go at identifying what's in that image. It then uses that information to automatically name layers: you can drag image on top of image and Pixelmator labels them all.




Those images you drag in can be RAW ones, photos that are exactly what your camera captured instead of smaller JPEG versions. Apple's Photos app now handles RAW but it doesn't handle layers. To create a new image using overlaid or overlapping RAW photos, you have to have Pixelmator Pro or another professional tool.

One of the particular pleasures of the old Pixelmator, which remains on sale for $29.99, was how it let you concentrate on your image instead of on its own tools. Pixelmator Pro improves on that.




The floating image window and the floating palettes of tools or options are replaced in the main by a single window that contains everything. As that window is black, your images feel like they pop out from it and you do forget everything except that image and whatever tool you're currently using.

Those tools have moved from a floating palette on the left to a fixed vertical strip on the right. They're also redesigned and look superb. We did hit the odd bug where all of the controls would vanish until we restarted the app. Even when that didn't happen, though, it just takes a surprisingly long time for you to get used to where they are.

That's most apparent with the Crop tool which lets you cut out areas of an image. We kept staring at that vertical strip of tools trying to find it and we'd still be there today if we hadn't glanced up. Crop is not in the vertical tool strip, it's in a separate horizontal one at top right. It's there specifically because it's so commonly used and is in this horizontal strip alongside the likes of Settings.




Choose Crop or any of the tools in the vertical strip and you get a wide vertical bar of further controls between your image and that strip. Typically that new area will include sliders and palettes for making the most precise alterations and over and over again you'll find it a delight. Initially an overwhelming delight, especially if you're new to professional image editing, but a delight.

Say you want to paint a color onto your image but the brush size is currently too big or too small. You drag a slider to increase or decrease the size and while you're dragging, that slider is surrounded by a circle representing the current size. So as you slide left and right, the circle shrinks and grows. It is the smallest of small touches but it means you always know exactly what size your brush will be.

Gorgeous design touches like that are among the things we'd like to see Photoshop take up too.

So, we're back talking about Photoshop. Adobe's tool was the first great image editor and has been the software of choice for everyone doing anything in images for thirty years. It still is. Adobe Photoshop is an astonishing app and as fine as Pixelmator Pro is, there are still only two reasons to choose it over the older software.

One is price. Photoshop used to cost hundreds of dollars but now you can only get it by subscription which means you pay less up front -- but you never stop paying. Pixelmator Pro is sixty bucks and a one-time purchase.

The other reason is ease of use. Adobe is a bit like Microsoft in that it adds features without ever seeming to take any away. As a result, Photoshop has multiple ways of achieving the same or similar effects. Pixelmator Pro also has lots of ways and options to get from image A to composition B but it's more controlled. Pixelmator is more like an Apple piece of software in that it doesn't do everything but what it does, it does very well.

Neither app will ever be as easy to use as Apple's own Photos -- but that's because they each do so much more. So ridiculously, preposterously more that it's impossible to even list every feature and every option.

That does mean that Pixelmator Pro is powerful. If you're now finding you need more tools and control than Apple's Photos gives you, get Pixelmator Pro.

However, if your work depends on creating and sharing Photoshop's .psd files, get Pixelmator Pro's trial version before you shell out for the full. That .psd format is proprietary and only Adobe really knows how it works. Developers including Pixelmator and others can do so much with these files. Pixelmator Pro does a lot, yet can't do everything -- for example, it doesn't handle what Photoshop calls Smart Objects.

There will be other things and as image apps are just oceans of tools and options, if you're a full-time professional user then the only way to know if Pixelmator Pro does what you need is to try it. Still, if image editing is your life, you should get Pixelmator Pro just because you'll enjoy exploring it.

We've ended up criticizing Pixelmator Pro 1.0.5 for not being Photoshop and it isn't but it's genuinely an exceptional app. It does have little flaws like sometimes confusing controls but it is a powerful app that is a pleasure to use. You constantly find new delights in it and the more you do, the more you realise this isn't some kind of cheap Photoshop clone. It is its own app.

If Pixelmator Pro for iPad matches the Pro features of the Mac version it will be significant, as there isn't an Adobe Photoshop for iOS. There are multiple Adobe apps on iPad and several include the name Photoshop plus specific tools but there isn't an all-round image editor from the company.

Whenever Pixelmator Pro for iPad comes out, that's when this app will become a threat to Photoshop.

PixelMator Pro 1.0.5 for Mac is available in the Mac App Store for $59.99, and requires macOS 10.13 High Sierra. You can get a 30-day free trial direct from the developer's site.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 29
    Whenever Pixelmator Pro for iPad comes out, that's when this app will become a threat to Photoshop.”
    Whole heartedly agree! Adobe has not been putting enough thought or resources into the iPad. Their iPad apps are designed to solve limited scenarios, like painting while on the go.
    racerhomie3repressthiscornchip
  • Reply 2 of 29
    wozwozwozwoz Posts: 215member
    You should note that it only runs on Mac OS 10.13 (High Sierra). 

    That is not very helpful to me (I run Mavericks - the most recent version before Apple lost the plot with 'flat graphic design" trying to make the Mac look like an iPad).


    kirkgraycgWerkswilliamlondon
  • Reply 3 of 29
    wozwoz said:
    You should note that it only runs on Mac OS 10.13 (High Sierra). 

    That is not very helpful to me (I run Mavericks - the most recent version before Apple lost the plot with 'flat graphic design" trying to make the Mac look like an iPad).
    Not really. Flat UI design is barely in macOS, it hadn’t been an issue whatsoever. Further, you’re waging a lost battle. Your platform won’t make minimum requirements more and more frequently, leaving you on a legacy system i’ll equipped and unable to run today’s useful tools. A relic from the past. Cool if that’s what you want, but don’t think anyone cares about your choice and will modify their software roadmaps for it. 
    vannygeesergiozhypoluxaracerhomie3appleattackmagman1979watto_cobraroundaboutnowwilliamlondonmacxpress
  • Reply 4 of 29
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,087administrator
    wozwoz said:
    You should note that it only runs on Mac OS 10.13 (High Sierra). 

    That is not very helpful to me (I run Mavericks - the most recent version before Apple lost the plot with 'flat graphic design" trying to make the Mac look like an iPad).


    Good point. I'll add that now.
    repressthiswozwozcornchip
  • Reply 5 of 29
    I think Mac App Store has free trial versions in the form of a free In App Purchase
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 29
    wozwoz said:
    You should note that it only runs on Mac OS 10.13 (High Sierra). 

    That is not very helpful to me (I run Mavericks - the most recent version before Apple lost the plot with 'flat graphic design" trying to make the Mac look like an iPad).


    El Capitan is the new Snow Leopard.
    El Capitan!!!
    williamlondoncornchip
  • Reply 7 of 29
    I was wishing you had talked more about the machine learning which is why I read your review. Also, there was no mention of PhotoShop Elements which is not "rented" and is in the same price ballpark as Pixelmator and more directly its competitor than PhotoShop CC. PS Elements is optimized for ease of use and has a shorter learning curve than the full version of PhotoShop (which I use), but is nevertheless almost as powerful in Expert mode. Also, you can "dial" the size of a brush in PhotoShop (you hold down the keys ctrl+option and swipe with the mouse right or left to change the size). In Elements you use the [ and ] keys.
    repressthis
  • Reply 8 of 29
    I understand that this is a Pixelmator review and as such does not attempt to bring any other software into the conversation. HOWEVER, I wouldn't think of buying Pixelmator until working with the trial version of Affinity Photo. For those professionals, like myself, who have been held at gunpoint by Adobe far too long, Affinity software (both Photo and Designer) rides to the rescue. I'm not affiliated with Affinity but, boy, I would love to see greedy Adobe on the receiving end of karma.
    repressthisrcfamagman1979mj webRayz2016paisleydiscocornchipjony0
  • Reply 9 of 29
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,087administrator
    If you can't see your comment, re-read the forum guidelines as to why.
  • Reply 10 of 29
    I have both Affinity Photo and Designer, don't use them a whole lot but am impressed by them. I bought them early on when they were initially released. I'm just waiting on a InDesign replacement from them to make the full switch. I get my Adobe CC apps through my work so I don't have to worry about the financial aspect of using them. However once that goes away, Affinity software and or Pixelmator Pro will probably be my goto replacement. For those looking for a good PS replacement, Affinity is a great option! 
    repressthisgregoriusmpaisleydiscocornchip
  • Reply 11 of 29
    If you can't see your comment, re-read the forum guidelines as to why.
    It’s a shame the AI forum software doesn’t have a trigger on post moderation that fires off an email/alert to the moderated user, alerting them to the moderation and a reason code that the mod selects from a drop down. MR does this and it’s a useful way for users to learn how to “course correct”. Without it as on AI, everyone’s just left to wonder with no direct line to the problem post(s). This isn’t as conducive to adjusting to the house rules as it could be. Easy thing to fix in software tho, assuming your dev has access to the server-side code for the forums. Would certainly add value to the site, both to users and to staff moderation efforts. 
    edited December 2017 repressthismacxpresscornchip
  • Reply 12 of 29
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,087administrator
    If you can't see your comment, re-read the forum guidelines as to why.
    It’s a shame the AI forum software doesn’t have a trigger on post moderation that fires off an email/alert to the moderated user, alerting them to the moderation and a reason code that the mod selects from a drop down. MR does this and it’s a useful way for users to learn how to “course correct”. Without it as on AI, everyone’s just left to wonder with no direct line to the problem post(s). This isn’t as conducive to adjusting to the house rules as it could be. Easy thing to fix in software tho, assuming your dev has access to the server-side code for the forums. Would certainly add value to the site, both to users and to staff moderation efforts. 
    There is behind-the-scenes activity. Stand by.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 13 of 29
    I won't touch Pixelmator Pro. I've not used Pixelmator once since buying Affinity Photo and Designer.
    williamlondoncornchip
  • Reply 14 of 29
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,893member
    I think the big things in Photoshop's camp are industry compatibility and all the various templates and such on the market (ex: Smart Objects). That kind of goes for the whole Adobe suite. If you want a job, you probably have to learn/use Adobe.

    But, I wonder if that weren't the case, if many would use Adobe's stuff over some of these very powerful apps in each category? For example, if you built a toolkit with Pixelmator Pro, Final Cut Pro, Logic, etc. I'd think you would have a better toolset, you just wouldn't have compatibility and industry credentials.

    It's been a similar story in CAD/3D, where I was using apps that allowed me to run circles around the AutoCAD people, but isn't as great on the resume or for file exchange.

    StrangeDays said:
    Further, you’re waging a lost battle.
    Yes, yes, we realize that those of us with good taste in UI and design have lost the battle, blah, blah, blah. Does that mean we have to stop complaining? Just give in and accept the new mediocracy?

    MicDorsey said:
    I understand that this is a Pixelmator review and as such does not attempt to bring any other software into the conversation. HOWEVER, I wouldn't think of buying Pixelmator until working with the trial version of Affinity Photo. For those professionals, like myself, who have been held at gunpoint by Adobe far too long, Affinity software (both Photo and Designer) rides to the rescue. I'm not affiliated with Affinity but, boy, I would love to see greedy Adobe on the receiving end of karma.
    It would be neat to see a good comparison between Pixelmator Pro and Affinity Photo (and eventually Designer too if the Pixelmator folks get vectors going).
    gregoriusmwilliamlondonwozwoz
  • Reply 15 of 29
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,555member
    I tried to install Photoshop once, and it told me I needed Java. 

    Bizarre. 
    cornchip
  • Reply 16 of 29
    You mention that Pixelmator Pro uses Metal 2 in your review, but might also mention that if the graphics card in your computer doesn't support Metal 2, and if you aren't running High Sierra (which you do mention), you won't be able to run Pixelmator Pro. For those of us on older machines, one or both of these may be deal breakers. GPUs from 2012 on, apparently support Metal.
    gregoriusmcgWerkscornchip
  • Reply 17 of 29
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,087member
    wozwoz said:
    You should note that it only runs on Mac OS 10.13 (High Sierra). 

    That is not very helpful to me (I run Mavericks - the most recent version before Apple lost the plot with 'flat graphic design" trying to make the Mac look like an iPad).


    So you're basically refusing to update because some icons look different, because that's more important than literally THOUSANDS of functionality, feature, and security improvements since mavericks. Nice to know you have your priorities straight, that's not superficial at all. I'm glad pixelmator pro runs only on high sierra, and doesn't contain the bloat needed to run on older operating systems just to satisfy high irrational people like you. 

    I assume you're still on iOS6 as well? I hope so, you need to be consistent. The irony is that you state that Apple "lost the plot", and not you. 
    edited December 2017 yoyo2222bshankRayz2016StrangeDayscornchip
  • Reply 18 of 29
    Does Pixelmator Pro create time lapse video from images? Where is the link to the trial version?
  • Reply 19 of 29
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,087administrator
    electrik said:
    Does Pixelmator Pro create time lapse video from images? Where is the link to the trial version?
    The link to the trial version is the very last sentence of the Hands On.
  • Reply 20 of 29
    wozwoz said:
    You should note that it only runs on Mac OS 10.13 (High Sierra). 

    That is not very helpful to me (I run Mavericks - the most recent version before Apple lost the plot with 'flat graphic design" trying to make the Mac look like an iPad).


    Scott Forstall, is that you?!
    StrangeDayscornchip
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