Pixelmator 2.2 review - Fun photo editor with features that go beyond the capabilities of iPhoto

It’s not as powerful as more specialised photo editors such as Photoshop Elements, but Pixelmator is an affordable and fun tool for smartening up your photos. It’s not purely a photo-editing program either, as it also includes a number of vector graphics tools – and it’s that area of the program that receives the most attention in this latest update.

There are improved tools for adding vector-based shapes to your images, including a Custom Shapes menu that allows you to quickly drag and drop clip art symbols such as arrowheads and folder icons onto your images. These shapes can quickly be resized and moved by using your mouse, and the Shape Style palette allows you to modify properties such as the stroke and fill, and to add shadow effects with precise control over the colour, opacity and angle of the shadow. You can also save your own custom shapes, making it easy to create and store a logo or letterhead artwork that you can then re-use whenever you want.

The program’s text tools have been enhanced too, with a ‘Convert Into Shape’ command that allows you to convert text into vector graphics. If you convert the word ‘MacWorld’ into a shape you can treat the entire word as a single shape, perhaps to change the colour of the text or to add a drop shadow to all the letters at once. Double-clicking allows you to treat each letter as an individual shape so that you could distort the ‘M’ or the ‘W’ while leaving all the other letters alone. 

There are some improvements to the program’s photo-editing tools, too. The main improvement here is the new Paint Selection tool, which allows you to quickly select an object by painting around its outline. You can also adjust the size of the selection brush depending on the amount of detail that you want to select. It’s not as precise as the Quick Select tool in Photoshop Elements when it comes to selecting really fine details such as stray locks of hair, but it’s a quick and easy option for selecting less complex objects and shapes. You can then apply any of Pixelmator’s other effects to the selected area, perhaps just tweaking the exposure on one part of a photo while leaving the rest of the image untouched.

Pixelmator also includes a new ‘Light Leak’ filter effect, which is a kind of old-school version of JJ Abrams’ beloved lens-flare. The effect spills diffuse light over part of the image, creating random flares and washes of light that add a kind of ‘60s retro effect to your photos – it even includes a number of presets called Nebula, Orion and Arcturus that would no doubt appeal to the Star Trek director.

OUR VERDICT

Pixelmator isn’t without flaws – the screen can quickly become cluttered with floating palettes, and some of the other filter effects are rather uninspiring. But Pixelmator is a fun program that goes beyond the basic editing tools in iPhoto without incurring the higher price tag of dedicated photo-editors such as Photoshop Elements.

Find the best price