Pixelmator 3.0 FX review

Pixelmator is a Mac tool from the off, with the File>Open... dialog box giving you a choice of iCloud or hard disk as the location to browse. This version has also been rewritten to take advantage of Mac OS X Mavericks and a new imaging engine, with the company claiming up to a 2x speed increase when working with complex compositions.

It has the array of all the tools and layers that you may require, a palette of 160 effects – including generators like halo and star shine, along with quite a collection of vector shapes. Extensibility is good too – Pixelmator supports Core Image or Quartz Composer compositions, so you can drop custom-made filters in. It also plays nicely with Aperture and iPhoto, supporting their libraries.

See also: Mac software reviews

New in version 3.0 are Layer Effects and Layer Styles. They’re hardly revolutionary addition these days, but ones that work well with the page layout aspect of this application. With the Layer Styles palette, it becomes simple to add a colour fill or stroke to a layer, apply a gradient, or give text layer an outer or inner shadow, as well as apply a reflection or create an outline.

There are presets on hand to allow you to apply many such effects at once, or to save your own configurations as Layer Styles to be used again.You can drag-and-drop such Layer Styles from a presets panel to apply their combined effects.

The Effects Browser is a similar productivity booster. Instead of only applying image adjustments with a brush, you can drag-and-drop items from the Effects Browser onto the image. However having to undo several times when you need to tweak an effect can be a pain. A dedicated floating dialog accompanies each effect, with a positioning marker attached by a 'rope' to select where the effect should be centred, as well as a slider palette for fine tuning. The new Liquify Tools in version 3.0 take advantage of this, offering Warp, Bump, Pinch, and Twirl. Again nothing new for Photoshop fans, but this is a far less expensive product.

OUR VERDICT

Pixelmator feels like a bit like a cross between Photoshop, Motion and QuarkXpress – although there's no CMYK support for print workflows. It makes for a versatile application at a very low price. It would be nice if filters could be applied as live or 'smart' effects, but the power and variety on offer here is very welcome. There's also RAW support and share links to social media, satisfying both ends of the user spectrum.

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