Pixelmator – Opening Up A New Layer Of iPad

4.5 Overall Score
Usability: 4.5/5
Design: 5/5
Duration: 4.5/5

Outstanding touch interface | Extensive feature set | Enjoyable to use

Some composition limitations | Can't interact with some existing file elements


During the iPad Air 2 event last week, Apple gave stage time to the creators of Pixelmator for the Mac, as they had an iPad version ready to show. Now, just a week later Pixelmator for the iPad is now live on the App Store bringing the deluxe photo editing software from the Mac to the iPad. Pixelmator has been built from the ground up for iPad to emphasize a touch interface, while at the same time delivering an extensive feature set. You can edit photos, compose collages, create images from scratch, and fully interact with photos on a professional level all with just your fingertips.
No matter the feature list, it all comes down to usability, and that’s where Pixelmator shines. The best way to describe the usability of Pixelmator is through use cases like opening up a photo from a recent trip, and going to work. My recent trip to Washington DC netted quite a few photos of memorable locations, but many had people that I didn’t necessarily want. The most powerful tool of Pixelmator is the repair tool allowing you to drag your finger over an unwanted object, and then have the app intelligently fill in the void based on the background. It’s a deluxe feature that is now possible on iPad in its full form, that also works quickly on the new iPad Air 2 in our testing. In addition to repair, you can also retouch your photos to enhance the color of the sky, or sharpen particular objects, again by just dragging your finger over specific areas.

Another valuable section of Pixelmator is the ability to adjust colors to slide scales for brightness, contrast, and saturation. It’s more than that, as you get the full color level chart to adjust, as well as the composition curve. There are also a number of effects to apply with each one offering specific strength spin wheels to fine tune the adjustment. One of the neatest effects is either miniature, or blur with a drop down chain to precisely size, and position the effect’s range. All of the effects are non destructive, and you can apply them on top of each other with relative ease.

One of the best parts of the Pixelmator on the iPad is the interface with most functions available via a drop down bar at the top of the screen. It’s relatively easy to remember where the various functions are to then quickly access them later on with just a couple of taps. It’s easy to tell how much time, and effort went into arranging all of the various features, as well as implementing them for touch. Pixelmator also supports layers, as you would expect for a composition that maintains different styles for different objects. The more time you spend with Pixelmator, the more you uncover, and start to check off the tool bar from the Mac app. There’s just so many features brought over to give you most of what you would expect whether you’re applying, and customizing text, gradients, shadows, and more.
Another valuable feature of Pixelmator comes as part of iOS 8 to easily integrate iCloud Drive to sync files between the Mac, and now iPad versions of the app. The app also includes Photoshop compatibility to add .PSD directly into the iPad version, and interact from there. With that said, there are some limitations with the iPad version, so that it’s not a full replacement for the desktop client. It’s close, but you still can’t interact with predefined layers, smart objects, or easily combine a few different objects into a new composition. Part of that though stems from iOS limitations. The app works the best on existing photos, rather than creating from scratch, and if you have a base, you can do almost every photo edit you can think of, with ease. Not only that, but it feels more like an entertaining pastime, as compared to work with the touch based edits that do “just work”.

Pixelmator ($4.99, iPad) is one of the most deluxe iPad apps around that offers amazing photo editing capabilities at your fingertips. While it doesn’t fully replace desktop photo editing, it’s the closest yet, while offering a smooth touch interface that is a joy to interact with. The best part may be that it’s only $5, as compared to the $30 Mac client, with very similar feature sets, yet with all new touch based interactive capabilities.


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