Pixelmator is best known as the image editor for Mac you buy if you don’t need — or can’t afford — all the bells and whistles that come with Photoshop. Now, the company behind Pixelmator is introducing some of those extra features itself, unveiling a new version of its software today named Pixelmator Pro. (The company told The Verge it wants to make it “as affordable as possible.” By comparison, regular Pixelmator costs $30 on the Mac, while a Photoshop subscription starts at $10 a month.) The new software has a redesigned look and an array of new tools for jobs including retouching photos, creating vector graphics, digital painting, and designing layouts. Pixelmator Pro won’t do everything that Adobe’s full suite can, but it looks to be a big step up from the company’s original software.
“The target audience is pretty much everyone,” Pixelmator’s Andrius Gailiunas tells The Verge. “Our goal has always been to create an image editor that absolutely anyone could use and enjoy. Photoshop (and other apps) do their thing and we do ours.”
Two big updates stand out particularly. One is the redesigned user interface, which the company says is “totally and completely Mac.” In practice, this means less clutter, tabs for switching between different edits in a single window, and the removal (mostly) of floating tool windows in favor of sidebars. There’s also full support for split-screen multitasking, iCloud syncing and backup, and a custom key layout for the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro.
The other exciting change is a set of new machine learning-enhanced tools, integrated into Pixelmator Pro using Apple’s new Core ML API. These include a new Quick Selection tool that Pixelmator says snaps to boundaries more intelligently than ever before; a feature that automatically labels different layers based on their content; and a Repair tool that will quickly and seamlessly remove and replace parts of any photo.
In terms of functionality, this isn’t a world first. (Adobe’s Content-Aware technology has been doing the same thing for years.) But, it’s notable how new machine learning tools like Core ML are making this sort of feature more widely available. Pixelmator’s team spoke glowingly of Apple’s new API, saying it removed usual development headaches like having to account for different users’ hardware capabilities.
These flashy features aside, Pixelmator Pro also introduces some practical functions missing from the original software, including support for processing RAW images (a must for photographers looking to do professional-grade editing). Again, though, if you compare Pixelmator Pro to other software on the market, it won’t match all the top-level features. That means, for example, you won’t get the same cataloging and indexing functions you get with the likes of Adobe Lightroom.
We will need to test out Pixelmator Pro for ourselves (and see what the price tag is like) but this early preview is promising. The company behind Pixelmator has made its name offering easy-to-use, good looking software at a reasonable price. If the Pro edition continues this trend, it should find a welcome home among Mac users.