Pixelmator Pro in Test: The Best Savings Alternative to Photoshop


Following the successful introduction of Pixelmator for aspiring image editors, the developers are now releasing Pixelmator Pro for the advanced users. We looked at it for you. In the test, the app has to show if it's actually that much better and worth the extra cost.

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Pixelmator dominated the Mac App Store charts for a while and is still one good choice for smaller tasks of image editing and amateur photographers. The easy-to-use graphics program is a cheap and for most users completely sufficient tool dar. For professional and extensive edits, it is only partially suitable. One reason for the developers now to bring the completely written in Swift 4 Pixelmator Pro on the market. This is not just a tuned version of the old familiar, but a new program with a new interface, new features and new techniques. Since Pixelmator Pro, for example, relies on Apple's Metal 2 framework, a Mac from model year 2012, Mac Pro from 2013, with installed macOS 10.13 High Sierra is a prerequisite. Like the standard version, Pixelmator Pro offers Retina and iCloud support and opens Photoshop documents. New features include support for HEIF and RAW formats and 10-bit support for smoother gradients. Using Apple's machine learning framework, Pixelmator Pro automatically names layers according to their content, autonomously recognizes the horizon in the image, and not only replaces remote objects with surrounding pixels, but reconstructs the missing parts of the image through intelligent image analysis. Almost all processing steps are non-destructive and you can change or cancel them at any time. Everything goes a little faster, because Pixelmator Pro uses the graphics card for the upcoming calculations. In addition, the developers focus on the text tool in addition to countless tools for image retouching and optimization. Together with the Styling and Arrange tool, Pixelmator Pro is also equipped for smaller layout tasks.

Pixelmater Pro: This is the surface

Pixelmator Pro relies on a single-window surface. As known from Pixelmator, the Pro version displays an information bar with the dimensions of the image, the cursor position, and the like above the image. If necessary, you can see the layers on the left as a preview image or as a list and on the right the tools and their options. As tidy as this approach is, you should call your own a large monitor because you can not change this display except for partial fading. The layers, with the exception of the background layer, automatically name Pixelmator Pro according to their content with predominantly unerring names. The program for the layers develops new names only for whole pictures, which you add by drag & drop.

There is a problem on the right side of the program window. Although the tool icons are pretty discreetly held in light gray and show by Quicktipp their function, but it would be easier to navigate with colored icons. If you choose an icon and do not move the mouse, for example because you look at the options, the quicktips will immediately fade in again and hide the rest. This bothers a little, but is certainly suffering at a high level.

As with other programs, some tools share an icon. For example, the paint bucket shares an icon with the history tool, which does not reveal the quicktipps and thus makes the right tool choice difficult. If necessary you will find all the tools in the menu bar as well.

The tools of Pixelmator Pro

Basically, Pixelmator already has all known and important functions on board. Somewhat unusual, however, are partly their placement. The sliding hand, for example, does not exist as a tool, but you activate it at any time with the space bar. The perspective transformation hides in unfamiliar place. You will find them at the end of the effects list. The developers completely saved the magnifying glass. At least we searched for you in vain. Although the program dominates a magnification up to 12,800 percent, but only by key combination [cmd] + [+]. When "Auto-Centering" is deactivated, however, the desired position remains in the visible range.

The options for the tools automatically fade in between the toolbar and the image, but do not necessarily include all possibilities. With the tools "Style", "Adjust color" and "Add effect" you will not see the full potential until you click on the blue "Add" button. For the color tools and effects, Pixelmator Pro offers the option to temporarily display the original image at the push of a button.

In general, you have to make friends with new processes. Thus it is possible to reverse the selection with the button "Negative" and to change the selection with the button "Refine" within the selection tools. This is practical, but unusual. The same applies to the Sample All Layers option in the Quick or Color Selector. When checked, Pixelmator Pro includes all layers in the selection.

Also new is the positioning of the layer compound in the tool "style" and the tool "arrange". This offers considerably more functions than usual from other pixel-based graphics programs. You can scale, rotate, arrange, align, and position the selected object, including the entire layer, by keystroke. Just the alignment is very helpful for text input. Thus, Pixelmator Pro is quite suitable as a layout program for flyers or posters. Also helpful are the templates of the text tool for headline, body text, citation and the like. Pure image editors are pleased with the possibility to export presets from work steps and import them later.


Is Pixelmator Pro an alternative to Affinity Photo or Photoshop? Yes and no. If you take advantage of their potential, Pixelmator Pro can not compete. But the non-destructive editing saves time and the artificial intelligence based on the Apple Frameworks is a unique selling proposition, like the automatic layer names. And the quick selection and intelligent object distance works better than its competitors.

             Download on the App Store

Pixelmator Pro

Developer: UAB Pixelmator Team

Test result
Product name Pixelmator Pro
Manufacturer Pixelmator
website pixelmator.com
  • many good automatisms, easy to use, 10-bit capable, good layout capabilities, easy to import and export settings, compatible with RAW and HEIF
  • no touchbar support, perspective correction unsatisfactory, no CMYK color space

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