If you’re someone that regularly edits photos, or enjoys graphic design work, then you’ve likely used Pixelmator, which is arguably the best alternative to Photoshop on the Mac. Today, the popular $15 app is getting a huge update, known as 2.2 “Blueberry,” which includes over 100 new features. I’ve been testing out the new options, and they’re pretty great…
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Pixelmator 2.2 focuses heavily on shapes and vector drawing options, bringing to the table a slew of new options. First and foremost is the new Shape Style palette, which lets you set and tweak a variety of different settings on your shape, bringing Pixelmator more in line with the more premium alternatives such as Photoshop. From the Shape Styles palette, you can edit properties such as fill and stroke colors, stroke size, drop shadow, inner shadow, and more.
Along with the new shape style pane is a slew of new shapes to use. More than 40 are included in the app, but you can also create and import your own custom shapes, which can save a lot of time in the long run. Shapes are now more customizable than ever before, offering quick controls to adjust the number of points on the shape.
Perhaps most exciting is the ability to turn text into shapes, a welcome feature. Any text, from full sentences to individual letters, can be turned into a shape, making it much easier than before to work with fonts and type. Once you’ve turned text into a shape, all of the same shape style properties that are applicable to normal shapes are available to your text shape as well, meaning it’s now really simple to create great looking, stylized type, right in Pixelmator. Last but not least, the Move Tool has been updated to be content aware, and can now tell the difference between an image layer and a shape layer, only revealing the move options that correspond to the layer you’ve selected.
Pixelmator 2.2 also includes an entirely new tool, called the Paint Selection Tool. This tool is somewhat of a hybrid between the paintbrush tool and the Magic Wand Tool, letting you easily select regions of similar color by simply painting over the selection you want. The Paint Selection tool recognizes the color area around where you’ve painted, and automatically highlights to the borders. While not dramatically different from the Magic Wand Tool in terms of overall functionality, it’s a simpler approach to fine grain selection, and gives you more control over the content selected.
Adding to its ever growing collection of Effects, Pixelmator 2.2 gains a new retro Light Leak Effect, which contains 8 customizable Light Leaks, each offering a unique look and sliders for adjusting the intensity. While certainly not perfect for all photos, these new effects are great for pictures that you want to a retro feel. If you play around with the effects for a little while, you can get some pretty realistic and neat looks, similar to what you’d get with the photography technique of lens whacking.
Pixelmator’s last big new feature is an alternate mode for the app called Vectormator. Activating Vectormator by pressing Command-Shift-V on your keyboard strips away all tools and options not essential for working with vectors, leaving you with a simple layout oriented towards shapes and typography.
Aside from the aforementioned features above, Pixelmator 2.2 Blueberry includes many other small tweaks, including an improved Type Tool, new gradient presets, improved Drawing Toools, the ability to copy a shape’s style to another shape, as well as some much welcomed performance improvements. For existing users, you can grab this great update for free in the Mac App Store. For new customers, the app will set you back $14.99. You can download it here. As the only credible alternative to Photoshop on the Mac, I can’t recommend Pixelmator any more highly.