Pixelmator is one of the best Photoshop alternatives available on the Mac App Store. I’ve been using it for quite some time now, but mostly just using a trackpad or mouse to manipulate layers, access tools and edit functions. There are tons of keyboard shortcuts. And if I had the time or patience to learn them all, I would have. Needless to say, I didn’t. So when I got the chance to check out EditorsKeys keyboard specifically designed for Pixelmator, I jumped at it.

To cut it down to the very basics – This is essentially a wired Apple keyboard with numeric keypad. Except it has custom keys to clearly label the Pixelmator keyboard shortcuts, making photo and image editing much quicker and easier. Simply put: If you use Pixelmator on Mac and you don’t already have a grasp of all the shortcuts, you should get this keyboard.

Build quality of the keyboard is exactly the same as Apple’s keyboard, because that’s exactly what it is. It’s an angled aluminum sheet with a plastic base. The raised area, or stand on the back has two USB ports, one on either side to enable you to connect additional USB 2.0 peripherals when it’s convenient. That means using this and typing on it every day is exactly the same as if you’d spent £39 ($49USD) and bought an Apple keyboard without custom keys.

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But this review is essentially about the keys, how useful they are and how well they’ve been labeled. And it’s on that front I have to judge the Pixelmator Keyboard. I have to say, I’m impressed. Mostly.

In my time reviewing phones and accessories for phones and computers, I’ve applied a number of different kinds of skins, decals and screen protectors to various products. I can safely say, getting them absolutely perfect is difficult. I’ve even applied stickers to keyboards before, and I’ve ended up peeling them off because I couldn’t stand the feel of them. I’d almost always leave a tiny bit of the sticker’s edge not quite flush with the keys, and catch them whenever I typed. That’s not the case with the Pixelmator keyboard. The keys don’t feel like they’re stickers at all. It feels like typing on a normal keyboard. And that’s for good reason. The keys are sent blank to EditorsKeys and then the company customizes them in the same way Apple prints their own keyboards.

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Shortcuts are clearly displayed in two forms. Main shortcuts are simply images, or icons on the keys. For instance, the crop tool (on the C button) is clearly the crop icon, matching the design of the crop icon in Pixelmator’s tool kit.

Secondary shortcuts, i.e. those which require the CMD key to be pressed simultaneously, are indicated using red text. I found those difficult to find, especially when there was light reflecting off the keys from overhead light bulbs. Red isn’t easy to see on black, especially when the typeface is so small. I think, in this situation, yellow might have been a better choice. It would contrast better with black, and is different enough from the white main text to be noticeable.

While I’m nit-picking, it’d also be great to have slightly sharper printed icons and text. Look very closely, and it’s ever so slightly fuzzy. Like I say, this is really nit-picking. From my regular point of view (sitting at my desk and looking down) I can’t tell there’s any fuzziness at all.

It’s not a perfect keyboard. At least, not for me. I’d much rather have these custom keys applied to one of Apple’s wireless keyboards and ditch the extra width necessary for the cursors and number pad. It’d also get rid of the cable, which I also happen not to like very much. But that’s just personal preference. I prefer the smaller, wireless keyboards to the big wired ones. They take up less room, are easier to move around and there are no cables messying my desk surface.

The long and short of it is that this keyboard setup saved me a lot of time. What’s more, it made it ridiculously easy to hide and show set tools in Pixelmator which would normally be blocking my view. For the convenience and time saved alone, this is a must buy for anyone who uses the image editing software regularly. If anything, it gets you familiar with all the useful shortcuts.

You can buy the Pixelmator keyboard for Mac from EditorsKeys.com for £79.99 ($125USD) plus shipping, down from £109.99 ($172USD). The company also sells custom keyboards for popular image, audio and video editing software like PhotoShop, Final Cut and Logic Pro.

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