Pixelmator 2.2 Blueberry - Mini Review

Pixelmator got an update a few weeks ago to version 2.2 called Blueberry. I didn't write about it at the time because I wanted to have a chance to play with it for a bit first. It was only a point update, so I wasn't expecting much. In my view, it's a mixed bag.

Pixelmator 2.2 Blueberry review

Let's start with the good stuff.

The new Paint Selection Tool is a welcome addition to the tool set. It makes the selection process much faster and is, for the most part, accurate enough. Obviously, it's not as powerful as Photoshop's multiple selection tools (for those wondering), but that's ok. It gets the job done and is a pleasure to use. This is my favourite feature of the new version.

The Light Leak Effect is fun to use and the Instagram crowd will love it. It's like Instagram on steroids with endless possibilities to customise the effect, so it's easy to create your own look. Personally, I don't think I'll use it much because it's not my style, but it's really nicely implemented and fun to play around with.

Pixelmator is still a normal buy-a-license kind of app, as opposed to that BS Adobe is doing with their subscription-only model. Sorry, had to vent on that one a bit.

Now with the not so good.

Most of the other new features are for graphic designers, not photographers. I fear Pixelmator is heading down a "let's be Photoshop and Illustrator combined" road. I believe this is a way to be kinda ok at both, but not great at anything. That's not a good place to be.

What I liked about Pixelmator was that it felt like a true photo editor for photographers. Sure, version 1 was buggy and it was missing many features, but it was heading in the right direction.

Now they're all excited about their new shape tools and vector features. They even "sneaked a feature" that turns Pixelmator into Vectormator. What. The. Hell?

Sure, the designer features are good and work remarkably well. But seriously, how many photographers add squares and butterfly shapes to their photographs? Text, maybe. Sometimes. At the very end of the process. I still think text should be at the bottom of the feature list in an photo editor for photographers.

Where are features like non-destructive adjustment layers? Or real PSD and TIFF support? Or 16 bit? Or a Liquify Tool?

They actually hinted that layer styles were coming in 2013 back in December 2012. Whilst that would be awesome, their communication back then suggested they were putting their efforts into non-photography related features. I even said I felt they were going to "follow the Photoshop path and become a bloat trying to please everyone".

I have to say I'm slightly disappointed with Pixelmator 2.2 Blueberry. It seems Pixelmator is no longer a photographers application. The question will no longer be photographers asking "how good is it as a Photoshop replacement" but it'll be web designers instead.

Still, I'm hopeful. And for $15 bucks I still think everyone should buy it. Maybe if enough of us support the developers they'll have an incentive to add the features photographers want.

Apple Aperture and Pixelmator Integration

Apple Aperture and Pixelmator don't play well together. It's unfortunate since both are great apps for photographers.

Apple Aperture and Pixelmator Integration

I've been using Pixelmator quite a bit and I feel I know it well enough by now. It has its good and its bad things, but overall I like it. From a photographer's point of view it does a lot well without feeling bloated with irrelevant features; it also has some important missing features but it's definitely growing on me. My Textured Nudes I and Stills in Motion series were edited entirely with a combination of Aperture and Pixelmator.

Unfortunately, these two apps don't integrate well together. The main issue is that Pixelmator uses a proprietary filetype called PXM that Aperture doesn't recognise. I was hoping that a new version of Aperture would be released this week at WWDC with PXM support, but that didn't happen.

A few hours ago, Pixelmator released an update to version 2.0.5 which supposedly includes Aperture (and iPhoto) compatibility. The website says:

In addition to being compatible, your favorite image editor makes it simple to send your images directly to your photo libraries, whether iPhoto or Aperture

Well, sort of.

Pixelmator 2.0.5 can send back an image to Aperture via a Share menu, but it doesn't do proper round-tripping like Photoshop and other image editors.

In my tests today, this is what happened:

  1. In Aperture, I chose Pixelmator as the External Editor and set PSD as the file format. I tested with TIFF as well with the same result.
  2. I sent an image with 'Edit with Pixelmator...' This does what's expected and creates a duplicate Master (Original) and sends it over.
  3. The file opens, but as a PXM. First problem.
  4. I added a layer with a big cross just to test and hit Save. This is where it all fell apart. The Save dialog box appeared as if it was a new file that had never been saved. There's no way to save the file back to Aperture as normal round-tripping. I canceled Save.
  5. I then went to the Share menu in Pixelmator and sure enough, there's Aperture. I clicked on that and without additional dialog boxes the file was saved back into Aperture. It looked promising.
  6. Back in Aperture, the file didn't have the changes I'd done. I searched for the file and found a third one in a new Project called "Photos from Pixelmator". It included my changes, but it was a flattened TIFF. I lost layers.

Basically, this "compatibility" only means you can send a flattened version back into Aperture. That is not true compatibility.

I ended up with 3 Masters (I guess I need to get used to calling them Originals now), the first a RAW original, the second a PSD (or TIFF) Aperture created to edit, and a third a TIFF that Pixelmator sent back to a newly created Project.

I believe for true compatibility, there are only 2 options:

  • Aperture needs to support PXM files. That means we should be able to choose PXM as a file format to export. Currently Aperture can't even import PXM files, which is weird given Pixelmator won an Apple Design Award in 2011. It's not like Apple don't know who they are.
  • Pixelmator needs to fully support PSD files. At the moment, it can open PSDs, but it doesn't 'Save' as PSD, it only 'Exports' and with limited functionality. In order for integration to work, Pixelmator will need to be able to receive a PSD file from Aperture and save it back as a PSD with all features preserved.

I really wish these two apps worked well together. It's frustrating as hell at the moment.