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Top 8 Budget Photo Editors for Mac

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Even if you can't spend a lot, you can still enjoy a functional, well-designed image editor. This software is shareware, which means it's developed by individuals and can't be purchased in a retail store. But shareware has many advantages: you can 'try before you buy,' it costs less because there's little overhead, and developers generally listen to user input as they enhance the software.

1. Pixelmator

Pixelmator
© Pixelmator
Pixelmator is a fast, full-featured image editor with selection, painting, and editing tools, layers and blending modes, and numerous adjustments, filters, and effects. In fact, it is very nearly a clone of Photoshop, circa version 4 or 5. Pixelmator is visually very stunning with it's dark, very Mac-like user interface, but the more I worked with it, I found little truly innovative about it, and the dark interface made it difficult to see tool and palette icons. That said, it does offer a few unique things such as the photo browser that links up with iPhoto, iSight capture, and Automator actions, and overall it is a fairly capable image editor if not over-hyped.

2. Acorn

Acorn
© Flying Meat
Acorn is a simple, and easy-to-use basic image editor which offers some nice features in a lovely, intuitive and uncluttered interface. Acorn offers your standard drawing, selecting, and editing tools, pressure sensitivity for graphics tablets, layers and blending modes, vector shapes, plus a number of effects and adjustments. Most of the tools are straightforward enough that I didn't need to consult the documentation. Unique features of Acorn include the ability to import images directly from an iSight camera, chaining image effects together, and capturing screen shots. Acorn lacks some common photo editing tools, and performance was slow at times , but overall, it is a worthwhile and very promising editor.

3. Compositor

Compositor
© Artly There Software
Compositor is a full-featured image editor with a Photoshop-like user interface, albeit more cluttered and dated-looking. Feature-wise, Compositor offers a lot--full painting and editing tools, levels and curves adjustment, hundreds of filters and effects, automated actions--but, sadly, no layers. Where Compositor really stands out is in its special effects features where you can use filters and automated actions to apply a myriad of unique, fun, artistic, and wild effects to your images. If you're into art and creative exploration, you should definitely give this one a try. There is an older version that is free but runs in Classic.

4. ImageWell

ImageWell
© XtraLean Corporation
ImageWell is such a handy dandy little "Swiss Army Knife" image editor for Mac. By that I mean it offers lots of essential features in a small, tidy package. To begin using ImageWell, just drag and drop an image right onto the ImageWell window. The most commonly used features are right there in the small, main window -- you can rename the image, rotate it, adjust the size and compression amount, add a watermark, and send the adjusted image right back out to any number of preset locations, or just drag and drop it to wherever you want it.

5. PhotoLine 32

Photoline 32 is a shareware image editor for both Macintosh and Windows. It offers tools and features for pixel- and vector-based editing, flexible text editing, batch processing, filters, layers, and transparency. Other notable features include support for CMYK color, pressure-sensitive tablets, and third-party plug-ins. Highly versatile for both experienced and inexperienced users.

6. PhotoComplete

PhotoComplete claims to be intuitive, but I did not find this to be the case. The user interface is highly streamlined, to the point that when you first open the software there is zero indication of how to get started. After poking around a bit, I discovered the Actions that enable you to perform various photo-editing functions. As you work, the actions you apply are stacked alongside the image and can be adjusted at any time. While I admire PhotoComplete's innovative and non-destructive approach to photo editing, this software falls a bit short in features and could benefit from on-screen guided help for new users. If your editing requirements are fairly simple, PhotoComplete is worth checking out and its future does look promising.

7. GraphicConverter X

GraphicConverter is a multi-purpose graphics tool for converting, viewing, browsing, and editing hundreds of image types on the Macintosh platform. If there is a file format or image processing task that your existing software can't handle, chances are that GraphicConverter can do it if you're willing to tackle the learning curve. GraphicConverter is a worthwhile tool to have on-hand, but needs some serious work in the usability department.

8. Pixel

Pixel is a multi-platform, multi-language image editor that has been a work in progress since 1997 by a single developer. Pixel features a user interface which is very similar to industry-leading Photoshop and offers a wealth of advanced tools for image editing, retouching, and Web design. Pixel has earned several shareware awards, and is being offered at a discount until its worldwide market release.

Comments and Feedback

If you know of a great Macintosh photo editor that I neglected to include, post a comment to let me know.

Last Updated: Nov. 2011

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