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The A to Z of Pixelmator

This post is part of a series called A to Z Design Software.
The A to Z of Adobe Illustrator
The A to Z of Inkscape

Pixelmator is an easy-to-use, fast, and powerful image editing app for the Mac. It is packed with useful tools, some of which you might be familiar with and some you might have never used. This A-Z list breaks down these tools with a link to a Pixelmator tutorial here on Tuts+ or a description of what each tool can do.


Add Layer Mask

About Pixelmator: Shows a dialog window with your current Pixelmator version.

Actual Size (Command-Option-F): Zooms the document on the screen to display it in its actual size. 

Add Layer Mask: Adds a layer mask to the currently selected layer in the layers palette.

Add to iPhoto: Lets you quickly export the current document as a new image to your iPhoto library.



Blending modes: Pixelmator has different blending modes to tweak how layers, tools and effects interact with other layers. 

Blur: A section in the effects browser with effects and filters for different kinds of blurring. 

Blur Tool: A tool for blurring areas of an image by painting over them.

Bring Forward (Command-]): Sends the currently selected layer one step further to the foreground and one position further to the top of the layers palette.

Bring to Front (Command-Option-]): Sends a selected layer directly to the foreground and on top of all other layers.

Brushes collections: Clicking the gear icon in the Brushes Palette lets you choose from different collections with brushes. You can even create your own collections.

Brushes Palette (Command-4): The Brushes palette in Pixelmator is used to select, create, edit and manage brushes

Brush Tool (B): This tool works like a conventional paint-brush and draws soft strokes. 

Bump Tool: This is one of the liquifying tools in Pixelmator. It moves pixels away from the centre of the brush area as you click or drag on the image. This effect is useful when you want to simulate a bloated effect.

Burn Tool: This tool darkens image areas by painting over them.



Canvas Size (Command-Option-C): The Canvas Size command allows you to adjust the entire editable area of an image. Increasing the editable area adds more space; decreasing the area crops the image.

Clipping mask (Command-Option-G): Turning a layer into a clipping mask lets you use the objects on the underlying layer as a mask.

Clone Stamp Tool: This tool paints with a sampled part of an image. 

Color Palette (Command-Shift-C): Lets you choose colors in Pixelmator or the currently selected tool. 

Color Adjustments: A section in the effects browser with effects and filters for adjusting colors.

Color Balance (Command-B): Brings up the Color Balance effect.

Color Depth: Lets you choose between 8-bits per channel image editing and 16-bits per channel image editing. 

Color Profile (Command-Shift-K): Lets you choose different color profiles for your image or remove a color profile.

Column Marque Tool: Creates a rectangular column shaped selection based on the height of the document and a predefined width.

Convert into Pixels:  Converts a Type- or a Shape layer into a rasterised layer.

Convert into Shape: Lets you convert a Type layer into a Shape layer for further vector-based editing.

Crop Tool (C): Use the Crop Tool to remove or hide portions of an image to create, focus or straighten your images.

Custom Shape Tool: Consists of several standard defined shapes that we can easily add to our document. It also lets you access the Shapes Palette.

Curves (Command-K): Brings up the Curves Adjustment effect.


Dodge Tool

D: Shortcut key that resets the foreground and background color to their default black and white colors. 

Delete Layer: Deletes the currently selected layer

Deselect All (Command-D): Hides all current selections

Distortion Effects: A section in the Effects Browser containing distortion filters and effects.

Dodge Tool: A tool to lighten areas in an image by painting over them.

Duplicate: When choosing Duplicate from the file menu, the currently selected document is duplicated into a new document. Choosing duplicate from the edit menu the currently selected layer in the layers palette will be duplicated.

Duplicate Layer: Duplicates the currently selected layer in the layers palette.


Effects Browser

Effects Browser (Command-3): The Effects Palette contains all the effects and filters that can be used in Pixelmator.

Ellipse Shape: One of the standard vector shapes in Pixelmator to create ellipses and circles.

Elliptical Marquee Tool: Use this tool when you want to make an elliptical selection. Hold the Shift key while selecting to make a circular selection.

Email: Lets you share your current document in a new email message. 

Enable Layer Mask: Enables a disabled layer mask.

Eraser Tool (E): Lets you paint over areas of your image in order to erase them.

Export: Pixelmator opens and saves all documents as Pixelmator documents by default. Use the export function to export your work to another image format.

Export for Web (Command-Shift-E): Exports images to image formats that are used on the web. Using Export for web lets you set several parameters to optimise the exported images for use on the web and make them quicker to download.

Eyedropper Tool (I): Used for sampling colors from an image.


File Information

Facebook: Share your Pixelmator creations with your friends and family on Facebook.

Favorite Effects: A section in the Effects Browser where you can store your favorite or most used effects.

File Info: Shows a sheet displaying technical information about the current document and lets you add and remove keywords. 

Fill (Command-Option-F): Fills the currently selected layer or the current selection with a color. It is also possible to adjust the blending mode and the opacity of the fill.

Flickr: Upload your creations directly to your Flickr account from the Share menu.

Flip Horizontal: Flips the currently selected layer or the current selection horizontally.

Flip Vertical: Flips the currently selected layer of the current selection vertically.

Fonts Palette (Command-T): Brings up the OS X fonts palette. 

Freeform Pen Tool: This tool enables you to draw vector shapes by clicking and dragging on the canvas or by using a drawing tablet.

Full Screen (Command-Control-F): Enter Full Screen lets you bring Pixelmator in Full Screen mode.


Gradients Palette

Generator effects: A section in the Effects Browser containing effects for generating clouds, sunbeams, star shine, and halos.

Gradient Palette (Command-5): The Gradient palette in Pixelmator is used to select, create, edit and manage gradients.

Gradient Tool (G): The Gradient Tool lets you apply the gradients from the Gradients Palette.

Grid (Command-Option-’): Overlays a grid over the current document. The settings of the grid can be changed in the Pixelmator Preferences. 

Group Layers (Command-G): Pixelmator lets you group layers in order to get a better overview of all the layers in your document.

Guides: Lets you add help lines to your document in order to position objects more precisely.


Hue and Saturation

Halftone: A section in the effects browser containing effects and filters that create halftone effects.

Hand Tool (H): Pan an image that is larger than the document window by clicking and dragging with the Hand Tool.

Help: When accessing the Pixelmator Help from the Help menu you will be guided to Pixelmator's help webpage with always up to date help information.

Hue/Saturation (Command-U): Brings up the Hue/Saturation Adjustment effect.


Image Size

Image Size (Command-Option-I): Use the Image Size dialog in Pixelmator to change the print dimensions and the resolution of an image.

Import: Opens the OS X import dialog where you can import images directly from devices like cameras and scanners.

Info Bar: The Info bar shows color values beneath a pointer and, depending on the tool in use, offers other useful information such as coordinates, selection dimensions, position change, starting position coordinates, angle, color profile, image dimensions and zoom level. 

Invert Selection: Inverts the current selection. What was selected before will now be unselected and parts of a layer that were unselected will become selected.

Invert Colors (Command-I): Shortcut to quickly invert the colors in a layer or inside a selection.


Linking Layers

Lasso (L): Used to quickly create freehand selections. 

Last Filter (Command-Shift-F): Applies the last used filter again.

Layers Palette (Command-2): This palette shows all available layers in a document and lets you reorganise, create, remove, merge, group, and choose blending modes for layers.

Levels (Command-Option-L): Brings up the Levels Adjustments effect.

Line Shape: One of the standard shapes that comes with Pixelmator. The Line Shape lets you quickly add a straight vector line to your document. 

Link Layers (Command-Shift-L): Links the contents of two or more layers together so when one object gets moved the other objects on other linked layers will move along. 

Load Selection: Creates a selection from the objects on a layer.

Lock Layer: Locks a layer and prevents it from being edited.


Move Tool

Magic Eraser Tool: This tool lets you erase similar colored areas.

Magic Wand Tool (W): Use this tool to select similarly coloured areas.

Merge All layers: Merges all the layers in a document into one layer.

Merge Layers (Command-E): Merges two or more selected layers together into one layer.

Messages: Lets you quickly share a document via the OS X Messages app.

Move To: Lets you move the current document to another folder on your hard drive or to iCloud, a network drive or any other drive.

Move Tool (V): Used to move layers and selections.


New from Clipboard

New (Command-N): Creates a new Pixelmator document

New from Clipboard: This option is only available by ctrl+clicking on the Pixelmator icon in the dock. It will copy the contents of the clipboard into a new Pixelmator document. 

New Layer (Command-Shift-N): Adds a new layer to document


Open: Lets you open any existing document or image.

Open Recent: Lets you choose and re-open any recently opened documents.

Order Prints: An easy and quick way to order prints of your documents straight from Pixelmator.

Other: A section in the effects browser with a variety of filters and effects not fitting in any of the other effect-categories. 


Pixelmator Preferences

Page Setup (Command-Shift-P): Used to change the paper size, orientation and scaling, before printing a document. 

Paint Bucket (N): This tool can be used to fill similar colored areas.

Paint Selection Tool: Makes selections by painting areas of your image. Similar collared areas near the brush tip will be selected automatically.

Pen Tool: This tool enables you to draw vector shapes by clicking on various points on the canvas. Straight lines will be drawn between these points. Straight lines can then be turned into curved lines by entering editing mode.

Pencil Tool: Used to paint hard-edged strokes.

Photo Browser (Command-6): The Photo Browser is used for quickly browsing, previewing and searching images from your iPhoto and Aperture library, Photo Booth, or your Pictures folder. It is also possible to add other folders with images to the Photo Browser.

Pinch Tool: One of the liquify tools. Use the Pinch Tool to squeeze pixels together.

Pixel Tool (P): A tool especially for those who want to create Pixel-Art. Lets you draw images on pixel level.

Polygonal Lasso Tool: Use this tool to make straight-edges manual selections

Polygonal Shape: One of the standard shapes Pixelmator ships with. Adds a polygonal vector shape to your document. This is a smart shape where the amount of points can be adjusted with a slider.

Preferences (Command-,): Opens the Pixelmator preferences where you can change some of the settings in Pixelmator.

Preserve Transparency: When activated, existing transparent areas on a layer will not be affected by any edits such as using the paintbrush.

Print (Command-P): Used for printing your document on your home or office printer.


Quick Mask Mode

Quick Mask Mode (Q): A Quick Mask lets you edit or create a selection. It appears as a red-colored overlay that can be edited using any of the tools, effects and filters, available.

Quit Pixelmator (Command-Q): Closes Pixelmator. Depending on your OS X version and setup, documents currently opened will get autosaved and will open again automatically when you launch Pixelmator again.


Refine Selection

Rectangular Marquee Tool (M): Use this tool to quickly create rectangular selections. Hold the Shift key while selecting to make a square selection.

Rectangular Shape: One of the standard shapes that comes with Pixelmator. The Rectangular Shape lets you quickly add a rectangular vector shape to a document. 

Red Eye Tool (R): Use this tool to remove red eyes from a photo either automatically or manually.

Refine Selection (Command-Option-R): Used to Smooth, Feather, and Resize the current selection.

Repair Tool: Used to quickly remove imperfections and other distractions from an image.

Remove Mask: Removes the layer mask from the currently selected layer. 

Reveal Canvas: Enlarges the canvas to also include objects that were (partially) placed outside of the canvas borders.

Revert To: Lets you browse and revert to previous versions of your document.

Rotate Canvas: Lets you rotate or flip the canvas.

Rounded Rectangular Shape: One of the standard shapes that comes with Pixelmator. The Rounded Rectangular Shape lets you quickly add a rectangular vector shape to a document where you can adjust the radius of the rounded corners.

Row Marquee: Create a rectangular row shaped selection based on the width of the document and a predefined height. 

Rulers (Command-R): The Ruler bars can be used for measuring and placing guides.


Save (Command-S): Saves the current document.

Select All (Command-A): Selects all of the layer. 

Select Color: Lets you choose a color and then selects that color from the image or within an existing selection. The threshold for selecting colors can be adjusted by a slider. 

Select Linked Layers: To quickly select all layers that are linked.

Send Backward (Command-[): Sends a layer further to the background and moves a layer one position down on the layers palette.

Send to Back (Command-Option-[): Sends a layer all the way to the background and moves the layer to the bottom of the layers palette.

Shapes Palette: A palette containing the different vector shapes in Pixelmator. Used to select, organise, import and export shapes. 

Sharpen: A section in the effects browser containing a variety of sharpening effects and filters.

Sharpen Tool (O): Use this tool to paint over areas of an image in order to sharpen those areas.

Slice Tool (K): Divide an image into sections with the slice tool to export each section as a separate image.

Smudge Tool: A tool used for smearing out the colors of an image.

Soft Proof with Profile: To view how the image colors might look when you print them or view them on a different display. Choose the printer-color profile or the display profile in order to soft proof.

Special Characters: Opens the OS X special characters dialog.

Spelling: Gives access to OS X’s spelling and grammar tools.

Sponge Tool: The Sponge Tool either desaturates or saturates the area you paint over.

Star Shape: One of the standard shapes Pixelmator ships with. Adds a star vector shape to your document. This is a smart shape where the amount of points can be adjusted with a slider.

Start Dictation: Lets you dictate words and sentences for use in Pixelmator.

Stroke (Command-Shift-O): Used to create a border around a selection or a layer.

Styles Palette (Command-7): Apply different styles such as, gradients, strokes, shadows and reflections to a layer. 

Stylize: A section in the effects browser containing a variety of stylising effects, such as Pixelate, Noise, Crystalize, Fog, Gloom.


Tile: A section in the Effects Browser with a variety of tile like effects and filters, like the Kaleidoscope and Hexagon effect.

Tool Options (Command-Option-T): Shows the Tool Options Bar at the top of the document window. In the Tool Options bar you can change the settings for the currently selected tool.

Tools Palette (Command-1): Used to select the tools available in Pixelmator. The Tools Palette is customisable from the Pixelmator Preferences.

Transform (Command-F): Used to transform, rotate and flip selections, layers and objects in various ways.

Trim Canvas: Crops the canvas by trimming surrounding transparent pixels, or background pixels of a solid color.

Twirl: One of the liquify tools in Pixelmator. Use the Twirl tool to twist pixels around in an image.

Twitter: Share your creations directly with your Twitter followers.

Type Tool (T): Use the Type Tool to add text to an image.


Ungroup Layers

Undo (Command-Z): Undo the last action. The amount of Undos you can perform in Pixelmator is only limited to the amount of memory your Mac has installed.

Ungroup Layers: Ungroups a group of layers.

Unlink Layers: Unlinks any linked layers.

Unlock Layer: Unlocks a locked layer and makes it editable again.


Warp Tool

Warp Tool: One of the liquify tools in Pixelmator. Use the Warp tool to push pixels in any direction.


X: Shortcut key that swaps the foreground and background color.


Zoom In (Command-+): Zooms in on the document

Zoom Out (Command--): Zooms out from the document

Zoom to Fit (Command-0): Zooms the document in or out to make it fit inside the document window

Zoom Tool (Z): For zooming in and out of the document.

Now You Know Your ABCs...

The above list gives a taste of what Pixelmator has to offer for creating awesome graphics. Now it's time to put its power to use and make your own great graphics with it. You can learn more about Pixelmator by following the Pixelmator tutorials here on Tuts+, and let us know if you need help with anything about using Pixelmator.

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