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How to Use Pixelmator as an External Editor

This post is part of a series called Introduction to Pixelmator.
How to Use Brushes and Gradients in Pixelmator
How to Work With Layers in Pixelmator

Pixelmator is an easy-to-use, fast, and powerful image editing app for the Mac. In this tutorial, we are going to set up Pixelmator as the external editor in iPhoto. We will also take a look at how to save our edited work back to iPhoto and how to open images from our iPhoto library directly from within Pixelmator. Lets get started!

1. Choosing Pixelmator as External Editor

iPhoto not only has its own editing section but also allows us to edit the images in our library using an external editor.

Step 1

Launch iPhoto and open the iPhoto preferences (iPhoto > Preferences...)

iPhoto Preferences

Step 2

In the iPhoto preferences, browse to the Advanced section. Click on the drop down menu at the right side of Edit Photos. In our example we have OS X's Preview app as the external editor, but you can have another editor here or no editor at all. Click on the currently selected external editor to change it.

Edit Photo In

Step 3

A finder window will appear. Search for Pixelmator on your mac and click on the Open-button. Pixelmator is now set as the external editor.

Find Pixelmator

2. Editing

Step 1

Select an image from your iPhoto library and Control + Click on it. Choose Edit in External Editor.

Edit in External Editor

Step 2

Our photo will now open directly in Pixelmator ready for editing. Choose the Crop Tool from the Tools Palette. Crop your photo. In our example we cropped away the rain-pipe from the image. Click on the Crop button in the Tool Options Bar to confirm the crop.


Step 3

To save the edit back to iPhoto we close the document window.

Depending on what image format your photo is in, Pixelmator will act in to different ways.

  1. If your image is in an image format Pixelmator can read directly (jpg, tiff, and png), Pixelmator will save the changes you've made directly back to iPhoto and close the document window.
  2. If your image is in the Raw image format then Pixelmator will have opened your image inside a new Pixelmator Document and will ask you to save your image to your hard drive. As shown in the image below.

Tip: Raw files are image files that contain the raw image data created by your camera. Pixelmator cannot edit this data and will therefore convert the image into a new Pixelmator Document.

Saving the Document

Step 4

If Pixelmator does not save our document back to iPhoto and you don't want to save your image to your hard drive but directly into iPhoto then open the Share menu and choose Add to iPhoto.

iPhoto will now import the edited image and add it to the library. You will therefore end up with two images: the original image and the edited image.

Add to iPhoto

Step 5

If your image got directly saved back to iPhoto and you somehow regret the edit you've done, you can revert back to the original image by going into iPhoto and choosing Revert to Original from the Photos menu.

Revert to Original Image

3. Accessing the iPhoto Library From Within Pixelmator

In addition to opening images in Pixelmator from the iPhoto app, we can also open images from within Pixelmator, using the Photo Browser palette.

Step 1

Go to Pixelmator. If the Photo Browser isn't visible yet, go to the View menu and choose Show Photo Broswer

Show Photo Browser

Step 2

The Photo Browser shows our iPhoto Library, Pictures Folder and Photo Booth folder by default, but it is also possible to drag and drop other folders with images onto the Photo Browser palette to make those images accessible directly from Pixelmator, as well. To do this, make sure to drag the little handle, marked in the image below, downwards until the text "Drag additional folders here" appears.

More Folders

Step 3

Browse through your iPhoto library with the help of Pixelmator's Photo Browser and double-click on the image you've just edited, to open it.

In the Effects Browser, go to the Color Adjustment section and choose Black & White.

Black and White

Step 4

Adjust the settings of the Black & White effect and close the document window.

You'll notice that Pixelmator asks us to save the image to the hard drive. Even if the image format is a format that Pixelmator can read directly. So when opening images from the Photo Browser, Pixelmator will always import the image into a new Pixelmator Document and ask us to save the document before closing it. So in order to save this image back to iPhoto, we have to open the Share menu and choose Add to iPhoto.

Black and White Adjustment


We have now made Pixelmator the external editor in iPhoto. We've taken a look at the different ways we can open images from our iPhoto library in Pixelmator, and we've seen how Pixelmator saves images back to our iPhoto library.

Final Image
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