Quality image editing on any platform
Linux, Windows, Mac: Are you looking for something to replace Adobe Photoshop but the Gimp just doesn’t do for you? Then you’ll want to take a look at Pixel. It may not be free, or open source, but Pixel is more than affordable and runs on a dozen different operating systems, including Linux, Windows, Mac OSX, BeOS and FreeBSD.
In doing so, Pixel rivals industry heavyweight Photoshop in almost all aspects and is significantly better than the Gimp in a number of areas, most notably in its support for CMYK and Lab colour modes, a key ingredient in the professional publishing sector which Photoshop dominates.
Pixel was originally called Pixel32 and the first version was written for DOS in 1997. Shortly afterwards, as it became apparent that more users were using Windows, Pixel’s sole developer, Pavel Kanzelsberger, ported it to that platform as well. Soon after, BeOS contracted Kanzelsberger to port the application to their platform. With multiple platform versions to maintain, Kanselsberger opted to write an SDL-based toolkit called eLiquid which he then used to rewrite Pixel. The move was fortuitous and today Pixel runs an almost all popular operating systems.
Kanzelsberger tells Linux Journal in a July 2007 interview that while he is a Gentoo Linux user, Pixel is not an open source project. He is the sole developer of Pixel and to support his work he charges for the software. “Quite often [I have] requests to open source Pixel. But, I’m trying to explain to them the licensing scheme. I’m not charging money for the Linux version of Pixel, but I’m charging for Pixel itself. It doesn’t matter which operating system you are usingâ€”the license allows you to use any or all of them,” he says.
While Pixel is still in beta phase (currently beta 7) Kanzelsberger is charging US$38 for the software which includes all updates for this version until version 2.0 is released. Once the final version 1.0 is released Pixel will be charged at US$100.
Getting hold of a demo copy (with watermarking) of Pixel is as easy as downloading it from the Pixel site. As soon as it is installed and Pixel is run, Photoshop users will feel comfortably at home. The main toolbox, down the left hand side by default, is very reminiscent of the Photoshop toolbox, as are the palette boxes for colours, layers and tool options.
Pixel supports grayscale, RGB, CMYK, and CIE Lab color modes at 8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit color depths. Image adjustment tools include the expected capabilities such as levels, curves, and colour balance, as well as some additions including gamma adjustment, tone, and exposure control. The array of image adjustment tools makes Pixel a very handy tool in the publishing arena.
Pixel also includes a useful set of web tools for optimising images for the Internet, including the ability to control image quality and colour palettes.
For more experienced graphics users there are a range of layer effects, such as the ability to adjust underlying layers to create effects such as drop shadows. There is also an animation menu to create basic animations.
The effects options are one of the elements that sets Pixel apart from most other ordinary image tools. The array of effects is impressive, ranging from lens flare, to artistic effects like chalking, to video texturing.
If there is a downside to Pixel it has to be the toolbox. I found myself hunting for tools and hovering over them in the hope that something would pop up to tell me what they each did. Finding the right tool will, no doubt, become second nature after just a short time of using Pixel regularly, but for a first-time user it does create some confusion.
In the beta, demo version of Pixel not all features are completely finished but for most users the capabilities of this remarkable piece of software are more than adequate to overshadow most other image manipulation applications. If you already have Photoshop running on Windows or Mac, or have gone through the pain of getting it to work on Linux using Wine, then you probably don’t need Pixel. But if you’re tired of second-rate images on Linux, or just want a quality, affordable image editor for any platform, then Pixel is a great alternative.