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Affinity Photo vs. Pixelmator Pro 2021

Post-processing is an essential step in a photographer’s workflow. Some photos need just small adjustments to fix lighting, remove noise, or enhance colors. Others are part of an exhaustive artistic process that delivers artworks, collages, and multimedia pieces.

Even when photos don’t need any retouches you still have to prepare them for print, resize them for social media, add your signature, or edit metadata. Thus it’s important to have a photo editor that fits your requirements and provides a friendly and creative environment. In this post on Affinity Photo vs Pixelmator Pro we compare two competitive photo editors you should consider.

Both Affinity Photo and Pixelmator Pro provide exquisite photo adjustments designed to help you bring to life your artistic vision. Both can be considered Photoshop alternatives, but none of them are, of course, near being industry standard, as that spot is solely held by Adobe Photoshop. Also, they provide tools for graphic design so you don’t need another program to add text, paint over photos, and create collages.

The two editors match in drawbacks too. Neither provides tethered shooting or image management tools. There isn’t much price difference either. Affinity Photo costs $50 and Pixelmator Pro costs $39.99.

So which one is the better choice for a professional photographer? We need more details to come to a conclusion.

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The Battle of Requirements: Pixelmator PRO vs Affinity Photo 2021

Before choosing your photo editing software you need to be sure it will work on your device. If you’re a Mac user, you have no problem choosing either Affinity Photo or Pixelmator Pro. But if you’re using a Windows system or an iPad, you can only choose Affinity Photo. It works with macOS 10.9 or later, Windows 7 or later, and iPad Air 2 or above with iOS 12 or above.

Pixelmator Pro works only with macOS 10.14 Mojave or later and is optimized for the new M1-powered Macs. The producer offers a different app to iPad users, Pixelmator Photo. But who wants to learn to use a different app for each device?

The good news for Mac users is that Pixelmator Pro also works as an extension of Apple Photos. Therefore, you can mix the image organizing features of Photos with the powerful image editing features of Pixelmator Pro. The photo editor integrates with other Apple apps too. You can use it with iCloud, Apple Pencil, and others.

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Workspace and user interface in Pixelmator Pro

Pixelmator Pro has the shine of Apple apps. Its interface is intuitive, stylish, and visual. The app addresses beginners as well as professional photographers and focuses on the aspect and utility rather than complicated controls.

If you need advanced tools you have to look deeper into submenus. However, the interface is customizable and you can place the tools wherever you need them to be.

Photographers have a dedicated workspace called Photography. Here you’ll find tools for color adjustments, histograms, presets, layer management, and other tools a photographer wants to have at hand.

Pixelmator Pro groups the tools for designers, painters, and illustrators in separate workspaces as well. This keeps the interface airy and provides a good workflow. You won’t have a steep learning curve with Pixelmator Pro.

Pixelmator pro user interface
The Photography workspace – Credit photo pixelmator.com/pro/

Workspace and user interface in Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo provides separate workspaces too. Unlike Pixelmator, Affinity is entirely dedicated to photography and its workspaces are organized accordingly. They are called Personas and address specific editing tasks such as editing RAW files, liquifying (image manipulation), HDR tone mapping, and exporting images.

Each workspace comes with a separate set of tools and you can mix the results of each editing flow. Layer management is extremely efficient and well-organized.

Affinity Photo Develop Persona
Affinity Photo Develop Persona – a dedicated workspace for RAW editing

The interface of Affinity Photo is based on panels, which you can hide or display, and place wherever you want.

You can even save the layout so that you don’t have to rearrange the interface each time you open the program. And you can have different layouts for different editing purposes (e.g. edit pictures from a specific photo session, create a book cover design for a photo album, edit pictures for social media). It also allows you to save the state of the editing process and restore it later.

This is very useful when you come to a crossing point with an image and you want to have two or more editing styles from that point forward.

Affinity seems more difficult to learn than Pixelmator but, at the same time, it has more character and allows you to personalize the editing flow.

Features for Photography in Affinity Photo vs Pixelmator Pro

Although a clean interface and a good workflow are important aspects of a photo editor, a photographer needs mostly tools to adjust photos. Nowadays there is an ongoing battle between manual and automatic adjustments.

Some photographers prefer to work with automatic tools to save time. Most of these tools use artificial intelligence (AI) to recognize objects, people, and even the type of a photo (e.g. landscape or portrait) and apply specific adjustments.

Not all photo editors work with AI. Some prefer to provide presets and keep the user in charge of the editing process. Moreover, manual adjustments can’t be replaced entirely. A photographer needs to be in control, fine-tune each parameter, and selectively edit each pixel or area of a photo.

Photo Adjustments in Pixelmator Pro

Pixelmator Pro chose the path to AI-based automatic tools. It uses Machine Learning to provide automatic tools for enhancing photos (ML Enhance), removing noise (ML Denoise), matching colors (ML Match Colors), increasing resolution (ML Super Resolution), and selecting objects (Quick Selection Tool). These tools work very well if you want quick fixes or a good starting point for the editing process.

In addition, the editor provides basic adjustments such as white balance, hue and saturation, brightness, black and white conversion, and sharpening. It has good layer management and 27 blending modes. Pixelmator Pro also has advanced color adjustments such as curves, levels, color balance, and channel mixer. You can use it to make local adjustments because it provides advanced selection tools and many retouching brushes.

Pixelmator Pro comes with 60 default effects, which you can modify and mix. Combinations of effects result in a preset. You can import presets from third-parties as well as create your own.

For standard photo editing these tools may be enough but we miss some more advanced features. Pixelmator Pro doesn’t have image stacking, panorama stitching, and lens and camera correction profiles.

color adjustment in Pixelmator
Color adjustments – Credit photo pixelmator.com/pro/

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Photo Adjustments in Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo is designed for photographers and covers both basic and advanced photo retouches. Right from the beginning, you can see they thought of everything: image stacking, HDR and focus merge, panorama stitching, dedicated image stacking for astrophotography, dedicated workspaces for RAW editing, and HDR tone mapping. Affinity Photo provides tools for all types of photography and editing styles.

In terms of adjustments, nothing is missing:

  • You have basic adjustments with small previews to help you decide.
  • Filters and special effects you can apply not only to image layers but also to adjustments layers.
  • LUTs and tone mapping presets, and macros to record a set of edits and apply it to multiple images.
  • Exquisite liquifying tools; lens profiles and chromatic aberration reduction.

Affinity Photo doesn’t use AI but provides everything you need to control each detail of a photo. Furthermore, it allows you to automate the editing process by creating a wide range of presets and sets of actions.

Photo Persona in Affinity Photo
Basic adjustments with small previews to help you decide which direction you want to go

Layer and mask management is so refined that gives you endless creative possibilities. Affinity Photo has more than 30 blending modes, which you can use with all types of layers. If you don’t know which one will work better, you can move the mouse over them and Affinity will generate live previews. This makes everything easier for beginners and gives instant access to the editor’s functionality.

On top of everything, you get advanced selection tools for local adjustments, smart tools such as the Color Replacement Brush Tool and the Background Eraser Brush. Furthermore, you get an entire workspace dedicated to exporting images or slices of images in various file formats and sizes.

Background erase brush
Background Erase Brush Tool in action

Affinity Photo vs. Pixelmator Pro: Features for graphic design

Both Pixelmator Pro and Affinity Photo provide tools for graphic design. However, Pixelmator Pro has an advantage in this chapter.

It supports graphic tablets and pressure-sensitive brushes, and comes with handcrafted brushes for painting, and a large collection of pre-designed shapes. It supports SVG vectors and provides a comprehensive set of typography tools. You have plenty of tools for creating all types of designs.

With Affinity Photo, you still have some tools for graphic design but not as many as with Pixelmator Pro. However, they are more oriented towards photographers’ needs. The editor allows you to customize and add text and overlay pre-designed shapes. So you can still style your photos and create an album cover or a meme for social media but you don’t have too many options.

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Concluding words

While it’s nice to have design options and a cool interface, a photographer primarily needs to fix lighting, enhance colors, remove noise, and create an atmosphere.

For landscape photographers, panorama stitching is often used to frame the grandeur of the scenery. Macro photographers use more often focus merge than text tools. Portrait photographers need to style images from the same photo session in the same manner without spending hours doing it. And even though AI-based adjustment may have good results, most professional photographers prefer to fine-tune each detail by hand.

Therefore, make a list of what you need from a photo editor before choosing between Pixelmator Pro vs Affinity Photo and see which one checks more boxes. If you instead think about going the open-source route, check out how Affinity compares to GIMP.

Both editors offer free trials. If you want to purchase one of the apps you can do so straight away from the app store. Have you tried any of them? Let us know which one sounds better to you and why.

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