What's the Best Photo Editor for Mac OS X

Photo editor options for Apple Mac users

You have a lot of factors to consider when deciding which is the best photo editor for macOS (formerly called OS X), and the importance of the various elements will vary from user to user. Because of that, picking a single application must involve compromises as what is right for one user may be too basic, too complicated, or too expensive for another.

A screenshot of Pixelmator for Mac

Best High-End Photo Editors

If you have a completely open budget, then your best purchase is Adobe Photoshop. It was the original image editor and has been around since the old Apple Mac operating system. It's the industry-standard image editor and with good reason.

It's a hugely useful application with a comprehensive and well-considered feature set. Photoshop is equally well suited for home editing photos and producing creative and artistic raster images. Its development, especially since the introduction of the Creative Suite versions, has been evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. Each release sees it become an even more rounded and robust application that runs on OS X (now called macOS)..

Other photo editors have drawn inspiration from Photoshop. However, few can match the feature set that allows for the flexibility of non-destructive adjustments, easily applied layer styles, and the powerful camera and lens-specific image corrections.

More Affordable Options for Photo Editing

If you have a limited budget, then you can't find cheaper than free, and that is what GIMP is. GIMP is a free and open-source alternative to Photoshop, though the developers deliberately discount this.

GIMP is a powerful and flexible image editor that you can expand with free plugins. However, it isn't able to match Photoshop in several ways, including the lack of adjustment layers to make non-destructive edits to images and the flexibility of layer styles. Nonetheless, many users swear by GIMP and in the right hands, it can produce creative results that can match work produced by Photoshop. Sometimes GIMP can offer tools not available elsewhere. For example, the Resynthesizer plugin gave GIMP users a powerful, content-aware fill tool long before such a feature appeared in Photoshop CS5.

If you don't mind spending a little bit of money, though, you might also want to consider Pixelmator. It's a stylish and well-featured native photo editor for OS X.

Adobe Photoshop Elements is also a good, affordable alternative to the mainline product. It offers most of the features of Photoshop at a fraction of the price. It's certainly worth considering for home users, hobbyists, and even some professional work where advanced features are not needed.

Photo Editors for the Home User

OS X comes with the Preview application pre-installed, and for many users, this will offer enough tools and features to make simple adjustments to digital photos. However, if you're looking for a little more functionality without the steep learning curve of GIMP or Photoshop, Seashore would be well worth a look. And like GIMP, it's available for free.

This attractive photo editor has a clear and intuitive interface and a user guide that will take new users with little knowledge through the concept of layers and image effects. It would be a good stepping stone for a move onto a more powerful photo editor, though it's likely to offer more than enough functionality for a large number of users.

So Which is the Best Photo Editor for Mac OS X?

Trying to decide which is the best photo editor of OS X is a matter of determining which one does the best job of reaching various compromises.

All in all, we have to conclude that GIMP offers the best overall compromise. The fact that it is free means that absolutely anyone with an internet connection can use it. While it isn't the most powerful or best-featured app, it is near the top. Despite that, though, novice users can also use GIMP for simple jobs, without having to embark on the steep learning curve to make full use of every feature. Finally, with the ability to install plugins, it is possible that if GIMP doesn't do what you want it to, someone else may have already produced a plugin that will take care of it.

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