How to Install and Use Plug-Ins in Pixelmator

Extend this powerful app's functionality

A woman working at a computer using software to analyze qualitative data.
mihailomilovanovic/Getty Images

Like Photoshop and GIMP, Pixelmator offers extensibility through plug-ins. Installation is a bit different for the latter, however; Pixelmator-compatible plug-ins are installed at a system level, rather than within the program itself; this extends the graphics capabilities of the operating system itself.

Pixelmator is compatible with two types of plug-ins: core image units and Quartz Composer compositions. Finding these plug-ins can take some searching, and they're not as numerous as those for Photoshop and GIMP.

Finding and Installing Core Image Units

You can find a few free, useful core image units on the Belight Community website. For example, the BC_BlackAndWhite plug-in brings a more powerful channel mixer to Pixelmator. In particular, it allows you to convert color digital photos to black and white on a per-color channel basis, which opens up the possibility of much more creative mono conversions. You also can apply a color tint to your image, much as you apply color filters in Photoshop.

BeLight Community home page

How to Install a Core Image Unit

  1. Download a suitable Core Image unit, and unzip it.

  2. Open a Finder window and navigate to the root of your Mac.

    Your root folder is not your home folder; it should be the hard drive first listed under Locations in the sidebar.

    macOS Finder root folder
  3. Open Library > Compositions. Drag the downloaded, unzipped plug-in into that folder.

    Two Finder windows in macOS
  4. If Pixelmator is already running, close it, then relaunch it.

  5. Look in the Filter menu of Pixelmator for the plug-in you installed. (You might need to check the sub menus, too.) For example, if you installed the BC_BlackAndWhite plug-in, you'll find it under the Color sub menu.

How to Install Quartz Composer Compositions

Quartz Composer compositions are another type of plug-in that Pixelmator recognizes. You'll find a larger selection of these than Core Image units on the Belight Community website. One complication of using these compositions, however, is the fact that Pixelmator is compatible only with compositions created by Quartz Composer 3.

If you're not able to establish which version of Quartz Composer was used to create a plug-in, try installing it to see if it is recognized by Pixelmator.

  1. Open a Finder window and navigate to the root of your Mac.

  2. Go to User Library > Compositions. Place your downloaded plug-ins in this folder.

  3. If Pixelmator is running, close it, then reopen.

  4. If the plug-in is compatible with Pixelmator, you will find it under Filter > Quartz Composer. Be sure to check existing sub menus, too.

The option of installing plug-ins into Pixelmator offers a great deal of promise, though the selection is a little limited at the time of this writing. As Pixelmator develops into a more powerful photo editor, however, a larger user base will stimulate greater production of more exciting Core Image units and Quartz Composer compositions.