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Turn Photos Into Art With Pixelmator

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:MediumLanguages:

For years Adobe Photoshop has been the gold standard in image editing software. Recently, though, the image editor Pixelmator has started to offer Photoshop level features at a fraction of the cost; and with an easier to use interface, too.

Never has it been so easy to use powerful software to turn your photos into works of art. Even better, Pixelmator offers a thirty-day free trial so you can follow along with this tutorial and see if it is for you before paying a penny.


Resources

If you don't already have it, download a free trial of Pixelmator.

Also, download and unzip the resource pack that contains the images I used for this tutorial.


Pixelmator

Pixelmator offers tonnes of features, from simple photo editing to professional level vector image creation. You could spend hours just learning how to use the basic tools in Pixelmator. You don't, however, need to be able to use all of Pixelmator's features to get great results. For the purposes of this tutorial, I am going to be using the Effects Browser.

The Effects Browser

Pixelmator's Effects Browser is where you'll find all the filters and effects you can apply to your photos. The effects in the browser range from simple adjustments such as Exposure, which can be used to brighten your photos, to Snow, which generates realistic looking falling snow, and Kaleidoscope, which makes your photos look like you're viewing them through a kaleidoscope. There are unlimited ways to combine all the different effects in Pixelmator so feel free to go off book and experiment with any that take your fancy.

The <strong>Effects Browser</strong> is on the left of the image
The effects browser is on the left of the image

Browsing Effects

If at any point you can't see the Effects Browser, go to View > Show Effects to bring it to the front. The effects in the Effects Browser are grouped into categories based on what they do. For example, you'll find all the effects that blur your image under the Blur category and all the effects that sharpen it under the Sharpen category. There is also a catch all Other category for any that don't fit an obvious category.

If you know what sort of effect you want to apply, but can't remember the exact name, categories are a great way to find the effect you are looking for. There is a search bar for when you know the name of the effect you want to apply, but can't remember where it is in the list of more than 150 effects.

If you find yourself using the same effect repeatedly, you can right click on it and select Add Effect to Favourites to put it in the Favourites category. While you are browsing the effects, if you hover your mouse over the effect thumbnail you will see a preview of what the effect does.

Applying Effects

Applying effects is really easy in Pixelmator. You can either drag the Effect Thumbnail onto the image you are working on, or simply double click on it. Some effects have an options dialogue box that will pop up when you apply the effect. Some effects also have an adjustable circle control that allows you to control where the effect begins and how big it is.


Pop Art

I'm going to show you how to turn the first photo into an Andy Warhol inspired piece of pop art using just two filters. The same steps work great with any portrait, if you want to use your own.

Step 1: Getting Set

Open Pixelmator and go to File > Open and browse to where you've downloaded the exercise files. Open Image_1.jpg.

Opening a file in Pixelmator
Opening a file in Pixelmator
The unedited image
The unedited image

Step 2: Brightening the Image

The Pop Art filter that you will apply in a few moments, drastically increases the contrast of the image. Because the model's face in this photo is slightly in shadow, you need to brighten the whole image so that the face doesn't get too dark after the Pop Art filter is applied.

To do this, apply an Exposure filter from the Effects Browser. I found an Exposure increase of 40% worked well for this image. The exact value depends on the image you are using.

Brightening the image
Brightening the image

Step 3: Pop Art!

The Pop Art filter is really simple to use; it has no options. To apply it, just drag the Effect Thumbnail straight on top of the image and Pixelmator will do all the work. I think the Pop Art filter is a great way to bring some fun to portraits.

The final image
The final image

Pointillism

Pointillism is a painting technique that was first used by Impressionist artists such as Vincent Van Gogh. They applied small dots of pure colour to the canvas rather than more traditional brush strokes. Now it's going to be used by you.

Step 1: Getting Set

Open Pixelmator and go to File > Open and browse to where you've downloaded the exercise files. Open Image_2.jpg.

The unedited image
The unedited image

Step 2: Applying Pointillize

For some reason, Pixelmator has two Pointillize filters. One in the Stylize category, and one in the Other category. The one you want to apply is the one from the Other category as it provides more control over how the effect is applied.

Drag the Effect Thumbnail onto the image to apply it. The options menu that pops up allows you to control how the dots appear. The best way to understand what each slider does is to take them to their maximum and minimum values and see what effect it has on the image. The Amount slider controls the number of dots applied. The Position slider controls how randomly the dots overlap. The Density slider controls the size of the gaps between the dots. The Scale slider controls the size of the dots.

Applying the Pointillize filter
Applying the Pointillize filter

For this image, I found that an Amount of 0.17, a Position of 0.8, a Density of 0.9 and a Scale of 0.15 worked great. You should start with these values and then move the play around with the sliders to see if you get an effect that you prefer.

The final image
The final image

Vintage Photography

There is a huge craze for vintage style photography at the moment, with vintage filter apps like Instagram being valued at over a billion dollars. What Instagram's filters can do is child's play compared to the power of Pixelmator.

Step 1: Getting Set

Open Pixelmator and go to File > Open and browse to where you've downloaded the exercise files. Open Image_3.jpg.

The unedited image
The unedited image

Step 2: Applying the Vintage Filter

Apply the Vintage filter from the Stylize category in the Effects Browser. When you apply Vintage filter, you will get a choice of eight different sub-filters and Saturation and Vignette sliders.

Applying the Vintage filter
Applying the Vintage filter

For this image, I wanted to create a faded, dreamy effect so I used the Iris filter with a Saturation boost of 38% and a Vignette of 30%. You should play around with different combinations of filters, Saturation values and Vignettes to find something you like.

Step 3: Applying the Light Leak

A light leak happens when light enters the camera through a hole or gap in the body. For years a light leak was seen as undesirable but with the lomography movement it began to be seen as adding character to photos. For our purposes, the Light Leak filter in Pixelmator adds to the vintage feel I'm going for with this image.

Apply the Light Leak filter from the Stylize category. When you do, you will be presented with a choice of leak styles and also an Amount slider, which affects how heavily the light leak is applied, and a Sunniness slider, which controls how much the effect spreads over into the rest of the image.

There is also a circular control that allows you control the size and position of the light leak. To use the circular control, use the small inner circle to position the centre of the effect and the control handle on the outer circle to change the angle and size of the effect.

Applying the Light Leak filter
Applying the Light Leak filter

I liked the Arcturus effect with an Amount value of 100% and a Sunniness of 40% positioned near the tree in the image but you should play around and see what you like.

The final image
The final image

Conclusion

There are endless artistic ways you can apply Pixelmator's effects. I've shown you just three possibilities in this tutorial. I urge you to go and play around with them and if you come up with any awesome combinations, please post them in the comments below.

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