Need rich photo editing without the bloat? Try Pixelitor

If, like us, you’ve tried more than your share of image editors, then you’ll know many of them are depressingly similar. Especially when it comes to filters. All too many developers seem to think they can get by with a simple sharpen, blur, emboss and so on, when most users now expect far, far more.

Fortunately there are also plenty of image editors that manage to deliver plenty of filtering power, though -- and the Java-based Pixelitor is a particularly interesting example. Its compact size (the entire program is contained within a single 1.04MB JAR file) suggested we shouldn’t expect too much, but the reality proved very different, it’s packed with essential filtering functionality.

Click Filter > Blur/ Sharpen, for instance, and you’re presented with no less than seven blur options (Gaussian, Smart, Box, Fast, Lens, Motion, Spin and Zoom). And each of these in turn can be tweaked in various ways. Choose the Lens blur, say, and you’re able to set the radius, sides of the aperture, bloom factor, bloom threshold, or even enable a “high-pass sharpening” option. (And if you’ve no idea what a particular group of settings mean then you can always just keep clicking the handy Randomize button until the preview window shows you results you like.)

There are some useful distortion filters, too. “Pinch, Bulge, Twirl” presents plenty of creative possibilities; “Fisheye” works well; it’s easy to apply ripple or wave effects to an image, and just as with the blurs, everything is very configurable.

And there are plenty of others, from quality edge detection and noise reduction, to photo collages, kaleidoscopes, fancy lighting effects and more. (If all else fails then you can always enter a custom 3×3 or 5×5 convolution of your own.)

Filters are just the start, of course. Pixelitor also has a host of tools to tweak your color, brightness and levels; you get basic paint tools with various brushes; and the program supports layers, a range of selection tools, and bonus options ranging from a batch image resizer to a simple screen capture utility.

There are also a few issues here. Pixelitor doesn’t have a thumbnail browser to help you locate images; it only supports a few essential formats (BMP, JPG, GIF, PNG); zooming in and out with the mouse could be easier; and the lack of documentation means this isn’t a program for image editing novices.

Still, the program does have plenty of powerful features, and is hard to beat for convenience: it’ll run anywhere Java 6 is available. So if you’re looking for a capable image editor which won’t get in your way then give Pixelitor a try – we think you’ll be impressed.

Photo Credit: Laborant/Shutterstock

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