Best Image Editors for OS X

Find out the best image editors for OS X, as selected by the team! Includes a handy chart to help you pick the best image editor for you. By Bill Morefield.

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2. Photoshop

Price: $9.99 per month for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom as part of the Creative Cloud Photography plan.
Pros: The most powerful and most-used raster graphics editor; easy to find tutorials and guides online.
Cons Steep learning curve; resource hog; recurring cost as long as you want to keep it around.

Getting Photoshop

It’s unlikely you’ll ever see Adobe’s products in the Mac App Store; you can only purchase Adobe Photoshop through a subscription. Adobe’s least expensive plan that includes Photoshop is the $9.99 per month Creative Cloud Photography plan. Other plans are available, ranging up to the All Apps plan that includes all Adobe apps for $49.99 per month.

However, there is a trial version of Photoshop availble for download as well.

Building the Image in Photoshop

Start Photoshop, then select File\Open and choose Twitter_card_bg_image.png. Next, select File\Open and choose Twitter_card_overlay.png image.

You’ll need to adjust the background image to fit your final image size. Select Image\Image Size…; ensure the small link icon is selected and light gray lines run from it to the two size parameters. This is your indicator that Photoshop will preserve your image ratio.

Enter a Width of 640 pixels to match your desired final image width and the height will automatically adjust o 400. Click OK to resize the image.

Step 2

Copy the entire resized background image to the clipboard: select Select\All or press Command-A, then select Edit\Copy or press Command-C. Next, select the window containing your overlay image and paste the background image from the clipboard as a new layer by selecting Edit\Paste or pressing Command-V.

The overlay layer is currently hidden underneath your background layer. Drag the overlay layer above the background layer in the Layers list, like so:
Step 5

Photoshop placed the new layer aligned with the top of the image, so you’ll need to align the images at their centers. You can use Photoshop’s Smart Guides to easily align the image.

Go to View\Show and ensure Smart Guides is checked. Select the pasted layer and select the Move Tool. Hold down Shift to contrain your movements to right angles and 45-degree angles, then click on the image and drag it upward.

When the image is centered, you’ll see the purple Smart Guides appear, as shown below:

Step 4

Now for the text. Click on the Horizontal Text Tool. In the toolbar, change the Font to Open Sans Regular and enter 26 for the text size. Click near the bottom-left corner of the overlay and enter Such Tutorials Much Wow.

Use the Move Tool to adjust the position of the text to your liking:

Step 6

To add the outer stroke to the text, double-click on an empty section of the text layer to open the Layer Style window. Check the Stroke option, set the Size to 3 px and the Position to Outside.

Click the black default color and drag the brightness slider all the way up upward to change the color to white. Click OK to save and apply these changes. Your finished image should look like the following:

Step 7

Why Use Photoshop?

Photoshop has a long history with the Mac and is one of the reasons Macs found a home with designers and artists. Adobe long ago set the standard for graphics and design tools. New tools compare themselves to Adobe and even handle Adobe file formats. When I work with a designer, the results often arrive as Photoshop PSD file.

So then why is Photoshop number two on this list? It’s by far the most powerful tool for working with raster images. If an experienced Photoshop user can’t do something in Photoshop, you probably can’t do it in any editor. And If you don’t know how to do something in Photoshop, it’s easy to find multiple tutorials or videos online to help you out.

You shouldn’t use Photoshop just because it’s been around a long time, however. A tool should work for you — not just because everyone uses it.

I’ve used Photoshop for nineteen years, so I’ve learned how to quickly take care of my tasks in the app. The UI carries a lot of baggage and isn’t intuitive for new users. When I need to do something that’s not part of my standard workflow, looking it a solution online is usually faster than trying to figure it out on my own.

Learning Photoshop takes dedication and time, and in truth, I think Photoshop is so complex that you’d be hard-pressed to find a single person who fully understands everything it can do.

A designer will need a lot of the features in Photoshop, but for light editing, resizing, and cropping tasks, it’s probably more power than you need and you’d be just as happy with a less expensive tool such as Pixelmator.

Even if you don’t need all the features of Photoshop, it might still have a place in your toolbox. There’s a steep investment in learning Photoshop, but that investment will pay you back over years to come. I’ve tried other tools, and I still come back to Photoshop for most of my needs.

And the number one choice as picked by the team is…

1. Sketch

Price: $99.99.
Pros: Best tool for UI/UX design; good mockup and prototyping tool; extendable.
Cons: No longer in App Store; not the best tool for image manipulation.

Getting Sketch

Sketch recently left the Mac App Store; the only way to get the app is from the company’s web site.

You can download a trial version from their site, unzip the package and drag the file to your Applications folder to install.

Building the Image in Sketch

Select File\Open and open Twitter_card_bg_image.png. Your first task is to resize the image to match your desired final image size. The small lock between the width and height fields shows that Sketch will preserve your aspect ration. Change the width to 640 and the height will adjust to 400 to match:

Step 1

Now to load the overlay image. Select Insert\Image… and choose Twitter_card_overlay.png. Sketch adds the new image as a new layer above the background image. Drag the overlay layer to center the overlay above the background image, like so:

Step 2

Next you’ll need to use a mask to clip the background image to match the overlay.

Select the background layer with the background image and click the Mask button in the toolbar. This creates a new group consisting of the image on this layer and the new mask. By default, the mask matches the height of your overlay but cuts off more of the sides of our background image than you want.

Click on the small white square on the left edge of the mask and drag it all the way to the left side of the overlay. A red line will appear to highlight when you’ve reached the left edge. Next, drag the small white square on the right side of the mask to the right of the overlay:

Step 3

Now you can add some text. Click the Insert button in the toolbar and select Text from the dropdown menu. Click in the bottom left corner of the frame and enter Such Tutorials Much Wow.

With the text layer still selected, change the Typeface to Open Sans. Note that Sketch provides a search menu for fonts, which is useful for those developers with tons of installed fonts — you know who you are! :] Finally, enter 26 for the text size:

Step 4

Adding an outside stroke to text isn’t a simple operation in Sketch; you can’t use an Outside border on a text layer, which makes it difficult to add the outer stroke. You could convert the text to a shape layer and apply an Outside border, but that effect doesn’t quite match what you’re looking for, so you’ll skip that step.

Your finished image should look like the following:

Sketch Final Image