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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Why Use Sketch?

Sketch earned the top spot on this list because it feels like a natural tool for UI and UX design. I’ve never found another tool that let you create and manipulate complex designs with such ease. The magic of good app design comes from building great UI and UX, and Sketch does that better than any other app for developers working on the Apple platform.

Sketch is a vector based tool; you’ll find it greatly eases building layouts and designs. The built-in UI templates make designing apps and iOS or Mac icons a breeze. It’s easy to iterate and evolve my designs, and when I have what I want, Sketch can assemble and export those assets at 1x, 2x, and 3x resolutions. There’s also a rich plugin infrastructure that adds additional functionality without cluttering the main app.

While Sketch works wonderfully with vector drawing, it’s not the only tool you’ll ever need. For working with raster images, you’re better off with Photoshop or Pixelmator. It’s also a bit more unstable and buggy than I’d expect for such a powerful tool.

Sketch’s popularity means you’ll find a lot of resources to help you learn Sketch. The Sketch web site provides several tutorial videos and also maintains a list of off-site courses and articles. I’d recommend our recent Sketch tutorial by Robert Chen for a good, in-depth introduction to Sketch.

Which Editor Is the Right One for Me?

Each image editor in this list has its own strengths and weaknesses, and depending on your needs, you might find you need more than one tool to get the job done.

Here’s a good guideline to help you choose the right tool for your needs:

  • If you’re looking for a tool for UI or UX design or app prototyping, you can’t beat Sketch. It’s a favorite on the team and among many other developers.
  • If Sketch looks appealing, but you’d like something less expensive, you’ll find Affinity Designer a good choice. Affinity Designer also makes a good general design tool or a replacement for Adobe Illustrator.
  • If you need to work with custom controls and dynamic graphics, the code generation feature of PaintCode will make an excellent addition to your workflow.
  • If you are doing raster image editing and need a tool you’ll use a few times a month, Pixelmator will suit your needs just fine. It’s an amazingly powerful app for the price, and can handle most of what you’ll likely ask it to do.
  • If you want the gold standard, then Photoshop may be for you. Photoshop is a complex tool, but that complexity comes from its sheer power. The recurring subscription costs add up over time, but when you’re managing complex images and you use a tool every day for hours at a time, Paintshop is your best choice. Combining it with Sketch gives you the best combination of vector and raster tools possible for developers.

Hopefully this list of image editors helps you out in your quest to find the perfect tool to fit your needs. Do you have any experiences to share in your own work with these tools? Join the discussion below and share your thoughts with the community!