I had the opportunity to sit down and spend a little time with a new piece of software (at least to me) today, entitled Pixlr (www.pixlr.com). It is, all in all, a very interesting idea; a web-based alternative to the ever popular Photoshop software. There are some things is does very well, and a few other areas where it can’t quite stack up to it’s competition.
The first thing to note about this software is that it is ABSOLUTELY FREE to use, and save, your images. That is a claim that Adobe’s software, Photoshop, can not make. Another interesting point is that this program is entirely web-based, meaning you don’t have to download or install anything to use it (other than having the most current Flash plug-ins.) The second is that this review is strictly for the “Advanced” version of their software. They have two other versions which offer varying degrees of effects and input, but being a professional in the photo-editing arena, I chose to review the advanced version.
My recommendation would be to just click through and see what things do; most of the tools make sense based on their descriptions and image icons, and there’s not really any way to break it, so just experiment!
In my degree program, Photoshop is one of the most important tools for my students to know and use. Pixlr can not replace that software for these students, or for most professionals for that matter, but it does have it’s uses. One nice feature of the software is the ability to bring in an image from a URL and edit, then re-upload to web services. For instance, somebody who wants to edit a picture on their Facebook page can choose to open that image directly from the page, edit it, then save it again to Facebook! You never even have to download the image!
Being an avid photographer, and having just gotten married, I have TONS of photographs from my wedding 😀 Since I will be putting together a wedding album, from design to layout and photo editing, I figured that would be a great excuse to really put Pixlr through it’s paces. A word of warning, the shots I usually end up with are quite high resolution, so your results may vary.
That being said, I managed to crash my Shockwave plug-in three times while attempting my first photo-manipulation in Pixlr. I believe it was more related to a system memory thing, since what I was trying to do could be pretty memory intensive, however, I have never crashed Photoshop while attempting the same exact process. This is more likely a limitation of browser based technologies, as I know web browsers can sometimes have memory (RAM) issues even under relatively light loads.
After my initial attempts failed, I was forced to dig deeper into the Pixlr tool-set to find a solution, since I did not want to give up on my idea. What I found was actually a tool that Photoshop does NOT offer. It was a desaturate brush, which I used to turn most of the image black and white. Once I finally got this done, I could apply the filters and look that I wanted to finish out my shot.
Something to note, however, is that Pixlr does not seem to offer a ton of options for Non-Destructive editing; a must for professional photographers and artists alike (as well as my students.) One major component that is missing is the Adjustment Layer from photoshop. This is to be expected though; it’s a FREE, web-based software, after all.
Some of the major things that I noticed missing from their “Advanced” editor, which I feel would severely limit it’s usability as a professional tool
- Adjustment layers
- Layer masks that are reliable and don’t crash the software (this is where I had all of my trouble)
- A few of the more advanced filters and lens correction tools
- It lagged quite heavily when using with a larger image and my Wacom tablet
Some of the things it does well, where I could see it being useful for a student or even in a professional setting
- Quick edits for minor touch-ups and cleaning of elements
- Has a nice set of filters for achieving a certain, stylized look to your shots with less time commitment
- The ability to pull from a URL, such as your own Facebook or Flickr page, can be useful.
- Three levels of control over the software, which allows it to be more accessible to people of all skill levels
Pixlr is a great tool for the light, every-day user. For those such users, I would even recommend checking out the “Efficient” or even “Playful” versions of the software. Where it falls short though is on the high demand professional level.
With patience and a little clever thinking though, Pixlr can, and has, produced some very interesting results!