Pixelmator drop shadow in Version 2

One of the important things with creating bitmaps is to make the image look good, with extra things like drop shadows and outlines. This is particularly so with text that you might include within an image. In this Pixelmator 2 review I point out that there are some things with Pixelmator that could certainly be improved upon. It has got better with version 2 of Pixelmator, in that it is now possible to fairly easily, add some drop shadows to text and to shapes. In the past I would be able to create drop shadows in Pixelmator, but only by using extra filter plug-ins and the one that I used was from Noise Industries. (Well not the only way – there is the making a duplicate and making it into a shadow layer.) I do still have those extra plug-in filters available, as I have installed FX Factory which includes those filters that are free to use, along with some that you have to pay for. The Pixelmator filters that are available within FX Factory can also be used within video editing applications such as Final Cut Pro 10 and iMovie.

<img style=”display:block; margin-left:auto; margin-right:auto;” src=”http://mac20q.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Pixelmator-drop-shadow.png” alt=”Pixelmator drop shadow” title=”Pixelmator drop shadow” ” border=”0″ width=”540″ height=”362″ />

Pixelmator 2 improvements and failures

When you want to have a drop shadow on an item within Pixelmator 2, the way that you go about it will depend upon what type of object you are working with. The developers at Pixelmator could improve this and make it so that it is the same process for whatever type of object, whether it be a text object, a vector shape or a bitmap object.

Pixelmator Drop Shadow on text objects

Pixelmator drop shadow on text

If you want to have drop shadows on your text, it is now possible to do that, but it is not particularly obvious how to go about it. Open the system font palette and you can do that from the View Menu, show fonts or just hit command – T. There are some small controls at the top of the palette window that let you add the drop shadow and to control the amount of blur and the distance from the text. After you click on the button to apply the drop shadow you can control the opacity, blur, and offset. The final control to the right, lets you choose the angle of the drop shadow from the text.

While I was trying out these tools for the drop shadow, I also wanted to see if it was possible for me to add an outline to the text. I found that when I was able to add an outline, which I got in the text tool options, that the outline removed the fill. So the only way that I could get text to have outline and fill, was to have a duplicate of the original. One text object was the text with a fill and the other was the text as just an outline. It didn’t seem to be possible to change the thickness of the outline either. We shouldn’t have to convert our text into a bitmap to be able to apply outlines. Although version 2 of Pixelmator is better in many ways, it does still require a lot of work from the program developers to smooth out some rough edges.

Bitmaps, text and shapes in Pixelmator version 2

So you take the brush tool from the Pixelmator brushes palette and you draw a line in the background layer, so you end up with a line of whatever colour on top of a white background. You think to yourself, that it would be rather nice to have a drop shadow to that line and when you’re using Pixelmator you will be scratching your head, when it comes to working out how to do that. If instead of drawing the line on the layer that is the background layer, you were to create a new transparent layer and draw your line, then you would be able to apply a filter to the layer and give that line a drop shadow. If you try and apply a drop shadow to the line when drawn on the background layer you will find that the drop shadow that is applied will work on the whole of the rectangle of that layer. Obviously if you know how this works, then you can plan your design accordingly, so that if it is something that does need to have a drop shadow added to it you can put it on its own layer.

Drop shadows on shapes

Pixelmator drop shadow on shapes

With these vector shapes that are now part of Pixelmator version 2, it is very easy to add a drop shadows to these objects. The way that the objects are dealt with also work on layer by layer basis. Any objects that you put into a shape layer will all have the same configuration of colour, outline and drop shadow. You do get better tools within the window for manipulating these controls than you do when you’re working with text items.

Information on the Pixelmator website in the forum/help site

I have seen within the Pixelmator forum that provides help to Pixelmator users, that there should be within the Quartz composer filters, a drop shadow filter. On my computer in Pixelmator, that is not visible. Fortunately, I do have the Noise Industries filters that I can use to create my drop shadows. I can recommend getting the FX Factory Filters / Pixelmator plugins, as it is easy to install and there are enough free filters included to make it worthwhile having. When you are creating your drop shadow for your painted line then you should make sure you get it correct and just the way that you want it. If you go back to the filter afterwards then you will find that you will just add a shadow to the object again, and also be adding a shadow to the shadow that you created the first time around.

FX Factory filters

If you have other objects that you want to have a shadow added to it then you will need to put them on their own separate layers, so that you can add that shadow. Trying to add another item to a layer that has already been manipulated by the drop shadow filter will not automatically have the same drop shadow applied to it and you will get more shadows than you require if you use the filter again.

Using Pixelmator 2 versus using other applications

While Pixelmator 2 is a big improvement over the previous version there is still a lot of work to do if it can be compared with the big boy on the block, which is Adobe Creative Suite. Usability of the interface has to be improved and standardised across the various tools in the application. Having vector shapes within the application is very useful but it should be made so that each object within a layer can have its own settings. For manipulation of text and shapes to create logos and other graphic design creations, then I would recommend the use of ArtText 2. With ArtText 2 you get the ability to add as many outlines to an object as you wish. You have the opportunity to manipulate text as a proper vector graphic on a node by node basis. Within ArtText 2 it is very easy to be able to add drop shadows to whatever objects you have in your design.

Pixelmator vs Acorn

Acorn is another app that does the bitmap editing thing on OSX and it is OK but I do prefer the interface of Pixelmator vs Acorn graphics editor look and feel. Acorn is good at the drop shadow and has tempted a few people across from Pixelmator drop shadow manipulation.

Pixelmator on OSX Lion

Pixelmator on lion

On OSX Lion Pixelmator windows don’t have to be strewn all over the place you can be very organised by going into the full screen mode that is offered by Lion. If you have a separate monitor you can also move some of the Pixelmator windows / tool boxes and so on, over on the second screen.

Although I have spent much of this article complaining about Pixelmator 2, I do think that it is a worthwhile application to have on your Mac, if you are any sort of a graphic artist. I would say though, that as it is not perfect, it is best used in conjunction with other applications. Pixelmator version 2 on its own is not quite good enough to be the only tool in your creative toolbox. I really do love using Pixelmator 2 and I think it has a superb, very Mac like interface, despite some of its failings and idiosyncrasies.

Go and get your FX Factory set of filters to enhance Pixelmator 2 . Here is a Quartz Composer drop shadow filter. Go and buy ArtText 2 also to do some really fancy logos. You can do a Pixelmator download from the Mac App Store and get your Pixelmator license to run it on all of your Mac computers. No there isn’t a Pixelmator for Windows – Go and buy a Mac. For photography work then you can do some photo editing in Aperture, but Pixelmator has more to offer for image manipulation so in the Pixelmator vs Aperture contest there is no contest, having both softwares is a great plan.

2 thoughts on “Pixelmator drop shadow in Version 2

  1. sebzar says:

    Thank you for this informing article on drop shadows etc. Drop Shadows for text was also available in Pixelmator 1 it is a standard option that comes with the OS X fonts dialog. Full screen was also available from version 1 of Pixelmator. In fact almost nothing has changed there compared to lion’s full screen mode. Pixelmator indeed doesn’t come with a drop shadow filter. 3rd party filters automatically show in the quartz composer filter menu when you install them. For more in depth information on image editing with Pixelmator I can recommend visiting http://pixelmatortutorials.net there are some very informative tutorials there with lots of tips and tricks.

    1. Wizardgold says:

      @sebzar Thanks for the comment on the site. I had a friend that stopped using Pixelmator version 1 because she could get any drop shadows working. I did tell her about the Noise industries filters but by then she had moved to Acorn.

      It is a bit surprising that there is no drop shadow filters by default, surely the team at Pixelmator will fix that some day. It will be good for the users that get scared with having to install filters and needing to get them in the right place so they work etc.

      Yes that tutorials site is very handy.

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