Pixelmator Photo goes the subscription route; a Mac version arriving in 2023

Pixelmator Photo for Mac is coming in early 2023, possibly at the end of 2022. At the same time, the iPhone and iPad version has switched to a subscription model.

A graph comparing development time, costs and sales for subscription apps versus the upfront pricing model
Upfront pricing vs. subscriptions | Image: Pixelmator
  • What’s happening? Pixelmator Photo, a capable image editor aimed at photographers, now requires a monthly or yearly subscription to use. The team has moved away from the previous upfront pricing model for several reasons.
  • Why care? Well, the app is now significantly more expensive as a subscription. Previously, you only had to pay eight bucks to download Pixelmator Photo.
  • What to do? If you previously bought the app, you’ll have unlimited access without having to sign up for a subscription. That said, however, new users would be wise to check out Pixelmator Photo’s subscription pricing.

Pixelmator Photo for Mac is coming in 2023

MacBook Air showcasing Pixelmator Photo for macOS, set against a colorful gradient background
Pixelmator Photo for macOS | Composition: Christian Zibreg; Device screenshot: Pixelmator

The team also announced that a macOS version of Pixelmator Photo is in the works, and will launch sometime in 2023. The team promises a fully native macOS app crafted from the ground up for the macOS platform. Developers have confirmed that anyone who subscribes to the iOS/iPadOS version of Pixelmator Photo will be entitled to a free download of Pixelmator Photo for macOS.

But what should you do in case you bought Pixelmator Photo for iOS before the switch to a subscription model? In that case, developers say, there will be a discounted subscription option for those wishing to sign up for the Mac version.

Pixelmator Photo for iOS adopts subscription-based pricing

Instead of paying $8 to download Pixelmator Photo on iOS/iPadOS, you can now download it for free. You’ll need to choose a monthly or yearly subscription to continue using the app. As mentioned, existing users can continue using Pixelmator Photo without having to pay again. The subscription price for new users will go up when a Mac version is released. Read: How to not overpay for YouTube Premium

If you only use Pixelmator Photo occasionally, you probably won’t mind being charged $5 for each month you’ve used the app. But if you plan on using Pixelmator Photo on a more or less regular basis, you’d want to save money by opting for the yearly subscription option, priced at $23.99/year.

If you don’t like subscriptions, the team offers a one-time purchase option that lets you use the app forever in exchange for sixty bucks, however.

Why has Pixelmator Photo embraced subscriptions?

The Pixelmator blog explains the reasoning behind adopting subscriptions for Pixelmator Pro.

It’s a combination of the App Store rules which prevent paid apps to offer free trials or upgrade discounts for major new versions and the fact that an upfront pricing model is no longer sustainable for a complex app like Pixelmator Photo.

With a one-time purchase model, we rely on releasing major updates that create buzz in the media and with regular folks online to sell more copies of our apps than we usually do—i.e. we do our best to attract as many new users as possible. The rest of the time, the money we make isn’t actually enough to support development costs.

The post lists eight distinct reasons why an upfront pricing model is no longer economically viable for the team. This is a nice read if you’ve been looking to learn more about the changing landscape when it comes to buying apps and funding mobile software development.

For those wondering, there are no plans as of now to switch the iOS/iPadOS version of Pixelmator to a subscription-based model. The same goes for Pixelmator Pro, which will also retain its upfront pricing model.

Pixelmator vs. Pixelmator Pro vs. Pixelmator Photo: What’s the difference?

The Pixelmator team produces three distinct apps—Pixelmator, Pixelmator Pro and Pixelmator Photo. In fact, there’s a fourth Pixelmator app, Pixelmator Classic for macOS, but it’s no longer actively maintained.


Pixelmator is a quick image editor, a less-capable version of Pixelmator Pro. Initially debuted in 2007, it has typical features like blur, resize, heal, filters, control color, etc.. Pixelmator is available on iOS/iPadOS as a free download [App Store link].

A macOS version of Pixelmator is available under the name Pixelmator Classic. This app is no longer offered on the App Store. However, if you previously bought Pixelmator Classic you can re-download it via the App Store’s Purchased section.

Pixelmator Pro

A still from the official video promoting the ML Crop feature in Pixelmator Pro 2.1 for Mac
The ML Crop feature on Pixelmator Pro for macOS

Pixelmator Pro is Pixelmator on steroids. This powerful image editor reads layered Photoshop files, providing many advanced features like Adobe’s app. Pixelmator Pro includes a one-window interface, a speedy graphics engine and support for many core macOS features. Read: How to convert PDF to JPG or PNG on iPhone

This app sports many of the advanced features you’ll find in Photoshop but at a fraction of the price. Pixelmator Pro is only available on macOS [App Store link].

Pixelmator Photo

Device screenshots showcasing Pixelmator Photo on iPhone and iPad
Pixelmator Photo for iOS and iPadOS | Image: Pixelmator

Pixelmator Photo helps people manage images in their Photos library. It integrates nicely with the Photos app and provides image-editing features to do things like adjusting shadows and highlights, controlling brightness, color and exposure, and so on. Pixelmator Photo is currently available on iOS and iPadOS [App Store link].

The Pixelmator vs. Pixelmator Photo difference, from the Pixelmator forum:

The main distinction between the two apps is that Pixelmator for iOS is a layer-based editor, like Pixelmator Pro, and Pixelmator Photo is more of an Aperture-type app, designed mostly for photographers. But the end plan is to have a Pixelmator Pro (for layer-based editing) and Pixelmator Photo (for photographers) by either updating Pixelmator for iOS to support Pixelmator Pro or releasing a new Pixelmator Pro for iOS.

As mentioned, a Mac edition of Pixelmator Photo is launching sometime in 2023.