10 Practical Tips to Design Like a Pro with Pixelmator
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. Using layers effectively
  2. Master the Pen Tool
  3. How to use gradients
  4. Utilize clipping masks
  5. How to use blend modes
  6. Image adjustments and effects
  7. Work with vectors
  8. How to use text and typography
  9. Use of patterns and textures
  10. How to export your work

Learning to design like a pro with Pixelmator is like learning a secret language. It's about knowing which tools to use, when to use them, and how to use them most effectively. With these 10 practical tips, you'll be well on your way to mastering this language, transforming your designs into striking visual stories.

Using layers effectively

The first step to design like a pro with Pixelmator is to understand how to use layers in your design process. Think of layers as the building blocks of your design — each one adding its own unique element to the overall composition.

When it comes to using layers effectively, the key is organization. Consider naming each layer as you create it. This will save you time in the long run and keep your workflow streamlined. For instance, if you're working on a landscape design, you might have layers named 'Sky', 'Mountain', 'Trees', and 'Foreground'.

Another tip is to use the layer transparency feature. This allows you to control the opacity of each layer, adding depth and dimension to your designs. For example, you might want to make a background layer slightly transparent to let the layers beneath it shine through.

Remember, layers are your friends. They give you the flexibility to experiment with different elements, adjust their positioning, and tweak their appearance without affecting the rest of your design. So, go ahead and have fun with them — you'll soon wonder how you ever designed without them!

Now that you're starting to design like a pro with Pixelmator, let's move on to the next tool in your toolkit — the Pen Tool. But that's a story for another section.

Master the Pen Tool

The pen tool is a real game-changer when it comes to design with Pixelmator - it's like the magic wand of the designing world. Get ready to dive right in and explore the limitless possibilities this tool offers.

At first glance, the pen tool might seem a bit intimidating, but don't worry. It's all about practicing and getting the hang of it. This tool helps you create custom shapes and paths, allowing you to add a unique touch to your design.

Start by drawing straight lines. Click on the canvas, then click again where you want the line to end. Simple, right? Now, let's take it up a notch: curves. Click and drag your cursor. You'll notice handles appear - these are your keys to creating curves. Play around with them, and you'll be creating elegant curves in no time.

Remember, mastering the pen tool means mastering control. It's all about patience and precision. So take your time, don't rush, and before you know it, you'll be using the pen tool to create intricate designs that leave people wondering, "How did they do that?"

As you continue to design like a pro with Pixelmator, you'll find that the pen tool becomes one of your most-used tools. It's the secret weapon that's always there, ready to help you create unique and memorable designs.

How to use gradients

Next up on our journey to design like a pro with Pixelmator is the world of gradients. If you've ever looked at a sunset and admired how seamlessly the colors blend into each other, that's the power of gradients. And guess what? You can recreate that same effect in your designs.

Gradients are a fantastic way to add depth, texture, and a touch of realism to your work. To start using gradients, you'll first need to select the gradient tool from the toolbar. From there, you'll see a range of options at your disposal. Linear, radial, angle — each type of gradient has its own charm and can drastically change the look and feel of your design.

But, what's a gradient without colors? When you select the gradient tool, a gradient editor will appear. This is where the magic happens. Click on the color stops below the gradient bar to change the colors. You can add as many color stops as you want, giving you the freedom to create truly unique gradients.

Remember, gradients are all about subtlety. Too abrupt, and your design might end up looking harsh. Too subtle, and the gradient might not even be noticeable. So, play around, experiment, and find the balance that works best for your design.

With a little practice, you'll be using gradients to add a splash of color and depth to your designs, taking them from good to great. So go ahead, start exploring the world of gradients, and design like a pro with Pixelmator.

Utilize clipping masks

When you're aiming to design like a pro with Pixelmator, understanding and using clipping masks can be your secret weapon. It's like having a magical invisibility cloak that can hide parts of your design, while revealing others in exciting and unexpected ways.

So, what exactly is a clipping mask? Think of it as a shape that you use to 'clip' or cut out parts of your image or design. Only the areas that fall within the shape are visible, while the rest stays hidden.

To create a clipping mask, first select the layer that you want to clip. Then, go to the Layer menu and choose 'Create Clipping Mask'. Voila! Your design is now clipped to the shape of your choice. If you want to see the magic in action, try moving the clipped layer around. Notice how the visible part changes as you move it within the mask.

Clipping masks are not just for shapes, though. You can use text, patterns, or even other images as masks. Imagine a photo of a sunset showing through the letters of a word, or a pattern revealing itself within the outline of a logo. With clipping masks, the possibilities are limitless.

So don't hesitate to experiment with clipping masks. They can add a new dimension to your designs, and help you design like a pro with Pixelmator. Remember, the only limit is your imagination!

How to use blend modes

Blend modes are the secret sauce that can take your Pixelmator designs from good to pro-level. Think of them as special effects that change how layers interact with each other, creating visual harmony or contrast in your designs.

Pixelmator offers several blend modes, each with its unique impact. Let's explore a few of them:

  • Normal: This is the default blend mode. The top layer obscures the layers beneath it.
  • Multiply: This darkens your image by multiplying the color values of the top layer with those of the bottom layer. It's great for adding shadows or darkening an image.
  • Screen: The opposite of Multiply. It lightens your image by screening the colors. Ideal for adding highlights or lightening an image.
  • Overlay: This enhances the contrast, making dark areas darker and light areas lighter. It's perfect for adding depth and drama to your designs.

Applying a blend mode is simple. Just select the layer you want to blend, then choose the blend mode from the drop-down menu in the Layers panel.

But here's a pro-tip: don't limit yourself to just one blend mode. Try combining different modes to create more complex and subtle effects. For example, you could use Multiply to darken an image, then add a Screen layer to lighten certain areas. The result? A beautifully balanced design that pops.

To design like a pro with Pixelmator, mastering blend modes is key. So, go ahead and play around with them. You might be surprised at what you can achieve!

Image adjustments and effects

When you're ready to step up your Pixelmator game, it's time to dive into image adjustments and effects. These handy tools can transform a simple image into a stunning design in minutes.

Let's start with image adjustments. You've likely used basic tools like Brightness or Contrast, but have you tried Curves or Levels? These tools let you control the intensity of the shadows, midtones, and highlights in your image—giving you more precise control over its look and feel.

  • Curves: With this tool, you can manually adjust the tonal range of your image. It's like having a magic wand that can brighten or darken areas of your image with pinpoint precision.
  • Levels: This tool works by adjusting the brightness levels of the shadows, midtones, and highlights in your image. It's a little like Curves, but with sliders instead of a curve.

Next, let's talk about effects. Effects are like filters—they change the overall appearance of your image. Pixelmator offers several unique effects, including Blur, Distort, and Color Adjustments. Here's what they do:

  • Blur: This effect softens your image, creating a dreamy, out-of-focus look. It's perfect for adding a sense of depth or mystery to your designs.
  • Distort: Want to warp your image? The Distort effect lets you twist, turn and stretch your image in all kinds of creative ways.
  • Color Adjustments: These effects let you change the color of your image. You can adjust the hue, saturation, and lightness, or even replace one color with another.

Remember, the key to designing like a pro with Pixelmator is not just knowing which tools exist, but knowing how and when to use them. So don't be afraid to experiment with different adjustments and effects until you find the ones that work for your design.

Work with vectors

Vector graphics are a key part of design work, and Pixelmator makes it easy to create and modify these versatile elements. If you're aiming to design like a pro with Pixelmator, working with vectors will be a regular part of your creative process.

First things first, what are vectors? Vectors are graphics that are based on mathematical equations, which means they can be resized without losing quality. This makes them ideal for logos, icons, and other elements that need to look crisp at any size.

So, how do you work with vectors in Pixelmator? Here are some key tools and techniques to get you started:

  1. Create shapes: In Pixelmator, you can create vector shapes with the Shape tool. There's a variety of shapes to choose from—like circles, rectangles, and polygons—or you can draw your own with the Custom Shape tool.
  2. Edit paths: Every vector shape is made up of points and paths. You can adjust these with the Edit tool, which lets you move points around, change their shape, and even add new ones.
  3. Use Boolean operations: These are special functions that let you combine shapes in different ways. You can unite shapes, subtract one from another, intersect them, or create a combination of all three.

When you're creating your designs, remember that vectors are your friends. They're flexible, scalable, and can be manipulated in endless ways to create unique graphics. So next time you’re crafting a design in Pixelmator, don't shy away from the vector tools—they could be the key to your next great design.

How to use text and typography

Let's talk about text and typography, an important aspect if you're aiming to design like a pro with Pixelmator. Text can be the difference between a design that's just 'okay' and one that truly grabs attention.

Pixelmator offers a wide array of text and typography tools. To add text to your design, simply select the Text tool and click anywhere on your canvas. Start typing, and you'll see your text appear.

  1. Fonts: Pixelmator gives you access to all the fonts installed on your computer, as well as a bunch more you can download. You can change your font in the options bar at the top of the screen. Remember, the font you choose can set the mood for your entire design.
  2. Size and color: You can adjust the size of your text using the slider in the options bar, and you can change the color with the color picker. It's all about making your text fit seamlessly into your design.
  3. Alignment and spacing: These are the little details that can make a big difference. Pixelmator lets you align your text to the left, right, or centre, and you can adjust the line spacing and character spacing to get your text looking just right.

Typography can be a lot of fun. It's a chance to add personality to your design and make your message stand out. So, experiment with different fonts, play with sizes and colors, and see how much of a difference great typography can make in your design process.

Use of patterns and textures

Patterns and textures are like the secret sauce in a recipe. They can add depth and interest to your design, making it more engaging. So let's explore how to use patterns and textures to design like a pro with Pixelmator.

Pixelmator has a variety of patterns and textures you can use. You'll find them in the Style tool, under the Fill options. There are two main ways you can use them:

  1. Backgrounds: One of the simplest ways to use patterns and textures is as a background. They can help to set the tone of your design, and give it a unique look and feel. To apply a pattern or texture as a background, select your canvas, choose the pattern or texture you want, and it's done! Your background is now more interesting.
  2. Layer styles: This is where you can get really creative. You can apply patterns and textures to individual layers, creating a variety of effects. Try applying a texture to a text layer for a cool, grungy look. Or use a pattern on a shape layer for an interesting visual effect.

Remember, less is often more when it comes to patterns and textures. They should enhance your design, not overwhelm it. But don't be afraid to experiment and see what works best for your style. That's what being a pro designer with Pixelmator is all about, isn't it?

How to Export Your Work

So, you've spent hours designing like a pro with Pixelmator, and now you're ready to share your masterpiece with the world. But how do you do that? The answer is by exporting your work. This is the final step that turns your digital design into a format that can be shared, printed, or posted online.

Pixelmator supports a variety of file formats for exporting, so you can choose the one that best suits your needs. Here's a simple guide on how to export your work:

  1. Save your design: Before you start exporting, make sure you've saved your design. This will ensure that you don't lose any of your hard work.
  2. Select 'Export': Go to the 'File' menu at the top of your screen and select 'Export'. This will open a new window.
  3. Choose your format: Now you'll see a list of formats to choose from. If you're exporting for web use, JPEG or PNG are good choices. If you're printing, consider TIFF or PDF. Choose the one that fits your needs and click 'Next'.
  4. Name and save: Finally, you'll be asked to name your file and choose where to save it. Once you've done that, click 'Export' and you're done!

And that's it! You've now exported your design and are ready to share it with the world. Remember, part of designing like a pro with Pixelmator is knowing how to properly export your work. So don't skip this crucial step!

If you enjoyed our blog post on "10 Practical Tips to Design Like a Pro with Pixelmator" and want to expand your digital design skills even further, we recommend checking out Nyanza's workshop on 'Animating with Procreate and Photoshop.' This workshop will teach you how to bring your designs to life with animation, adding a new dynamic to your creative toolbox. Don't miss out on this opportunity to level up your design skills!