What are the best mac applications for developing pixel art?


I would like to create pixel art graphics for an iPhone game on my mac, and I'm wondering what are some good programs I should look into.

7/27/2013 4:23:00 AM

Accepted Answer

I think the main features you're after are:

  1. Being able to paint with a non-antialiased pencil or brush.
  2. Nearest neighbour scaling (keep blocky things blocky when you scale).
  3. Non-antialiased selections.
  4. Layers.
  5. Being able to export the formats you'll need (PNG? GIF?).

Based on that criteria, there’s a few tools that can do it. Pixen is awesome, and worth investigating:

I'd also highly recommend Photoshop, predominately using the Pencil Tool — it does exactly what you're after, letting you paint non-antialiased pixels easily. It also has some other tools that might be handy, like posterisation.

Acorn would be my second option on the Mac. It has a pencil tool that's similar to Photoshop, as well as nearest neighbour scaling (if you need it). It's also far cheaper and available on the Mac App Store, if that's a concern.

Both Photoshop and Acorn have the full list of features above.

9/2/2016 1:46:00 PM

When evaluating graphics software for pixel art this is the kind of tools I'm looking for:

Pixel Art Tools

The most well known software that is also great for pixel art is Photoshop.

If you don't have access to it and are looking for the next best alternative, look at GIMP. I've been happily using it on Macs since around 2010 and it has everything you need for pixel art. Best of all, it's free and open source!

Here's a tutorial I made about setting up GIMP for pixel art that should come useful:

Gimp Pixel Art Tutorial

When comparing Photoshop vs Gimp on pixel art grounds the capabilities are 99% leveled out. You really need to go into details to find some differences:


  • line drawing guide
  • precise grid settings (+ saved into file format)
  • low-level GIF animation control
  • indexed colors with layers


  • better animation tools
  • more intuitive user interface
  • adjustment filters (useful for advanced techniques such as HD indexed painting)

But these are really minor points that don't matter that much. You'll be able to create any pixel art you desire in both.