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First look: Pixelmator for iPhone is a feature-packed mobile image editor

With its first iPhone app offering, Pixelmator stuffs in a dizzying array of photo editing tools normally restricted to more powerful devices like Mac and iPad, including full-featured image adjustment options, a wealth of paint brushes, layer support, effects, a polished design and much more.

According to Pixelmator cofounder Saulius Dailide, Pixelmator for iPhone when it launches on the iOS App Store later today will be the first mobile image editor to boast "all the tools" photographers, painters and graphic designers need to create great works. After testing out a progression of beta versions over the past couple weeks, we tend to agree.

Like other Pixelmator releases on Mac and iPad, Pixelmator for iPhone is brimming with promise. With a deep toolbox and desktop-class features, the app is not just one of the best image editors for iPhone, it ranks among the best in the category for iOS.

Perhaps most impressive is the app's powerful graphics engine that allows for quick color adjustments, effects application, stylized painting, text and object generation, multiple layer support and more. As an example, the screenshots above show various color adjustments, which can be applied via preset filters or manually. Slider controls dictate RGB and global levels, while more advanced users can modify a histogram-based curve with multiple anchor points.

Other color adjustments like temperature and tint are also controlled by sliders, but incorporate a color picker tool for setting base levels. The same pixel-level tool is also seen in the robust Color Picker, which samples colors from an image for painting.

The team at Pixelmator managed to squeeze in support for layers, an important tool available in desktop editors for years. Layers support opens the door to a flexible editing workflow. Importantly, the app offers non-destructive layer styles, which means adjustments like drop shadows and fills don't affect the original image.

To handle layer management, Pixelmator hides transparencies, fill layers and more in a slide-out drawer accessible with swipe. From here layers can be selected one at a time, nested in groups, merged, blended, rearranged, deleted, adjusted and more.

Distort tools are built on Apple's Metal graphics engine for extremely fast rendering. Pick a tool like Twirl, set size and intensity and paint over an image with your finger to instantly create eye-catching modifications. Impressively, applying Distort effects comes with no perceivable lag. Further, mistakes can be corrected with an undo button or selectively via a Restore tool.

The app features more than 100 brushes, from pencil tips to sponges to spray cans, each of which feature scaling and transparency adjustment options. Some of the best effects come from what Pixelmator calls wet-painting technology. Integrated into a handful of watercolor brushes, the feature generates lifelike water splotches and runs. Eraser selections are similarly diverse, allowing for fine tuning of multi-layer projects.

Combined with the Color Picker tool mentioned above, as well as an on-the-fly eyedropper tool and extensive color palette, Pixelmator's brush implementation is formidable.

As with Pixelmator's Mac app, the iPhone version comes with stellar retouching and repair tools, a variety of templates, support for iCloud syncing and Handoff compatibility. The app also sports an extension for Apple's Photos app that lets users tap Pixelmator effects in-app.

Pixelmator will be available later today for $4.99 on the iOS App Store. Current Pixelmator for iPad users will be able to download the universal app for free.