Review of Free Image Editor Seashore for Mac

Review of Free Pixel-Based Image Editor Seashore

Seashore Screen Shot
Seashore offers a a very attractive and intuitive user interface. © Ian Pullen

Visit Their Website

Seashore is a free pixel-based image editor for Mac OS X designed to offer features for image adjustments and a number of painting tools. The feature set isn't as powerful as GIMP, which is also available for OS X, but it will offer more than enough power for many users and can also use GIMP brushes and textures.

An advantage of Seashore is that it is a native OS X application and as such has a coherent interface that integrates neatly with the operating system.

Personally, I'd choose GIMP, but I'm sure many users will prefer Seashore.

The User Interface

Pros

  • Extremely intuitive interface with simple and clear presentation
  • Keyboard shortcuts for most tools and many menu items

Cons

  • Tool option pop-overs have to be closed with the 'Done' button
  • No feature within the interface to manage brushes and textures

As a native Mac application, Seashore offers a clear and stylish interface that will seem very familiar to OS X users. There really isn't much to complain about.

Everything is kept very simple with the main tools lined up across the top bar of the application keeping them in easy reach at all times. The icons on the tool buttons are generally easily recognizable and while the interface layout doesn't pay homage to any of the better known image editors, most users will be able to leap straight in without any difficulty or confusion.

Users working on smaller screens may find the layout with the layers palette fixed to the left of the window compromises space more than a floating palette that can be moved and closed, but the use of pop-over palettes for most of the other tool options dialogs works very well.

On the down side, once you've finished with a pop-over you have to click the Done button to close it, rather than it closing automatically when you click on another control. Also, the pop-overs for image adjustment features become semi-transparent when a setting is changed to allow more of the image to be viewed and while this seems like a clever idea, in practice I found it didn't really bring anything to the party.

While Seashore allows the installation and use of GIMP brushes and textures, there is no facility within the user interface to manage this content, so it has to be carried out through the Finder. Because many application files are hidden in the Finder, this may be an unfamiliar process for many potential users.

Enhancing Images

Pros

  • Good range of image adjustment tools
  • Dedicated Sepia and Monochrome conversion tools

Cons

  • No adjustment layers for non-destructive editing
  • No Dodge and Burn tools

The feature set for image adjustments is found under the Selection menu, but if there is no active selection, these features apply to the whole active layer. The developers behind Seashore have gone their own way with the image adjustment tools, meaning that while there is sufficient range of tools for handling all aspects of adjustments, GIMP and Adobe Photoshop users may be thrown by the absence of Levels and Curves, among others. Anyone who is more experienced with adjusting images will probably quickly find suitable tools to use as alternatives, but for beginners, the Seashore Help PDF, accessed through the Help menu, will offer assistance in this regard.

Unfortunately none of these of these image adjustments can be applied in a non-destructive way using adjustment layers, but in fairness that is about par for the course with free image editors.

For users looking for simple monotone effects, there are Sepia and Monochrome tools in the Selection menu which makes this very straightforward. However, personally, I found the Monochrome tended to result in too dark an image when applied at full setting, though the effects at lower levels could be quite interesting. For conversion to black and white, I found reducing the Saturation to zero in Hue, Saturation and Value offered more pleasing results.

With so many free pixel-based image editors now offering red-eye reduction tools, the absence of such a feature in Seashore is a minor disappointment, though it is a relatively easy fix using the available image adjustment tools, such as Hue, Saturation and Value.

Digital photographers may miss the inclusion of Dodge and Burn tools, though it is possible to replicate the effects using layers and erasing parts of the layer.

More of a problem is the apparent lack of control over the opacity of the Clone tool which does rather compromise the tool and make it very difficult to blend cloned areas into an image. A possible work around may be to use GIMP brushes with different alpha transparency, but this could become quite a cumbersome solution requiring a wide range of brushes of different sizes and transparencies to be installed.

Visit Their Website

Visit Their Website

Creating Artistic Images

 

Pros

  • Reasonable selection of image effects
  • Can use GIMP brushes and textures

Cons

Seashore is well enough set up for producing more creative types of images with a good selection of image effects on offer.

Slightly unusually for an image editor, there isn't an Effects menu, but an Effects tool instead.

This does, however, make sense once you start to apply Effects as they require user inputs to set the origination point and often also to vary the image area affected.

The small range of default brushes offered with Seashore will cover a lot of uses and this can be extended by installing GIMP brushes. This is especially important as there is no option to dynamically change the size of a brush within Seashore and brushes can only be used at the size that they were produced at. Seashore doesn't appear to have a setting to change the opacity of brushes either, which was a problem noted earlier with the Clone tool. In addition to the possible work around of using transparent brushes, it may be possible in some circumstances to paint on a separate layer and adjust the opacity of that layer.

For me, I do miss the inclusion of a bezier line tool as I regularly make selections using such tools, but Seashore's PDF guide contains some information on making more advanced selections using the alpha channel of a layer produced specifically for the purpose.

There is also a Color Selection tool that, along side the other shape and freehand selection tools, offers a reasonable degree of flexibility.

 

Another omission that can slow workflow a little is the lack of Layer Masks meaning that you have to permanently delete part of a layer so you can't go back to it at a later stage and add information back into it, as you can when using Layer Masks.

On the positive side, the layers palette does offer a reasonable range of blending modes and opacity control allowing layers to be combined in creative ways.

Graphic Design with Seashore

Pros

  • Can produce simple designs if limited text
  • Uses OS X's built in font dialog offering font previews

Cons

  • Lacks layer effects such as drop shadows
  • Limited control over text

No image editor is designed to be used to create complete designs, but the simple fact is that there are plenty of people who do prefer to work this way and so I always think it's worth considering whether an image editor like Seashore can handle this task.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a free pixel based image editor, Seashore does struggle a bit in this respect. When you click the Change Font button in the Text tool, the familiar OS X Font dialog opens, allowing you to change font and size and view font previews. Beyond that though, control is limited with no leading or kerning options and with text being applied directly to the active layer, it is advisable to add a new blank layer before inserting text. This is particularly important as text cannot be edited once applied, so if you make a mistake all of the text will have to be replaced.

 

Some Photoshop users may miss the inclusion of Layer Effects, though many of these have arguably been overused and, perhaps, abused. Still it is possible to manually replicate some of these effects, such as drop shadows and outer glow, and this may make users think a little more carefully about using such effects.

Sharing Your Files

Seashore doesn't use its own file format, but instead utilizes GIMP's .XCF format to save layered versions of files. It should be noted that opening .XCF files in Seashore that were originally produced in GIMP may lead to some information being lost as Seashore does not conform fully with the file specification. You can also save files as JPEG, GIF, PNG and TIFF, though my attempts to open a non-layered TIFF and a non-animated GIF both failed with error messages saying that they could not be opened.

Conclusion

Seashore isn't the most rounded pixel based image editor, but as a free application for OS X users it has a lot to offer, especially to users who don't need the full blown power Adobe Photoshop or even GIMP. There are a number of things that I really like about Seashore, including:

  • Extremely intuitive interface with simple and clear presentation
  • Good range of image adjustment tools
  • Reasonable selection of image effects
  • Can use GIMP brushes and textures

On the flip side, there are a few shortcomings that undermine my full enjoyment of the application, such as:

 

  • No adjustment layers for non-destructive editing
  • Tool option pop-overs have to be closed with the 'Done' button
  • No layer masks for non-destructive editing
  • Limited control over text

In many ways, Seashore reminds me of Paint.NET for Windows in so far as it does its own thing rather than trying too hard to replicate the better known pixel-based image editors. Those similarities go further too, with both applications lacking layer masks and layer effects, but offering users very well considered and intuitive interfaces.

While Seashore doesn't enjoy a particularly active community at its forum, the full but succinct PDF guides that come with the application should make it easy for anyone to get to grips with this image editor relatively quickly.

Personally I would choose GIMP, as it is a more powerful application that permits me to produce more advanced and sophisticated results. However, for users who don't need that greater power or just want to improve their photos from their digital camera, Seashore does present a pretty compelling case. It is a good looking free pixel-based image editor for Mac OS X users that makes it very easy for new users to jump in and start to produce exciting results.

This review was based on Seahore 0.5.0 and the latest version of the software can be downloaded from the official Seashore website.

 

Visit Their Website