Seashore: Simple GIMP Image Editing for the Mac

When I previously reviewed the powerful but geeky GIMP image editor, I found fault with the difficulty of installation and unfamiliarity of the structure for novices and especially for Mac users. As it turns out, Mark Pazolli has adapted the basic GIMP engine to create Seashore, an image editor for the MacOS which addresses many of the concerns I had with GIMP. While the choice of names is somewhat inexplicable, the design is sound. Seashore is a user-friendly and simple image editor which is available for free and which offers essential image design capabilities as well as including some of the best advanced features of GIMP.

Seashore is as easy to install as any MacOS application ought to be. You just open the disk image and drop it as a folder on your hard drive and you're ready to go. No additional setup or configuration required. The basic interface is also pretty straightforward. It's not at all like GIMP's complex presentation. It's more like a stripped down version of Photoshop with familiar tools and many of the same basic features where you would expect them to be.

In addition to all of the basic functions you would expect, Seashore offers some valuable advanced features, though it also has some oddities and minor defects. One of the more advanced image editing features is a large selection of brushes, fuzzy brushes and preset texture brushes which are easy to access and use. It also includes a powerful shapes tool which makes it easy to add rounded corners and custom features to shapes, and oddly has the crop tool, which I thought had been left out of the program, included as one of its functions. The strongest special features is a great texture tool which is easier to use than Photoshop's equivalent and comes with about 30 excellent textures built in plus the ability to define your own, and they link right into the paint bucket or brush tool with no fuss. Other features include Photoshop-style layers and a good set of color and image density adjustment tools.

The biggest shortcoming of Seashore is that it doesn't take plugins and doesn't have the breadth of image manipulation options and automated filters which are available for Photoshop. The basic image manipulation functions are rudimentary with no free-floating rotate feature and no perspective tool. With no plugins, the selection of filters or effects which are offered is pretty basic, including a couple of blur filters, a sharpening function and a few color adjustment effects. Some popular effects like drop-shadows and bevels are not included, though with some experience you can learn to do simulate manually. The text tool is also weak, with no font preview feature and very limited text manipulation functions.

On the whole, Seashore is a pretty viable image editor. For a lot of users it's likely to be everything they need and more. It doesn't offer the power and diversity of capabilities you find in Photoshop or the full version of GIMP, but what it does it does very well and it's user friendly, with important features more intuitive and easier to access than they are in more advanced applications. If you're a Mac user looking for an art program which is free and offers valuable features, Seashore is well worth trying out.

The image featured in the screenshot is from Arthur Rackham's illusrations for Milton's Masque of Comus

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