By Nikki Ekstein
December 10, 2014
Credit: Nikki Ekstein

Have you ever tried to get a photo in Times Square or Grand Central—without the obstructions of fanny-pack-wielding pedestrians? Chances are you have, and that you’ve failed. Enter Pixelmator, a powerful new iPad-only app that can make it happen.

The Pixelmator team has been simplifying advanced photo editing techniques since 2007 through its desktop Mac programs of the same name, but the magic is most accessible now that the app has hit the iTunes Store (at $4.99, it’s probably the most you’ll spend on any photo editing app, but the price tag is worth it). Unlike most apps we’ve tried, it allows you to zoom in and tweak tiny sections of an image rather than applying all-over filters, preserving your photo quality and offering PhotoShop-style fixes in one touch.

Our favorite function? Repair, a way to strip away unwanted elements of any photo—like those unwanted crowds—by simply painting over them with your finger. The photo above, taken in Grand Central, was perhaps my most ambitious test—the app tries to intuit what was beneath the unwanted parts of your photo, and fill the gap accordingly. Because I was focusing on cutting out a large swath of the photo, it was impossible not to blur too much of the foreground, though the end result is still one I’m happy with. I had better luck zooming in on smaller patch jobs, like taking out the telephone poles from this Toronto streetscape, or cutting an accidental photo-bomber from a recent family photo.

Admittedly, this is only one of many impressive features—we also love its fine-tuned color adjustments and adjustable light effects, among other things. Presumably Pixelmator is limited to iPad to take advantage of its larger screen, but we’d make the case that detailed editing can be done on the 6-inch iPhone screen, too—our only complaint for an otherwise essential photo tool.

Nikki Ekstein is an Assistant Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.