Is PicMonkey a Tool or a Toy?

A friend of mine aspires to launch a photography business. She has been learning composition and lighting from an established photographer. She has already done some portraits, and she had been booked for a wedding. We were “talking shop” about cameras, lenses, and editing. She mentioned she uses PicMonkey for editing. I wasn’t familiar with PicMonkey initially, but my first instinct was that a pro-oriented tool like Photoshop would be a better choice for a professional result. That is just my default recommendation based on the axiom that you usually get what you pay for. However, I knew I was ignorant of PicMonkey.

I’m not a fan of ignorance, and I don’t want to rest on my own assumptions, especially if my assumptions would lead me to pay for Photoshop if it were not uniquely necessary and powerful. I started Googling to find out more. The initial results I found were quite warm toward PicMonkey, but they seemed a little suspicious to me. I came across articles with titles like these:

PicMonkey: Photoshop for Broke People

Making Professional Looking Pictures Using PicMonkey

Don’t Want to Learn Photoshop? Use PicMonkey Instead!

Those aren’t the actual article titles I found, but you get the idea. The sentiment from those articles was that photographers and designers who want to save a buck can use PicMonkey and avoid purchasing Photoshop. I didn’t dig too far, but I didn’t find anything overly critical of PicMonkey. My “too good to be true” alarm started going off. I wanted to explore both sides of the issue, so I posted questions on social media to get some feedback from friends. Much to my surprise, the official Twitter account for PicMonkey (@PicMonkeyApp) actually replied. Here is the conversation, unedited, for your edification:

Here is PicMonkey’s response:

Well, that wasn’t too much help since I hadn’t yet used PicMonkey. Since I had the ear of PicMonkey on Twitter, I started checking out PicMonkey and found a few other questions worth asking:

I haven’t received answers yet from PicMonkey, and it has only been about an hour. But based on my initial findings, here is my conclusion:

Let me make something clear by rehashing a point from an earlier tweet: I am not trashing PicMonkey. For certain things, it is fantastic! If you need a lightweight, cloud-accessible solution for editing images for a blog or social media, PicMonkey is wonderful. For crying out loud, you can’t even install Photoshop on a Chromebook! If you are preparing images for standard definition or even full HD (1920×1080) displays, PicMonkey will work well. If you just want to make fun edits to images to print out at home and slap on your refrigerator, go ahead and use PicMonkey.

But if you are a professional photographer or designer and your work will be printed larger than 9 inches at the largest dimension, you shouldn’t even consider PicMonkey. For professional results, use professional tools.

6 replies
  1. Dave
    Dave says:

    Wow! LOVE THIS…Well done, as I had certain questions and concerns in regards to what PicMonkey was capable of. They are great for the “Just Having Fun” aspect (ahem, as a Toy), but to repeat your closing statement…professional tools are needed. Great Entry!

    • AJ Design
      AJ Design says:

      Thanks for your comment Dave! Maybe one day PicMonkey will be strong enough to render Photoshop unnecessary. But that time is not here yet.

    • AJ Design
      AJ Design says:

      That’s great to know, Jimi! In a pinch, PicMonkey and other “non-pro” tools can do a good job. This may be especially true of certain types of designs…simple color, not a lot of high-contrast diagonal lines, etc. Plus, PicMonkey’s specs may have improved (I haven’t checked recently). Large format printing is a place where pixels-per-inch (PPI) requirements can be relaxed a bit.

      If PicMonkey is still only 2,800 pixels on the long side, that’s a max PPI of 58.333 PPI. Across the room, a 4′ x 2′ poster at 58 PPI may not look bad. But a poster at 150 PPI will look noticeably better than one at 58 PPI to most people, even non-designers. Resolution is unforgiving. It’s simple math. 300 PPI is the standard for print quality on small format pieces. 150 PPI is a good goal to shoot for with larger format pieces. For extremely large designs like billboards, you can even get away with 20 or 30 PPI. Most portrait photographers and designers will NOT be satisfied with 58 PPI for their large prints.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply