ArtRage for OSX
Company: Ambient Design, Ltd
When I purchased my first iPad several years ago, the first art painting app I installed was ArtRage. At the time it offered, and yet continues to have, the most realistic oil painting brushes of any painting app for the iPad or iPhone. As I use it so frequently on my iPad, I was eager to use the Mac OS X version on my new iMac.
The Mac version provides a good selection of art tools but ArtRage is not as complex or as robust an art application as Corel’s Painter, nor does it have as steep a learning curve as Painter. For ArtRage 4 users, there is a free upgrade to the 4.5 version and that is the version I am reviewing. ArtRage 4.5 is 64-bit and supports Mac (Intel only) OS X 10.6 or later and Windows 7, 8, and Vista (not Windows XP).
Beginner and advanced artists will appreciate the straightforward user interface and the unobtrusive tool and color palettes. ArtRage’s art board contains pods, and I wish more art apps offered them. Presets for the art tools, stencils, stickers, scraps, color samples, reference photos, and tracing are all contained in small boxes, or pods, that are accessible but out of the way when working on the canvas. There is a Workbench mode that is customizable for the tools and presets you use, yet collapses into a toolbar to make more room on the art board.
ArtRage has all of the basic art supplies to get you started: an oil and a watercolor brush, palette knife, airbrush, cloner, pastels, ink pen, pencil, paint roller, sticker spray, felt pen, a bloop pen, and a less-welcome gimmicky glitter tube. Coptic markers and chalks are not available and in an art app, I would prefer to have more innovative art tools than glitter or cutesy stickers.
Happily I found that the sticker spray as well as the stickers include art clippings and art brushes. In particular, the art brushes in stickers shouldn’t be overlooked as there are some very nice brush options in that category. This is where a calligraphic brush, crosshatching brush, Japanese ink brush, among several others, are located.
Almost all of the tools have presets for customization. For example, the twelve oil brush presets are very nice and include dry, unclean, a square and a round, gloss, and a dry varnished brush to name a few. In addition, there are options to adjust the pressure, opacity, paint load, aspect ratio, rotation, stiffness, and to save it as a preset. This is a welcome feature as creating a brush with the look you want can be time-consuming.
ArtRage has a color wheel with a color spectrum bar, a color palette, and an option to add metallic to the paint color. You can save sampled colors that you use frequently in the sample pod located near the color wheel. A particularly nice feature of ArtRage is the ability to import a photo to trace or use as a reference photo, and the app allows you to pick up the exact color that is in the photo for more color accuracy. The color picker is set to the standard RGB mode, but this app has a realistic color blend option that feels more like real painting. This option is excellent and provides a more realistic way to oil paint and can be accessed by selecting Tools > Color Options > Real Color Blending. Another neat little feature is Scraps, a small canvas that you can test out tools, colors, strokes, and drawings before you commit it to the artwork.
ArtRage provides several substrates to work on including different canvas types, art papers, decorative papers, textures, and foils, and adjustable grain and texture. ArtRage includes a spiffy paint symmetry tool that is useful for a mirror effect for either drawing or painting, as well as selection, transform, and text options. The application also offers all of the usual features expected in a quality art application such as layers, blending modes, gradient fills, clone tool, ruler, and graphic tablet support.
I use ArtRage with a Wacom Intuos graphics tablet and did not detect any lag. One thing that can be very frustrating is the inability to lock the canvas. I found that using the graphics tablet and Apple’s trackpad presented the same problem, namely canvas movement is sensitive and it rotates on whim. I had to keep resetting the canvas properties to straighten the art board on the screen. A canvas lock feature would be welcome especially as you are zooming in and out to work on details.
ArtRage supports the usual export options: TIFF, GIF, JPEG, PNG, PSD, as well as Windows Bitmap image and TGA images. In addition, the app allows you to record when you are painting or drawing and then you can select playback of the script file. This is great for tutorials or showing how you created a particular artwork. What I like about using ArtRage is when I create an artwork on the iPad, I email it to myself as an ArtRage (PTG) file, and I am able to import it into ArtRage to continue to work on it with the more advanced desktop features.
ArtRage has built up a solid user base and many drawing and painting questions can be answered in the ArtRage community forum. There are art tutorials, contests, galleries, and featured artists that are worth exploring when beginning to use the application.
ArtRage is missing some of the wonderful natural media options and controls of Corel’s Painter yet it has a lot of artistic effects. ArtRage is simple enough for a budding artist and offers enough complexity without being overwhelming, yet it is substantial for more experienced artists. It provides more than enough presets and customization with tools and substrates, and traditional oil painters that want to try digital oil painting will be pleased with the realistic oil brushes and color blending. It is a less-pricey alternative to Corel’s Painter and has the added advantage of being available for the phone, tablet, and desktop.
MyMac rating: 8 out of 10