ArtRage’s popularity is simple to understand. It offers a capable, easy-to-learn painting environment at a tenth of the price of Corel, Autodesk and Adobe’s market-dominating programs. These factors combined have found ArtRage a loyal following among the digital painting community, all of whom have been waiting excitedly for version 3.0.
On first launch, not much appears to have changed, bar the new splash page and faster start-up time. The clean, pared-back interface remains, keeping the canvas space as the focus, while a Tool palette, Option panel and Colour Wheel sit in individual corners of the window. The only new feature here is the welcome introduction of these elements as undockable panels, meaning you can rearrange the workspace to your preferences. As with version 2.5, this ensures that the majority of the interface is retained as a drawing canvas, while adjustments to layers, colour, pressure sensitivity and tool selection can be made quickly. You can clear these elements to preview your artwork with a simple Ctrl-click.
When painting, ArtRage 3.0 feels immediately more responsive than version 2.5, with new Watercolour and Inkline tools, while the Stickers tool offers a fast way of adding professional colouring options. Ambient has clearly focused on the core features, meaning that paint blends and mixes far more realistically and is now almost on a par with Corel’s Painter – though the lack of a comparable RealBristle engine will make those who have used Painter 11 yearn for more brush detail. However, this isn’t a negative point – ArtRage simply works differently to Painter 11, and for the price does a superb job.
Using an Intuos or regular Bamboo tablet significantly lifts ArtRage and, with built-in Windows 7 support for the new Bamboo Fun (reviewed last issue), Ambient is clearly aiming this at tablet users. Interoperability with other creative apps is similarly excellent. PSDs can be imported and exported with layers intact (although sadly there’s no SmartObject support).
The remaining core features continue to be highly effective. The trace and pinning functions for working with reference materials are excellent, while rescaling, reordering and editing individual layers (or, indeed, groups of layers) is now far more responsive. The texture library and stencils are restocked, while the learning curve remains shallow and, importantly, fun.
Existing ArtRage users will welcome Ambient’s refinements and improved stability and performance, while newcomers will no doubt love the immediacy of the app. Version 3.0 may lack new headline features, but it remains one of the most intuitive and easy-to-use painting apps on the market – regardless of price.
- Transparent layer system
- Excellent brush sets and options
- Full Photoshop Layer Blend mode support
- PSD support
- Metallic Paint engine and other effects
- Custom Colours sets
- Crop and resize
- Multi-monitor support
- PC: Windows 7, Vista, XP or 2000, Pentium 800MHz
- Mac: OS X 10.3, 10.4