3dtotal's Marisa Lewis takes a look at the latest release of Ambient Design's painting software, ArtRage 4.5, available now as an upgrade...
© Ambient Design
Product: ArtRage 4.5
Company: Ambient Design
• 64-bit support for Windows and Mac OS X
• increased performance for larger projects
• multi-touch support for tablets and touch-screens
• canvas grid overlay
• improved and updated interface
• pencil tilt (if stylus is compatible)
Star Rating: 4.5 / 5
ArtRage has long been an accessible, affordable choice for digital artists who enjoy the look and feel of traditional media. I admit to preferring Photoshop over most art software, but still jumped at the chance to try Ambient Design's latest version: ArtRage 4.5, an upgrade which offers enhanced performance and new 64-bit support.
"The user interface is visually appealing and intuitive, with self-explanatory tools that are easy to pick up"
Right off the mark, ArtRage makes a good impression: the user interface is visually appealing and intuitive, with self-explanatory tools that are easy to pick up. The menus and toolbars are mobile, resizable, and can even be re-colored. They also helpfully dock out of your way when the brush approaches – such a simple thing, but it makes me wish all other art software did the same!
Overview of the ArtRage interface © Ambient Design
One of ArtRage's selling points has always been its capacity for emulating traditional media, and with 4.5 this continues to be its major appeal. The tools and colors act and interact much as their real-life counterparts do, and there's a lot of joy to be had out of smudging and scraping your digital paint around. But one reason I like Photoshop so much is the amount of control it affords over your brush settings, even if it takes more effort to contrive a 'traditional'-looking result; I don't like tools that feel too out of my control, with fun getting in the way of function, and initially I was concerned that ArtRage's brushes would fall into this category. I was happy to be proven otherwise: beyond the default settings there's plenty of scope to modify each tool, adjusting their effects and behaviors, and creating your own custom brushes, pens, pencils, and stencils. It doesn't take much effort to get the desired results from your tools.
Here's one I made earlier © Marisa Lewis
Despite the program's impression of lightness, I found it easily handled large, layered files at print resolution on my 64-bit Windows system, running stably and smoothly. Though 64-bit support is one of 4.5's big advantages, the improvements in responsiveness and general performance are across the board and should be felt by 32-bit users too.
The Symmetry option allows you to make complex symmetrical designs © Ambient Design
The new canvas grid is another welcome feature, furthering ArtRage's range as a digital art software with analogue principles. The grid makes it easy to work from photos and reference images. You can apply grids both to your painting and your reference material, which is ideal for measuring proportions and composition, and even customize the opacity, scale, and color of a grid to maximize its usefulness. The grid size can be set in pixels, or in entire squares if you prefer. It isn't just for freehand drawing, either, but has a 'Snap to Grid' setting if you want to follow the lines and make more accurate geometry.
The Scrap and Toolbox functions © Ambient Design
The Toolbox feature is another helpful utility that's been upgraded with the release of 4.5. It allows you to save almost anything related to your current canvas for easy reference. These might just be brush settings or color swatches that you don't want to forget, but you can also save reference images or frequently used layers to your Toolbox. To save accessing different panels and menus while working on your painting, you can simply pluck all your essentials from the open Toolbox. With the 4.5 upgrade, you can drag your Toolbox's contents around to arrange them as you please, which makes it even handier.
You can pin reference images to your canvas © Ambient Design
ArtRage's native file type is Painting (PTG), but its import and export options are versatile: it can load Photoshop files while retaining layers and blending modes, and export flattened pictures to all the major image types you might need, so can easily fit into a more complex digital pipeline. One downside is that ArtRage only runs one PTG file at a time (on the assumption, I suppose, that you can pin all the resources you need to your current canvas). If you're a document juggler who likes to consult multiple files at once, you might find this limits your workflow, but it's a minor niggle for a program that otherwise delivers in every way.
"ArtRage presents an impressive range of practical tools, functions, and options that make for a rich, hassle-free creative environment”
ArtRage 4.5 has raised the software's game as an option for the more demanding digital painter. Don't be deterred by its simple, kid-friendly appearance and the novelty aspect of features like Symmetry and the Gloop Pen; ArtRage presents an impressive range of practical tools, functions, and options that make for a rich, hassle-free creative environment. You really can't go wrong with its attainable price tag, either, whether you're looking for an affordable entry-level package or a worthy addition to your existing software collection.
Star Rating: 4.5 / 5
Vista, Win 7 or 8 (32 or 64 bit). Windows XP not supported.
Mac OS X:
10.6 or later, Intel Mac required. 32 or 64 bit.
FREE UPDATE for owners of ArtRage 4, and available at a discounted price for users of ArtRage 2 and 3.
Enquire at firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit the official ArtRage website
Check out the free ArtRage 4.5 update
in more detail
See the full details of ArtRage 4
Download ArtRage demos
for Windows and Mac OS X http://www.artrage.com/demos/