ArtRage Vitae is the newest version of one of the oldest digital painting apps that found its fans on iPad when plein air painting began to take off. The joy of ArtRage has always been its simplicity and approachable toolset. Its rendering and simulation of real oils and watercolours has always been one of the best around.
These days ArtRage has a lot of competition, not least from more robust and feature-rich software such as Corel Painter 2022 and Rebelle 5. But while those apps will cost you more money, ArtRage Vitae remains an affordable purchase – the Mac and PC edition is $80 / £80, while the iPad and Android version is a mere $4.99 / £3.49. You can pick it up via the developer's website.
ArtRage Vitae replaces the mainline version ArtRage 6 and aims to take this painting app from mobile and tablet devices and onto desktops with many new features designed to appeal to studios – including new collaboration, sharing and recording tools.
For this review I've been using ArtRage Vitae for a number of months, working on various paintings and even NFT art. At the same time I've been using the rival app Rebelle 5, which is close to ArtRage Vitae in features and paint simulation, though its more expensive.
ArtRage Vitae review: the UI
For this review I'm using an old Wacom Studio tablet running Windows 11, and ArtRage Vitae is a surprisingly smooth experience. Some may criticise the chunky UI that hasn’t really changed since that iPad release since its release 18 years ago, but there’s a homely, robust feel to this edition of ArtRage.
In fact, many of the new features are behind the scenes additions designed to bring the software up to date without compromising the ease of use ArtRage is known for. But its UI remains one of the best for newcomers, as it hides a lot of its depths behind sliders and easily clicked palettes and drop-down lists.
The streamlined look means there's more room given over to the canvas, and you rarely feel like the menus are overcrowding the painting space. There is a small learning curve as ArtRage has its own naming conventions for some common tools, and learning how to tailor its real paint simulations can take time to figure out.
With all this said, ArtRage's UI may not be for everyone. I love it, but I've been using it since ArtRage 3 so I've become used to the big and chunky look. If you're used to more traditional UI, such as in Photoshop or Rebelle, you may find this limiting.
ArtRage Vitae review: new features
There are some good new ideas in ArtRage Vitae but as I mentioned above many of these are hidden or subtly introduced. These are here to smooth out ArtRage's rough edges and makes this edition even easy to jump into and start painting.
One great new feature is PaintLink that enables you and a friend to collaborate on the same painting in real-time. You can also share your preferences, tools and colour palettes to a friend, too.
This new feature can be combined with the tiled-canvas feature – paint seamlessly across canvas edges to create infinite paintings or textures – to give ArtRage Vitae a new professional edge. Clearly this version of ArtRage has been designed to appeal to studios and artists looking to collaborate.
ArtRage Vitae adds a new Complimentary Color Picker too, which as the name suggests offers colours that compliment your palette. Everything can be saved into customised colour-mixing resources to create a menu of blending profiles (that can be shared with friends).
ArtRage Vitae: how is it to use?
ArtRage’s real joy comes on the canvas, and here Vitae is refined rather than overhauled. The standard brushes include oils, watercolour, and airbrush, along with a lovely palette knife that demands to be toyed with and used to create a mixture of edge textures and painting blends.
The strength of ArtRage generally has always been its pick-up-and-paint approach to digital art. You can easily load the canvas and brush with thick paint and play; smearing, pushing and blending to create textured sketches and paintings. In ArtRage Vitae this is smoother than ever, even on a tablet.
Helping is a variety of colour picker options, from traditional artist colours to a neat wheel that sits in the corner. This falls a little short of Rebelle 5's amazing paint colour replication but is still excellent.
ArtRage Vitae: should I buy it?
There’s a clear effort being made to setup ArtRage Vitae for a more professional environment, particularly as canvas sizes can now go as large as 32500 x 32500 pixels in size with faster saving, fewer crashes (mine froze once in a four how session) and more recording options to share your process.
This is one of the most accessible painting apps around with a wealth of existing features and refinements added with Vitae. If you left ArtRage, it’s time to come back as there are few digital painting apps that are this easy and approachable.