Rebelle 5 review

Our Rebelle 5 review shows how real life colour mixing can make all the difference in your digital art.

Rebelle 5 review
(Image: © Ian Dean)

Our Verdict

One of the best paint and colour mixing sims for digital art around, but we'd recommend paying extra for the Pro edition


  • Real world colour pigment mixing
  • Superb oils and watercolour sim
  • Affordable and feature rich


  • The Standard edition lacks some new features
  • Can slow down on older hardware

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Rebelle 5 sits comfortably between the feature-laden package offered by Corel Painter 2022 and the more immediate ease of use of ArtRage Vitae. Escape Motion’s painting software shouldn’t be overlooked. But can Rebelle 5 topple those apps and be considered one of the best digital art software?

New to this edition are features designed for pros and hobbyists alike, and all are geared around simulating real paints – it boasts of being the first digital painting software to offer real physical colour mixing based on traditional pigments in a full RGB colour gamut. This means mixing paint pigment achieves lifelike colours that pop and don't need to be artificially tweaked. In use, we're impressed.

In an effort to help during the cost of living crisis that's affecting everyone right now, Escape Motions is offering Rebelle 5 for free to schools, classes and teachers. If you're buying an individual license you can also get 40% off. A newer edition has been released, read my Rebelle 6 review for more details.

Coupled with the introduction of NanoPixel tech to easily enlarge paintings, Express Oils to paint with speed and little lag, time-lapse recording, and improved watercolour simulation, there's enough in Rebelle 5 to catch the eye. Rebelle 5 costs $89.99/ £69.99 for the standard version or $149.99 / £119.99 for the Pro version, so the real question is should you pay extra for the Pro edition? Let's find out…

Rebelle 5 review: real colour mixing

Colours mix and blend with real world accuracy. Blue and yellow make green, not a grey-ish RGB tone (Image credit: Ian Dean)

Rebelle 5 boasts one of the best paint and liquid simulations available. It offers physical colour mixing based on real world, traditional pigments – Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine, and others are included. This means you can accurately blend and merge colours on the paper or canvas in a realistic manner. 

In many digital art software colour mixing is based on the additive method (RGB) and not the real world process (CMYK), hence blending blue and yellow on a computer app can result in a grey tone not vibrant green. In Rebelle 5, with Natural Colors turned on (as default), we get a nice green tone that pops. This works wonderfully in the new Express Oils tool, and regular oil and acrylic brushes achieve a similar result with applied pen pressure. It opens the door for countless ways to express yourself using paint, brush strokes, and the canvas texture below.

We particularly love the Palette Knife tool used with wet oils to push and stroke the paint and colour about the canvas. The Dirty Brush is great too, enabling you to retain paint pigments on the bristles and merge colours together for dramatic results. The option to clean the brush between colours is another example of how far Rebelle 5 goes to create the simulation of realism.

Rebelle 5 review: watercolours

Watercolours are a joy to use in Rebelle 5, and offer an easy, quick sketching resource (Image credit: Ian Dean)

Watercolours are a highlight in Rebelle 5. The new simulation offers a realistic granulation effect as the paint dries into the paper, bringing every brush stroke to the surface. The DropEngine takes things a step further by creating beautiful dripping effects of the paint moving down the canvas – you can set the tilt angle of the canvas to create longer or shorter drips of paint.

If that isn’t enough for you the Blow Tool enables you to push the wet paint across the canvas, mixing and merging colours and creating intricate and unusual accidental effects. 

With so much colour splashing about it’s good to see Escape Emotions has refined its colour mixing and sampling palette. Colour blending is as easy as choosing and mixing pigments on a separate palette before applying to the canvas, offering total control over your paint tones. Or just blend and mix directly into the painting, as well as colour picking traditionally.

You can also choose how light affects the colour, including transparent, opaque, or semi-transparent mixing for watercolors. Handily you can also test your colour profiles before exporting. 

Rebelle 5 review: Express Oils

There's little lag when you switch to using Rebelle 5's Express Oils (Image credit: Ian Dean)

While past versions of Rebelle were squarely aimed at the amateur or semi-pro market, this version is aiming to entice pro artists to its canvases. The addition of Express Oils instantly speeds up the painting process and is a great inclusion for concept artists. Express Oils is based on Rebelle’s core Oils simulations but is aimed at creating fast sketches, spreading a layer of quick underly paint and quickly covering the canvas.

These oils do lack the gloss of the main oils brushes, though working in large sized brushes to cover areas quickly with little slow down is a joy. Trying the same feat with the stand oils brushes can result in lag as the large brush strokes try to catch up. Designed for concept artists and those looking to create speedy sketches in oils, Express Oils is a great addition (and found in both Standard and Pro versions of Rebelle 5).

Rebelle 5 review: NanoPixel tech

Zoom in to the fibres of the canvas, and export at a new large size. NanoPixel tech is a fantastic addition in Rebelle 5 (Image credit: Ian Dean)

NanoPixel tech is only in the Rebelle 5 Pro edition. This enables you to real-time zoom into the canvas right down to the paper grain, as well as exporting a canvas 16 times the size created for easy upscaling. This works really well, as rather than simply upscaling the pixels in an image Rebelle 5 Pro simulates the microscopic detail in the paint simulation and actually magnifies the painting. You can zoom right down to the fibre detail of the canvas. Edges are cleaned up nicely and NanoPixel does a fine job of enlarging your painting.

As with NanoPixel, Rebelle 5 Pro also comes with a handy Photoshop plug-in too, enabling sharing of layers between both software, but again this is Pro-only. It’s another sign Escape Motions is looking beyond its established users to new professional areas.

Adding to these new features is the ability to record your whole painting process and export your video as mp4 format, perfect for professionals looking to share or monitor their work. Thankfully, this is available in both Standard and Pro editions but again points to Rebelle 5's broader appeal.

Rebelle 5 review: go Pro

Rebelle 5 is great fun to use and accurate, and the extras of the Pro edition are worth the cost (Image credit: Ian Dean)

We love Rebelle 5, but it comes with some caveats. Some of the new additions mentioned here are only available in the Rebelle 5 Pro edition (which costs around $60 extra, compared to the standard version). With the standard version ($89.99), you do still get the core new features (Express Oils, watercolour simulation, time-lapse recording) but miss out on connectivity to Photoshop, real world pigment colour mixing and NanoPixel tech, which is a shame.

Also, in use Rebelle 5 did occasionally stutter and slow down. (We’re using a Wacom StudioMobile Pro.) Express Oils overcomes this but it's a shame we need a whole new tool set to stabilise the core painting experience. However, mostly Rebelle 5 breezes along smoothly, and its paint and canvas simulation never fails to impress. If you're looking for an accessible digital painting software that handles colour with realism, look no further than Rebelle 5. Though we'd recommend paying a little extra for the Pro edition (get it for $149.99 on the Escape Motions site ).

This article is also published in ImagineFX, the world's best-selling magazine for digital artists. Buy it here.

Read more: The best graphic design software

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The Verdict

out of 10

Escape Motions Rebelle 5

One of the best paint and colour mixing sims for digital art around, but we'd recommend paying extra for the Pro edition

Ian Dean
Editor, Digital Arts & Design

Ian Dean is Editor, Digital Arts & Design at Creativebloq, and the former editor of many leading magazines. These titles included ImagineFX, 3D World and leading video game title Official PlayStation Magazine. In his early career he wrote for music and film magazines including Uncut and SFX. Ian launched Xbox magazine X360 and edited PlayStation World. For Creative Bloq, Ian combines his experiences to bring the latest news on AI, digital art and video game art and tech, and more to Creative Bloq, and in his spare time he doodles in Procreate, ArtRage, and Rebelle while finding time to play Xbox and PS5. He's also a keen Cricut user and laser cutter fan, and is currently crafting on Glowforge and xTools M1.