Ambient Design's ArtRage 5 is the perfect program if you want to sit down and start painting on a Windows and macOS device straight away. But while other painting software boast this ability, under the hood ArtRage has enough customisable options to make it a professional-level experience. (If you're not familiar with the tool, you might want to explore our guide to getting started with ArtRage).
Priced at $79, the art program's redesigned interface is intuitive and minimalistic, designed to ensure that you can focus on your creativity. The interface vanishes when you start painting near it so that you can put down uninterrupted brushstrokes, and reappears as soon as you finish.
These kind of helpful design choices are prevalent throughout version 5, which is part of what makes ArtRage such a joy to use.
- Tools and brushes mimic real-world counterparts
- Redesigned customisable interface
- Interface hides when you approach with brush strokes
- Canvas Texture effects tools
- Create multiple views to paint different areas of your main image independently
- Paint with symmetry
- Import photos as Tracing Images
- Import photos as Reference Images
- Multi-touch gestures to control the interface and the canvas
- Create Scraps as floating canvases to mix paint
Essential options such as tool and colour selection are immediately visible in the interface, while other less-frequently used functions are concealed in Pods to avoid taking up too much of your workspace. The interface is organised to maximise the space you have for painting, but it's no bother to locate an option or menu when you need to.
The interface is customisable: most panels can be relocated from the canvas and moved to more convenient locations such as on a second monitor, and you can scale and rotate any of the floating panels.
The tools are located in the bottom left of the screen, with each tool acting much as you'd expect of their natural counterpart. They each have a number of different useful and realistic feeling presets available, and you can further customise their properties by clicking the Settings box if you want to start fine-tuning effects.
The option is there to create custom tools if you've got a modified brush that works well, but you'll find a lot of the presets are so good at replicating natural media, that you may not even feel the need to.
Another new feature in version 5 is its ability to import photos or images as both reference images and tracing images.
Multiple Reference Images can be pinned to your screens so that you can use them as you paint, which is handy in itself, but they can be re-sized, repositioned and also zoomed into if you only need to look at one specific area. Again, this enables you to make the most of your workspace. Additionally you can use your reference images to colour-pick, to make painting even faster.
Tracing images work differently. They appear translucently so that you can see your painting and use your brushstrokes to more creatively clone your photos, while ArtRage's Automatic Colour selection samples the relevant colours for you.
ArtRage 5 is straightforward to use from the outset, with a gentle learning curve. It helps you to produce fantastic, realistic-looking results, gives you a lot of customisation if you need it, and is a bargain buy to boot.
This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 147. Subscribe here. Read more: 20 best iPad art apps for painting and sketching.