We have reviewed Ambient Design’s ArtRage before (way back when it was an earlier version), but since then ArtRage has grown somewhat, taking a great feature set and infusing it with even more goodness. Accessible and powerful, ArtRage 4.5 is within reach both a learning and budget perspective. Don’t think for a moment, though, that its relatively low price tag or its simple interface make it a candidate for only the amateur artist – this application has plenty of tricks up its sleeve for the more advanced as well.
ArtRage cuts through complication by giving the user an uncluttered interface, which results in a very productive way to work. In the lower left-hand corner, a group of artistic tools is available to select from, with an intensity selector also tucked into the corner of the palette. Each tool is displayed as a button with a picture of what the tool is. In the lower right corner is a palette of colours (with a selector for style). There are also a few floating menus for things like layer control and samples; and along the top are file operations, views, and access to the other aspects of the application. Frequently used tools can be grouped into a custom toolbar, increasing productivity by cutting down on the number of different toolbars that you access (which is, honestly, not an arduous task to begin with in ArtRage). All floating menus that are in the way of an active brush will disappear when you are applying your current tool and then reappear when you move away from them. Nice touch!
Like the previous versions of ArtRage, you can select your work surface (canvas, paper, slate, etc.) and all of the tools at your disposal allow you to mark up the surface the same way that they would in real life. For instance, if you select a paint brush and paint a continuous line (without letting go of the mouse button), your “brush” will run out of paint, and your “line” will slowly lose consistency, fading as it is drawn. Paint brushes show bristle strokes in the paint, while pencil “lead” or chalk look consistent with their real-world representatives. Similarly, should you select a different colour and cross your previous line, the paint will blend (and it will bleed, depending on the tool and material), and you’ll be left with a combination of colour where they meet. In this respect, ArtRage is very much like an extension of artistic intuition – without wasting materials when a mistake is made.
Aside from traditional tools, ArtRage also has more “modern” bits, like stickers and stencils, as well as gradients, fills, and glitter, giving users even more creative power when working on their pieces. In addition, ArtRage provides a tracing mechanism, so you can import another picture file to use as a reference. This may not sound like it adds any workflow improvement – but it truly does. Having the reference picture on the same screen as your ArtRage project means far less head swiveling back and forth between the source and destination, which translates to increased efficiency.
For those that have a compatible stylus, ArtRage 4.5 is capable of pencil tilt, making for excellent realism when it comes to the pencil stroke tool. Like its predecessors, ArtRage 4.5 can use multi-touch tablets as an interface, making for some very easy art creation. Coupled with the grid functionality and the tracing tool, you can do some really great things with this program.
ArtRage 4.5 increases its level of utility with 64-Bit support, taking advantage of 64-Bit systems. It’s definitely a lot smoother than my prior experience with ArtRage on a 32-Bit system (and also quite far ahead of the game compared to ArtRage on the iPad). 64-Bit support also brings with it increased canvas sizes and the ability to layer more effects, which means that your projects can be very intricate and complicated. I had absolutely no “chuggy” moments at all with ArtRage 4.5, thanks to more effective handling of the individual brush effects. If you think this might be because I am running a beefy system, you are partially correct. It’s not top end – I’m running an i5-2500K CPU (clocked at 3.3 GHz) with 16 Gigs of Ram and a Radeon 6970 (with 2 Gigs of DDR5 RAM). I’m fairly confident that ArtRage 4.5 will run well on “lesser” systems than mine.
While it is a powerful application, ArtRage is not without its flaws. At times, a couple of the more “non-standard” artist’s tools are oddly rendered. I suspect that these will be fixed as time goes on – but at the moment they are something of a distraction (as you scratch your head wondering how they actually made the markings that they did on your canvas). That being said, the main brushes all seem to work just fine, which is most likely what most people would consider to be the most important part of the program.
ArtRage 4.5 is a great new version of an already powerful and easy-to-use application. With 64-Bit support, users can take advantage of more powerful systems for a better (smoother) experience, and do a lot more than they could with the 32 Bit version. In short, this program is awesome. I can only imagine what Ambient Design is working on for the next version in the future. Check out ArtRage here.