A Digital Art Package 

I was first introduced to the product known as ArtRage back in 2007. Our next meeting was not until three years later with the appearance of ArtRage Studio Pro. Now a further four years have gone by and it is the turn of ArtRage 4 to renew our acquaintance. My memory being what it is and considering the four year gap, my look at this version of ArtRage 4 will be more like a first contact meeting rather than one of catching up with an old friend.

artrage 4

As its title indicates, ArtRage is a painting package that provides the art enthusiast with a digital means of putting their creative ability to use.  This software has been developed by Ambient Design, a New Zealand based company that has its own ideas as to how a digital painting package should present itself to the user on a computer screen.  Those expecting a traditional interface for their operating system could well be in for a cultural shock.  The Ambient Design approach of making the interface fit the needs of the software and the user rather than the other way round, reminds me of a number of software products designed by Kai Krause and released by MetaCreations several years ago.

Firing up ArtRage 4, once you have entered the required serial number, brings up a blank scrollable canvas.  Arranged across the top of the screen are a number of buttons giving access to general features while both the lower corners hold wedged-shaped panels containing the main painting tools and colour palette available to the user.  With other painting products, these features tend to be located down the left side of the screen and across the bottom.  Various mini square icons, referred to as pods, are arranged around the two wedges.  For new users, this will probably not be what they were expecting and it can take a little while to get use to but generally the effort is worth it.

The pods give you access to a variety of features.  There are pods entitled Stickers, Stencils, Settings, Presets, Samples, Layers, Tracings and Refs.  While some of the pods will be initially empty of any content until you have produced created images, other pods, such as Stickers and Stencils, come populated with various type of content.  For example the Stickers pod holds Art Clippings, Brush Heads, Character Sets, Hair & Fur, and Nature amongst others while Stencils is packed with items categorised as Buttons, Comic, Festive, Fun and Gradients to mention a selection. If necessary the pods can be positioned elsewhere on the screen if it suits your style of working. 

As you expect from a painting software package, ArtRage provides you with a range of painting and drawing tools such as pencils, crayons, chalk, brushes and markers plus paint that can be either dry or wet.  You have the ability to mix the paint and spread it around using a palette knife before carrying out any additional work with the tools that are available to you.  These tools can be manipulated with a traditional mouse or one of the graphics touch pad and stylus.  Put simply, if you can do it with oils, canvas and other traditional painting tools, then ArtRage will perform the same tasks using tools such as the Inking Pen and the amusingly named Gloop Pen while tools such as the Sticker Pen adds a more digital feel to your work.

This latest version of ArtRage introduces a number of new features.  Items can be pinned to the canvas until needed and then moved into the appropriate position.  This allows for a more natural way to develop your creations.  Included among the new tools are a cloner, gradient and pattern fills plus a noise filter. 

If you are into kaleidoscopes then ArtRage has a symmetry features that could appeal.  This feature divides the work area into a user-specified number of areas set up with a user-specified angle.  What ever you do in one area will be repeated in all the other areas.  This feature is great for creating patterns with the minimum of effort but it can be addictive as I quickly discovered as I created even more complicated designs.

Once you get use to the way ArtRage works then you might prefer to switch to an even more minimalistic interface.  This can be achieved by selecting the WorkBench Mode from the View menu.  With this mode, the wedge-shaped panels and pods are removed from the interface and are replaced by a strip across the top of the screen with a selection of popular tools.  You then have the full canvas area at your disposal for your painting.

ArtRage 4 is priced at $49.50, which should equate to around £35.  Versions are available for the Windows (Windows XP and later) or Mac (OSX 10.6 and later).  Mobile versions of the software are available for various devices.

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