There are a myriad of drawing tools in this modern era, each trying to compete against giants like Photoshop in their own way. It’s a hard task to pull off, certainly while retaining a fraction of the cost of established software. While ArtRage 4 may not topple giants, it does offer its own array of versatility and manageability for a fair price. It may even overtake some people’s preferences due to a unique art style.
Starting up begins simple enough. Users are greeted with a few menus to each side of the screen; one for the desired tool and another for colors. Around them, there are several more options for those that want it. Most likely though, a first design will start by trying to figure out all the brushes, pencils and so forth. ArtRage has an affinity for painting and so offers several methods of mimicking a real canvas, such as oil brushes and watercolor. There are still tools for clean, digital art, but it’s not as apparent from the start just how to get there. For those that want to invest time into it and learn from step one, ArtRage provides an extensive manual curriculum in its help section. It’s a bland and long read, but it could be of assistance. Still, perhaps just fiddling with tools would yield a more organic understanding of the program.
An issue ArtRage struggles with is a lack of information. Tools are presented in a minimal way to make room for the design itself, but with insufficient tooltips, it’s hard to accurately predict effects, which can be confusing. Each brush type has its own set of behavior aspects that can be altered with numerous sliders. It will require some trial and error to figure out the effect of these adaptations, but luckily there are also a set of preset functions. From there, the first designs will start to flow, though perhaps cruder than expected. Those that have no prior experience with painting will find it harder than others, as the focus is set on paint patterns. There are a ton of things that can be learned in ArtRage; that is certain.
Unfortunately, not all options present seem as viable, when it comes to brushes. Some yield sloppy or dirty results and seem like odd tools to use. For instance, a gloop pen or paint tube seem to only create blots one would otherwise mistakenly get from messing up. If something can be done with it, this could certainly be added to the repertoire of unique tools, but that looks like a stretch. That’s without mentioning the glitter tube. All great art has glitters, surely.
Still, the versatility that gradually builds up as tools become more familiar is quite extensive. The watercolor brush offers a way to create digital art that isn’t too common and it’s rather easy to pick up. A palette knife adds more ways to blur in details correctly and additional blending options present on individual layers bring this program closer to traditional design tools. As time passes by, ArtRage will reveal more of its secrets and will become more useful.
Depth stretches even further with other additional options. A mirroring tool helps to create nice, equal shapes, while an image trace can be put underneath a layer to help mold drawings. References can be pinned to the canvas, so a certain picture is always accessible while retaining a good overview of the drawing board. Stencils can be used as well to create preset shapes. Even certain repetitive actions can be recorded to save time. It may hide some of its tools within the minimal interface, but there is a lot to be gained nonetheless. Even more expert users can rely on stylus customization options for tablet use, a set of filters known from Photoshop and so on.
Quite to its advantage, ArtRage is also a program with low maintenance, as it runs smoothly without hogging all possible power. Complex strokes may periodically prompt a buffering message for a split second, but that’s about as slow as it gets. It’s quite impressive that such a powerful tool runs so well and on that aspect alone it can be recommended for more modest artists that want to try something new, without having to sacrifice performance for it.
What it may lack in some fields, ArtRage 4 makes up for in unique ones. With several options to call its own and a steadily growing learning curve, there is a lot that can be done with this nifty program. Aside from some lesser options, the options it does do properly will be a joy to toy around with. It might even be a tad easier to pick up than some of its peers, even if it doesn’t offer the same things. Sometimes, that’s a good thing.