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Author Topic: Review: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info  (Read 19702 times)


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ARtRage 2.2

Major update to version 2.5 is now available for registered users.  See my new post in this thread for more info.

interface.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

Basic Info

App NameArtRage 2.2
App Version Reviewed2.2 (free version) and 2.2.9 (payware version)
Supported OSesWindows (2k, XP, Tablet, Vista)
800mhz processor or faster, and 256 megabytes of RAM.

OS X (10.3.9 upward, PPC or Intel)
G4 processor or faster, and 256 megabytes of RAM.
ArtRage for OS X is a universal binary.

ArtRage 2 UMPC is also available for Ultra Mobile PC.
OS X and UMPC were not tested.
Test System Specs
P3 866mhz, 512mb ram, 32mb video card
Core Duo 1.4ghz, 1gb ram, 32mb video
P4 3.00ghz, 512mb ram, 64mb video card (free version only)
Support MethodsSupport is available in FAQs and a large forum.  Email support is also available at no charge.
Pricing SchemeFull version is $19.95usd.  Bulk purchase discounts are available.  You must email the company for a quote.
Trial Version Available?Feature limited version available for free with no time limits or limitations on use.  See review below for information about disabled features.
Upgrade PolicyMinor version updates are free.  The updates from 2.0 up to 2.2.9 have been free, and the devs have promised the update to 2.5 will be free.  Not sure about future major updates.
Other ReviewsLinks to reviews off of ArtRage's website:
Of particular interest is this one comparing ArtRage to SketchBook Pro: http://www.cartoonmo...e_20_the_review.html
DisclaimerI am not affiliated with ArtRage, Ambient Design, or any of the developers in any way.  I have received no compensation from the aforementioned parties for this review.  I am just one of their customers who loves their program.

interface.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

Simply put, ArtRage is a digital paint program developed by Ambient Designs (they did a lot of work on Kai's Power Tools).  That would be selling it short, however, so let me elaborate:

You have some art tools, and all the canvas and paint you could ever need.  Of course, this doesn't sound like much more than all the MSPaints and Pixias of the world.  What makes ArtRage great is how it feels and how the paints and other tools interact with the canvas and the other tools.  From the radical interface to the ways in which the paints mix and smear, everything clicks.

As soon as you begin painting you will see that this program is something special.  The paints have depth on the screen with bumps and valleys, shadows and highlights.  Mistakes become an opportunity to blend colors together with the palette knife.  The canvas becomes another tool as you use the grain and a light touch of chalk.  You can even set an option that gives you a little glass of water to rinse your brush off between strokes (this can be set so that your brush is auto-magically cleaned whenever you let go of the mouse button as well).  When you're done, you can export you image into numerous formats, including a layered PhotoShop file (if you have the $20 paid version).

The best place to start this review is with the part that will get the most use: The Tools.

Each tool has various options that can be set to adjust how they work.  Some of these options are on/off switches, while many are dials that you can manipulate with your mouse or click and type a value in a range between 1-100%.

Paint brush - The paint brush is the first tool you will probably use in ArtRage.  With it, you lay down oil paint on your canvas.  Depending on the pressure setting you select, you may actually see the lines caused by the bristles on the brush.  If you have a heavy stroke, oil paints mix well and can be smeared quite a bit.  You can also adjust the amount of paint on the brush, which changes how long you can paint before your line fades and trails off.  Fortunately, all you have to do to get more paint is let go of the mouse button and start again.
In the full version of the program, you can also adjust the amount of thinners in the paint, making a smoother less opaque line.  With some adjustment, you can make it look like watercolor.  You also get the insta-dry feature that allows you to layer colors on top of each other without mixing.

paint.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

Pencil - The pencil tool lets you put down thin pencil lines of any color.  The lines don't mix with other things on your canvas, but they can be smudged, and paints can pick up color from them.  You can adjust how hard you press and the angle that you hold the pencil.
In the full version, you can adjust how soft/hard the pencil is, which changes darkness and how it smudges.

pencil.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

Palette Knife - This tool allows you to manipulate media that is already on your screen.  You can smear paints, smudge pencils, etc.  You can adjust the amount of pressure, as well as setting the knife to be held flat against the surface or held at an angle.

pknife.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

Chalk - This gives you chalk of any color.  You can change pressure.  By setting low pressure,  you can really show the grain of the paper that you are working on.  When working with it over other colors, you will see some variation in the color that is supposed to give a "dusty" look.

chalk.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

Eyedropper - This tool allows you to pick up any color from the canvas.  This is very useful, as you will probably get some wonderful colors while mixing and smearing/smudging.  You can have the eyedropper pick up the color as it appears on the screen (with lighting to show depth), or pick of the actual color of the ink.
The full version allows you to pick up color from a single layer or from the whole image.

Marker - The marker acts like a felt tip pen.  The lines it gives are translucent unless you go over them a few times.  You can adjust how hard you press, the softness of the tip, and how wet the tip is.  You can also turn on Art Pen mode which gives a smoother and darker line.

marker.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

Crayon - This is a wax crayon.  You can adjust pressure.  It is very similar to chalk, though it doesn't have the "dusty" effect, and you can adjust the softness in the full version.  It's great for laying down heavy outlines.  It can also show grain like the chalk.  I'll admit to not using the crayon and chalk in ways that show much of a difference, but the people on the forums have tons of illustrations to show how they can be used.
The full version allows you to adjust softness of the crayon.

crayon.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

Eraser - It erases.  You can adjust pressure, which allows you to pick up all of the media or just a little as you use it.
The full version gives you control over the softness of the tool, which makes the edges of erased areas less harsh.

eraser.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

Full version tools
You get these additional tools in the full version:
Airbrush - This tool lets you apply even paint to areas of your work.  You can adjust pressure, angle that you hold the tool, and how the line tapers.

airbrush.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

Glitter - This lets you sprinkle 3d looking flecks of color on the screen.  You can adjust size of the pieces, choose from a few shapes, and the distribution of the flecks.  You can also set it so that you can hold down the mouse button in one area and pour a big pile of glitter in one place.  Coupled with the metallic paint option, this can get really sparkly.  You can also get some interesting textures if you color over the glitter or pile it up in a large area.

glitter.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

Paint Roller - This lets you lay down large swaths of paint at one time.  You can adjust pressure and amount of paint on the roll.  Pressing hard gives a mottled look, and it can actually lift some paint off the canvas.

roller.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

Paint Tube - This tool lets you squirt heavy lines of oil paint onto your canvas.  Usually, this is followed by some method to spread the paint around.

tubes.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

Metallic Paint - Underneath the color palette is the metallic paint slider.  Every tool can be used with metal paint, and you can adjust how metallic it looks.

metallic.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

All of the tools can be adjusted in size.  The range for sizes is 1 to 500, so you can really tune it to your preferences (the size changer in the bottom left allows you click and drag left and right to change sizes, to get a size between 101 and 500, you have to click on the number and type in the percent).

Your color controls are great as well.  In the free version, you have a couple of different styles of palettes to choose from.  In the full version, you can actually create your own palettes from images and you can also fine tune red, green, and blue levels as well as hue, luminance, and saturation.  The full version also gives you an additional palette bar than you can add colors to as needed.  This is great when you know that you will want to go back to a color that you used earlier in the painting at a later time.  The full version comes with a few predefined palettes to try out, and lets you save as many of your own that you want.

colors.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

The full version of the program also gives you layer control.  The layers work as you would expect with transparency and even a full assortment of blending options like those found in Photoshop.  One really cool part of the layers is that each layer can have different paper texture (and yes transparent layers can still have texture).

layers.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

How it all comes together

All of this is tied together in an attractive interface.  All of your tools, palettes, and options are on panels that are docked to the sides of the screens.  You can slide the panels on their respective sides (except for the two corner panels), and you can click the little yellow button on the panel to make them smoothly slide off the screen.  The program is kind enough to autohide the panels if you get close to them while working.  It looks good, and it is usable.  You also get neat "liquid" transitions when you bring up a dialog box of any kind.  If the sliding and liquid bothers you or slows you down, you can turn it off.

freeinterface.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

You can click the right mouse button to make the UI disappear off the screen so it isn't in your way.  Coupled with the hotkeys for the different tools, you can do quite a bit of work without ever seeing the UI.  The right mouse button, when  you click and drag, allows you to grab your canvas and move it around.  This, coupled with a zoom that ranges from 5% all the way up to 800% really lets you work from a perspective that you want.


I bought the full version of ArtRage and was already in love with it before I bought my Wacom tablet.  Mouse drawing, while not as natural, is very doable with the program, and many of the tools are forgiving of minor mistakes due to the way the paint moves.  My students who have been using the program for a couple of weeks are producing great art.

Yesterday, I got a Wacom Intuos3 for my birthday, and it has changed the way I look at computer art forever.

ArtRage fully supports all of the Wacom features.  Pressure sensitivity is there, as well as tilt sensitivity.  You can flip your pen over and use the eraser to erase.  All of the option dials are still there when using the Wacom, and they set a baseline for the tools.  So if you want heavy lines, you can set pressure high on the dial and not have to push as hard on the pen.  Even on my low end system, everything is smooth.  Since most of the features of the program have hotkeys, I was able to program the express buttons on my tablet to control many of the aspects of the program.


My main computer that I have been using this program is seven years old and just surpasses the minimum requirements.  That being said, I am very pleased with the performance of this program on this machine.  I notice some slowdown if I am working with a huge image (ex: 2000x1500px), have tons of layers, or use giant size tools.  On the two faster machines that I have used the program on, I only notice slowdown if I have a huge canvas, max out a tool like the paint roller to 500%, and rapidly move the mouse or pen back and forth.

What is does right

Two words: Almost everything.  The tools are great, the UI is beautiful, and it's fun.  The beginner will find it easy to use "out of the box" to produce art, while the seasoned user can really tweak the tools and produce an enormous range of effects.  The natural way that the paints and other tools feel when using them is beautiful.  If you're like me, you will spend plenty of time just playing with the palette knife and smearing, smudging, and mixing colors.  From what I know of color theory, the mixing is accurate and can serve as an instructional tool.  Also, the way that the paper grains affect your work is a lot of fun.

What needs more work

I love the UI, but there are a few quibbles.  The panels are stuck to the edges that they start on.  You can't, for example, float them or move the palettes to the left side of the screen.  Also, the layer panel is a floater that can't be docked.  While most of the panels remember their settings when you restart the program, the layer panel has to be reopened and repositioned every time you start the program.

Occasionally at my school, the tools have just stop working.  I haven't been able to pin down what causes it, but a restart of the program fixes it.  To be fair, this only happens when multiple users are running the free version off of a network share which may be beyond what the devs intended.  Once I get some more data, I will be sharing it with the devs in the hopes of finding a solution.

Working with layers isn't as smooth as it could be.  There is a noticeable delay between making a change to a layer and seeing the effects on screen.

Pressing F11 key on the keyboard will kill the program.  If you want to see what I mean, please make sure you have saved your work first.  One of the developers has said that it was a debugging tool that accidentally got left in the program and that it will be fixed in the next version.

Users of the free version may find it bothersome that the disabled tools still appear on the screen.  Clicking on a disabled function causes a splash screen to appear telling you that the tool is only available in the full version.  This splash only appears the first time you click a disabled tool in a session.  Subsequent clicks on those tools causes a small tooltip to appear stating that the tool is only in the full version.  I know that some will scream "Cripple-ware" and immediately discount the software, but keep in mind that you can do amazing things with the "crippled" version.

disabledpopup.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

On the subject of the disabled tools, I think a limited trial of the full version tools would be a good idea.  To be honest, I was a little skeptical of some of the enhanced features (glitter?  come on), but once I tried them I was sold.  Of course, that happened only after I paid for the software.  With the price of admission only being $20, though, it's not a huge risk.  If the software was $120, then it would be a bigger problem.

Final Verdict

ArtRage is an outstanding program.  I used to love to draw when I was younger, and I have tried many computer graphics programs in an attempt to rekindle that interest.  ArtRage is the first that has succeeded.  This program was the driving force that led to my recent investment in a Wacom tablet.  Even with the mouse, however, the program is amazing.

I have successfully introduced the free version of the program to children as young as 5 years old, and they are producing amazing work with it.  The full version is really wonderful, and at only $20, it is a great value.  The community on the ArtRage forums is helpful and welcoming, and offers constructive criticism to any works that are posted there.  The development team posts frequently in the forums, and is willing to investigate bugs and other issues.

Yes, there are a couple of issues, but overall the good far outweighs the bad.  On top of that, the obvious attention to bug reports and suggestions that the devs show in the forums, especially for a $20 program, means that a lot of issues can be forgiven.

I give ArtRage 2 two thumbs up, five out of five stars, ten jalapenos, an A+, a tip of the hat, and an enthusiastic chest bump for good measure.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2007, 01:58 AM by cthorpe »


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Re: Review: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions)
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2007, 10:46 PM »
Wonderful mini-review!!!!

(ps. people please remember to send some credits to mini-review authors!)


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Re: Review: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions)
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2007, 10:53 PM »
Great review :Thmbsup:

I use the full version and for 20 bucks it was well worth it to say the least.
I use it more or less to doodle around with and trace,etc.But if you visit
their forums you'll find some true artists that have pulled off some truely
amazing creations.

The programs interface is so fluid,easy,very well thought out.
People should be warned not to expect a Photoshop type thing,it's a painter's,drawers type of program.
One of a kind stuff.

And once again great in-depth review.


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Re: Review: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions)
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2007, 01:44 AM »
ArtRage 2.5 was just released, and it has some great new features.  It is a free upgrade for all registered users of 2.2.  For new purchasers, there has been a slight price increase from $20 to $25 USD.  There is no free version of 2.5 at this time.

Major feature enhancements:
  • Stencils & Rulers
  • Layer Content Transformation
  • Copy & Paste
  • Layer Groups & Layer Names
  • Resolution Support
  • Smooth Blender
  • Precise Pencil
  • Mousewheel Zoom
  • Recent Files List
  • More Image Formats
  • Internal Updater
  • Toolbox Panel
  • Layers Panel
  • Color Samples Panel
  • Languages
  • OSX Application Bundle
  • OSX Window Resizing
  • Crash Recovery
  • Import To Layer
  • Bump Blend Modes
  • Canvas Zoom Shortcut
  • User Content Support Shifted
  • Reference Image Persistency
  • Improved Vista Support

Unofficial Technical Features.
  • Light Switch
  • Export of Channels
  • Toggle stencil display

I will cover just a few of the new features right now.  I hope to cover a few more as I get more time to explore them.

Stencils and Rulers

This is the most obvious new feature.  You can now overlay stencils and rulers on your drawings to make straight lines, curves, shapes, etc.  When  you put down a stencil, you can of course move it around, rotate it, and scale it as needed.  Also, you can overlap stencils to get cool effects.
For each stencil, you can use it in stencil, ruler, or guide mode.  Stencil mode acts as you would expect.  In ruler and guide mode, your tool sticks to the edge of the object so you can trace along the side.  In ruler, no marks are made under the object.  In guide, your stroke will follow
the object and the mark will appear under the edge of the guide.  It's hard to explain, so just try it out.
stencilsandrulers.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

Transform layers independently
Now you can rotate, scale, and move layers independently of each other.  This has many uses.  For example, if you duplicate layers, then transform each one, you can rapidly populate a scene.
transform.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

Group layers
You can create groups for your layers and manipulate opacity, blending, show/hide, etc on all of the layers in the group at one time.  You can move layers in and out of the groups at will.
grouplayers.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

Smooth blending
The palette knife now has a smooth blending mode that gently smudges your image.
smooth.pngReview: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info

Mechanical pencil
The "Precise" mode of the pencil tool lets you make smooth lines that aren't effected by the grain as much as the regular pencil.  All of the writing on my screen shots was done with this mode.

A minor quibble...
In version 2.2, any user generated content such as paper presets, custom color pickers, etc were stored in the application's directory.  In version 2.5, all of that is stored in the Application Data folder under your user name (in XP, that's SystemDrive:/Documents and Settings/User name/Application Data/Ambient Design/).
The developer says that this is to "guarantee that regardless of the access rights your login has, you can still create and use presets. ArtRage stores its own default files in its own folder, but any Stencils, Canvas Presets, Size Presets, or Custom Color Pickers you create will be stored by default in your own login's application support location" (http://www2.ambientd...viewtopic.php?t=7624).
I understand the reasoning, but I would like the option of storing that content in the old location.  The biggest reason is that it allows all user names on the computer to access the content.  In my case, it also allows me to retain the data over reboots as my computer
reverts the system drive to a saved state whenever windows starts.  With version 2.2, I just installed the program to a secondary partition, and all of the generated content was retained.

Final thoughts
This is an amazing update.  As I look down the list of changes, I see so many things that were suggested by users in the ArtRage forums.  It is great to see a developer that really listens to what their customers want.  Aside from my one minor issue, I haven't come across anything else to make me hesitate in recommending that all current customers upgrade immediately.  For new customers, even with the $5 rise in price, this program is amazing and worth every cent.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2007, 01:51 AM by cthorpe »

Carol Haynes

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Thanks for the heads up on 2.5 - I hadn't used it for while and so it was a nice treat to play with the new version. A lot of changes - looks really COOL ...


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I like ArtRage so much I use it for keeping notes in my own handwriting and making diagrams for presentations.  I learned drafting as a youth and find the new stencils (rulers and french curves especially) combined with the layer functionality make a wonderful idea capture/expression/daigram tool.

If you doodle GUI designs on scrap paper, or scribble out ideas, or sketch flow diagrams, then I think ArtRage is sometimes better for that than dedicated pen notetakers like OneNote, even without the "intelligence".


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Re: Review: ArtRage 2.2 (free and full versions) - Updated with 2.5 info
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2008, 11:56 PM »
ArtRage is a wonderful program - but it takes quite a while to get used to the, certainly very beautiful, unique user interface.