ArtRage review: A cheaper alternative to creating digital art?

Ambient Design, Ltd., a New Zealand based company, is the developer behind ArtRage. According to their website, "ArtRage gives you real world painting tools on your computer in a stylish, easy to use environment that lets you get down to the process of creating without digital distractions." I needed to see this in action, so I decided to check it out. But, as a die-hard Adobe and Toon Boom user, I wasn't exactly sure if I would find ArtRage useful. As it turns out, it's a pretty cool app.

ArtRage for Mac

Of the tools available in ArtRage, I love the Natural Painting Tools the most. Each one behaves like the real thing. The Oil Brush creates realistic strokes of paint which can be blended with other colors. While the Paint Tube allows you to squeeze out blobs of paint that can be spread with the Palette Knife. Using the Watercolor Brush and the Airbrush, you'll be able to bring your canvas to life by adding translucent strokes and fine sprays of paints.

Another great feature of ArtRage is its canvas. There are a variety of Canvas Presets from which you may choose. Or, you can customize some of the Canvas Properties (texture and roughness, to name a few) to give your canvas a personal touch. You can also add a color bitmap to your canvas, or remove all of the textures and make the surface transparent.

With the range of tools available in ArtRage, and the ease with which these tools may be used, you'll be digitally painting happy little tress in no time. Bob Ross ( would be proud!

The interface, however, was a little strange at first. While the important functions and tools are front-and-center, the application uses something referred to as Pods to keep the deeper functions out of the way until you're ready to use them. Navigating your way through the Pods can be daunting, but once you start using the program, you should have no trouble using them.

An interesting point to mention about the interface elements is that they are automatically hidden whenever the brush approaches. Initially, this threw me off, but after a few minutes, I began to question why other apps don't do the same thing. This feature is amazing, and I absolutely love it.

For the most part, ArtRage is a solid application. I did, however, experience times when the application would hesitate and lag. Although it never crashed, the lag was noticeable and frustrating. Luckily, it only seemed to happen when I was mucking with the canvas position and/or the zoom functions. I'm not sure if this was because I was using my drawing tablet, but, nonetheless, it was annoying and distracting.

My overall impression of ArtRage is positive. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is looking to create digital paintings. I'm still not convinced it's a Photoshop or Toon Boom replacement, but for $50 it's a nice addition to for any art tool collections.

ArtRage for iPad

If you're looking to create that digital masterpiece on the go, and more importantly, you're looking to do it on a budget… ArtRage for iPad is a good place to start.

If you look at the comparison chart, you'll notice there are some tools that are present in the desktop versions that are missing in the iPad version. The iPad version comes with most of the tools with the exception of the Effects Tools ('Gloop' Pen, Sticker Spray, Selection Tool, Transformation Tool, Text Tool) and the Utility Tools (Cloner, Gradient Fill, Pattern Fill). Honestly, it has so much to offer, that I didn't miss those tools at all.

And wow, did I love this interface.

All of the tools are accessible by tapping on the designated corner, and the color wheel is accessible by tapping on the opposite corner. An excellent feature is having the option to keep the toolset and color wheel present at all times. Alternatively, you may choose to minimize the panels, only showing the currently selected tool.

My only gripe with the iPad version is how the file management (Gallery) is handled. It feels cumbersome. It's also not intuitive. I found myself having to tap a few of the buttons in order to find the options I needed.

Overall, ArtRage for iPad is an absolutely a keeper! Whether you're on the go, or just sitting on your favorite couch… ArtRage for iPad is an excellent creative companion for both the novice and professional.

ArtRage for iPhone

Just like the iPad version, the iPhone version doesn't include all of the tools present in the desktop versions. Surprisingly, some of the tools present in the iPad version and missing in the iPhone version. It boils down to this… the iPhone version only comes with the Basic Artist Tools: Oil Brush, Pencil, Palette Knife, Paint Tube, Color Sampler, Crayon, and Eraser. But, considering the small screen size, the tools present do seem adequate.

While it's not as robust as it's iPad counterpart, the interface is clean and intuitive. Accessing the toolset and color wheel is identical in the iPhone version as it is on the iPad version. The only difference is that the iPhone version brings up a full screen for tool selection. There is also no option of keeping the entire set present while working. The reason for this is the obvious lack of screen real estate available on the iPhone.

Similar to the iPad variant, the iPhone has a clunky file management interface. In my opinion, this is their weakest area in the software.

ArtRage seems to be turning out top-notch iOS applications. The application is quick to respond and has yet to give even the slightest indication that it's remotely capable of crashing. Trust me when I say… Murphy was an optimist… if an app can crash, I can make it happen.

Overall Impression If you're looking for a full-fledged art program for your iPhone, you may want to keep looking. On the other hand, if what you're after is an easy to use tool for creating on the go art… this is the app for you!

Tammy Coron