Review: ArtRage Studio Pro

Paint, sketch or draw using paints, pencil, chalk or crayons. (April 13th, 2010)

You can create artwork using tools, such as paint, pencil, chalk, or crayons in ArtRage Studio. The tools live in a wedge shaped palette, called a Pod and a click chooses from an airbrush, a felt-tip pen, a paint roller, stencils, tubes of paint and brushes and more.

MacNN Rating:


Product Manufacturer: Ambient Design

Price: $80 US

The Good

  • Great manual.
    Paint, sketch or draw.
    Tablet support.
    Large number of tools.

The Bad

  • Unique Interface.
    Use only one document at a time.
    A few minor oddities.

If you are a painter, cartoonist, or draw with traditional tools to create art, Ambient Design offers ArtRage Studio to help you move to computer composition. MacNN previously reviewed ArtRage Studio 2, and now we look into ArtRage Studio Pro version 3.06, which adds new features and bug fixes. Alas, we cannot impress you with our artistic skills, so below you will find images and links to some of the ArtRage Studio Pro masters.

ArtRage Studio Pro is not designed to edit photographs; it is best used to create artwork using traditional tools, such as paint, pencil, chalk, or crayons. ArtRage Studio Pro gives you a set of icons that match real-life artist's tools, such as an airbrush, a felt-tip pen, a paint roller, stencils, tubes of paint and brushes.

Memory Lane by Waheed Nasir

ArtRage Composition - Memory Lane by Waheed Nasir

ArtRage Studio's user interface reminds me of Kai's Power Tools. The tools live in a wedge shaped palette, called a Pod, that sits in the lower left corner of the window. The color selection palette lives in the lower right corner of the window. You can collapse both Pods to show more of the current artwork in progress.

Main Window - No Document Open

Main Window - No Document Open

You can only work on one image at a time and when you open a second image, the first one is closed. By default, your documents are saved in a folder that the program automatically creates called "ArtRage Paintings," in your Documents folder. The previous version always took up the full screen, but version 3 lets you move and resize the window. This is a welcome feature for those of us with large or multiple monitors.

Main Window-Pods Hidden

Main Window-Pods Hidden

Excellent Manual

ArtRage Studio Pro comes with a 100+ page PDF manual available from the Help menu. The well-written manual is full of screen shots, showing exactly how you can use different features. All programs should come with a manual this good.

Artistic Tools

Two of the most powerful tools in ArtRage Studio Pro are the oil brush and the watercolor tool, which let you create images similar to their real-life analogues, without, of course, having to clean up afterwards. You can thin the paint, smear and blend it, and control how the colors spread and mix. The watercolor brush can emulate both wet and dry portions of the paper. Version 3 lets you use your Adobe Photoshop brushes also. The Palette Knife lets you mix and smear paint on the canvas, to mix or soften the edge between two colors. The Airbrush tool lets you spray a fine mist of pigment onto the image. You can control the amount of color, the tilt angle and the taper length of the airbrush. The Ink pen lets you draw fine lines or fill areas on the image.

Airbrush Tool

Edge Color Added to Photo with Airbrush Tool

ArtRage Studio Pro supports round and chisel-tip pens and the Pencil and Chalk tools let you line, shade, and fill areas. I can see where using a tablet would be nice for these tools. With the Eraser tool, you can remove paint or textures from your image. The Paint Roller tool lets you roll solid block strokes of paint onto your image. The Paint Roller tool is great for filling a large area with a solid color. The Glitter Tube tool that lets your sprinkle colored particles of glitter onto your image lets you change the size, shape, and color of the glitter particles that you sprinkle.

Main Window-Pods Hidden

Text Underlined With Paint Roller Tool

In addition to the traditional tools, ArtRage Studio Pro includes Sticker Sheets and Stencils. Ambient Design includes a wide range of whimsical to serious elements that you can apply to a layer or directly to an image. The flower image above includes resizable ants from the Sticker Sheets.

Stencil Palette

Stencil Palette


For complicated images, you may want to build them in parts. For this, Studio Pro supports layers. Within each layer, you can create a separate bit of artwork, and the final picture consists of all the layers stacked or layered on top of each other. You can set the opacity of each layer, letting them be partially or completely transparent. Although the palette uses non-standard controls, they include tool tips and are easy to understand.

Stencil Palette

Layers Palette

The text tool lets you put text anywhere on the drawing, but once you have placed the text, it becomes part of the image, and you can no longer editable it as text. My suggestion is to put text you want in a separate layer, where it is easy to erase or edit without affecting the rest of the image.

ArtRage Studio Pro imports TIFF, JPEG, BMP, and PhotoShop files. It supports using WACOM or Adesso tablets, and I can see how this would make using some of the tools much easier. I could not test this, because I do not have a tablet.

Minor Problems

While using the program, I found a few minor things that did not work. You cannot undo an image rotation, plus when I switched to another user and switched back, I was greeted with a blank ArtRage window. Resizing the window brought back my painting. The Redo Command0key shortcut is Command-Y, rather than Command-Shift-Z like most programs. These are minor problems, but certainly not reasons not to purchase the program. Ambient Design fixed a number of bugs in this update too. You can see the complete list in Ambient Design's Forums.

Once you acclimate yourself to the creative interface, the program is limited only by your artistic talent. There are some amazing samples of user-generated artwork on the Ambient Design Gallery.

 Tulips & Crystal by Waheed Nasir

ArtRage Composition - Tulips & Crystal by Waheed Nasir

ArtRage Studio Pro 3 requires a Mac G4, G5, or Intel processor and Mac OS X 10.4 or later. It worked fine on my MacPro running 10.6.2. This robust program only costs $80 and the non-pro version for $40. You can download a demo and find a variety of tutorials on the site.

by Marshall Clow and Ilene Hoffman


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