Review: ArtRage

Paint away with this nice-priced software! (November 7th, 2007)

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Product Manufacturer: Ambient Design

Price: Download $25.00, CD $39.95

The Good

  • Great manual. Many tools and settings. Compatible with a WACOM tablet. Free downloadable Starter Kit. Good tutorials.

The Bad

  • The program opens full screen. No text options. No tool tips. Interface is one of a kind. High learning curve.

ArtRage is a painting and art program for only $25! Ambient Design realizes that you probably won't use this program to make million dollar magazine covers, not that you couldn't, it is designed for the rest of us who just want to have fun and create.

The Mac has had many art programs in the past. Most of them didn't make the transition from OS 9 to Mac OS X. The former MetaCreations staff rectified this situation with an affordable art program that is reminiscent of Kai's Power Tools with its unique interface. The preschool child or the person interested in making posters for an art show or some serious artwork can use ArtRage, but mostly it's fun. That is, if you don't mind the interface inconsistencies as noted below.

Work area

When you open the ArtRage easel, the work area fills the entire screen. ArtRage provides six tool panels that float around the edge of your work area. Click and drag the yellow handle, called a grip, on a tool palette to move it along the edge of the canvas. Click on the yellow grip and the palette disappears leaving the just yellow grip showing. Click again and the palette reappears. The palettes are space age in appearance and very large, so this helps control the space taken up by your work area. You can also zoom in and out of your workspace easily. You can reduce the size of the workspace by dragging the right lower corner or can undock the work area from the menu bar to move it around the screen.

The Menu bar includes File, Edit, Tools, and Help. The Help menu includes a PDF manual that contains 82 pages with many illustrations. There is also a link to ArtRage Technical Support and a list of shortcut keys.

Tools

Below the menu bar, along the top edge of the work area is your first tool palette. It contains a zoom tool, redo, undo, minimize, undock, and close button. In the lower left corner is the quarter-circle tool picker. The outer edge includes Oil Brush, Pencil, Palette Knife, and Airbrush, while the middle row holds Chalk, Glitter, Paint Roller, and Paint tube. The inner row is the Color Sampler, Felt Pen, Crayon, and Eraser. Each tool has it's own controller that appears along the left edge of the workspace when a tool is selected. Depending on the tool, the controller uses dials for pressure, thinness, and loading.

On the right bottom corner is the color picker. It is a large dial that looks a little like Apple's color picker. The Toolbox Panel sits in the center bottom edge of your easel. Here there are buttons to move, rotate, and zoom the canvas, as well as trace images, reference images, access your stencil collection. If you want to make cartoons of your friends, you can import a photo and use a marker, pencil, brush, or some other tool to trace around the photo.

There is also a Layers Panel. Layers work much like layers in other graphic programs. Included in the layers panel are background textures such as basic paper, basic canvas, black board, hatching and lumpy. You can set features such as background roughness, texture, opacity, color and more. If you need to, you can move, rotate and scale layers. graphic:

ArtRage screen


ArtRage Screen and Interface


The tools may not immediately be recognizable to a new artist, so you have to depend on the manual for explanations. Tool tips are nonexistent. The interface is contrary to Apple's interface guidelines. Even the most commonly expected commands are missing, such as About This Program that should be in the Application menu, and the Cut, Copy, and Paste commands in the Edit menu. Close boxes and dialogs have none of the elements you expect in the Aqua interface. In addition, the Preferences are stuck in the bottom of the Edit menu. I would have liked a grabber hand or scroll bars to move the image around in the higher magnifications.

Images

You can export an image as a JPG, PNG, BMP, or Photoshop file. By default, ArtRage saves documents in the PTG format, which includes the layers and paint choices. You can also import JPG, PNG, BMP, or Photoshop file formats. It can be a bit slow to import photos, and darkened the colors a little. I had no problem working with my WACOM tablet, but needed to turn Ink off in system preferences.

There are no text options included with this program. If you want to make a flyer, poster, or greeting card that requires text, you must export your image and import it into one of the many other image editing programs.

Good Value for Price

If you like to paint and draw, this is a full-featured, fun program to use with the kids at a great price. Ambient Design updated ArtRage to version 2.5.18 to fix some minor inconsistencies with Leopard. It works great in Leopard or Tger, and can run in Panther with a G4 processor and only 256 MB of RAM. You can download a free Starter Kit from the site. It has limited tools, but no other restrictions.

by Rick Curran and ilene Hoffman


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