ArtRage for the iPad Review: Painting Pictures on a Tablet

by Reads (11,006)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 8
      • Features
      • 7
      • Performance
      • 6
      • Total Score:
      • 7.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Highly creative painting tools
    • Clean user interface, easily accessible features
    • Control, flexibility, and re-editability
  • Cons

    • Limited resolution, which restricts use of pictures
    • Paint is sometimes applied imprecisely
    • No saving to JPEG or direct output to Web

Quick Take

As a standalone program, ArtRage for the iPad is fun to use. It shows its real potential when used with ArtRage Stuido or Studio Pro.


ArtRage for the iPad stems from a venerable heritage that stretches back to the early 1990s, when Fractal Design Painter (now known as Corel Painter) established a whole new category of software generally referred to as “natural media emulation.” Essentially, natural media programs allow us to use our computer screen like a real-world painting canvas.

Typically, these software apps include a whole arsenal of brushes (such as watercolor, oil paints, charcoal, ink, etc.) that bleed, blend, smudge and even mimic media’s response to textured canvases. However, unlike in real-world paintings, you can combine all kinds of media, such as watercolor with oil.

ArtRage for the iPad takes advantage of the interactive screen on the Apple device for fingerpainting-like creativity. During our tests, we found ArtRage for the iPad to be dense, with highly creative tools. However, we did encounter some frustrating limitations (largely related to the iPad’s own restrictions). 

Diving In
ArtRage for the iPadYou don’t need to be an experienced painter to get some interesting, attractive results with ArtRage, although novices will face a steeper learning curve. ArtRage’s local Help covers the basics very clearly. ArtRage also has a rather active community forum. However, the company’s iPad tutorials are limited.

The best way to understand and master the program is to gets your fingers dirty, figuratively speaking. The more you use ArtRage, the more creatively proficient you’ll be.
 
You start an ArtRage picture by setting up your canvas and choosing its size, color, and grain style, using sliders to choose the amount of Roughness or Metallic surface. ArtRage comes with several preset canvas styles, to which you can add your own new definitions.

Very Clean Workspace
The ArtRage workspace is very clean, with controls and tools squirreled away in rollup menus at the bottom of the iPad screen. For instance, click on the brush icon on the lower left corner, to open up the media menu. The selection of thirteen brush styles includes Chalk, Crayon, Felt Pen, Inking Pen, Paint Tube, Palette Knife, and so forth.

The settings menu (an icon under the brushes) displays the customizable variables for the currently selected brush. For the Airbrush, you can set Size, Pressure, Tilt Angle, Taper Length, Opacity, and Blend Mode, as well as turn Autoflow on or off. For chalk, the only variables are Size and Pressure. As with the Canvas settings, several brushes already have presets available, while allowing you to save your own custom ones.

Selecting Colors a No-Brainer
ArtRage for the iPadSelecting colors is a no-brainer. You just use a color wheel in the lower right corner, which can be set to minimize and stay out of your way. Depending upon the kind of media you are using and your settings, colors will mix, bleed and blend, as real paints do (as long as they are on the same layer). Brushes can even be set to be “dirty” – i.e. “contaminating” the chosen color for the brush by picking up other colors from paint already on the canvas

ArtRage’s fingerpainting includes controls based on the number of fingers you use. After you choose your brush and color, simply tap with one finger and drag to apply paint or smear colors together. Use two fingers to zoom or move your canvas. A three-finger tap brings up various options. For example, if you tap with three fingers and then drag up, the current brush size increases.

Rather Full-Layer Functionality
ArtRage for the iPadArtRage offers rather full-layer functionality, which gives you greater control, flexibility and re-editability. Layers have familiar options, including naming (to help identify each layer at a glance), opacity/transparency setting (to determine how much the layer will influence the final picture), and even blend modes that define how the layers will interact with each other (such as Texture, Dissolve, Multiply, Color Burn, Shadow and others). You can even drag and drop to re-order your layers.

If you wish, you can load one of your photographs or other digital pictures into a layer, or to use as your Tracing or Reference image. When Tracing, you can set how transparent (or opaque) you want your Tracing image to be, and whether or not ArtRage automatically uses the picture’s original colors as you paint (while working, you can also turn the Tracing image and its original colors on or off.) A Reference image is one that it tacked to your drawing board.

On the Down Side
ArtRage for the iPadHowever, we also discovered several limitations. While fingerpainting in the real world is one of the more precise methods for laying down paint, it is very difficult to be exact with ArtRage for the iPad. This is partially due to the inaccuracy of the iPad’s response to your touch. The iPad often places paint slightly “off” from where you intended.

Like many other iPad imaging programs, ArtRage imports only JPEG and PNG image files. In our tests, when we tried to open TIFF files, the program crashed and closed down. In addition, it accessed images only from iPad’s own Photo Gallery and not from third party iPad storage/file organizers, such as Dropbox. 

ArtRage for the iPad lacks selection tools and cut/copy/paste capability. Also, while ArtRage claims to offer the largest maximum canvas size of any painting app currently on the iPad (2000×2000 pixels), it will provide enough data to generate hardcopy color prints up to only about 6.5” x 6.5” (at 300 dpi) or 10” x 10” (at 200 dpi).

Our biggest concern, though is the limited resolution. When we exported our paintings to our desktop for image analysis, we found that our brush strokes tended to be pixelated, rather than dense or solid.

In other words, ArtRage for iPad is best used for either screen-based art or small prints.

Desktop Versions To the Rescue

ArtRage for the iPad

However, for additional, potentially more detailed editing, you can use ArtRage for iPad, a product priced at $6.99, in conjunction with its PC/Mac desktop big brother programs, ArtRage Studio ($40) and Studio Pro ($80).

Saving the iPad paintings in ArtRage’s PTG proprietary file format gives you access in the desktop software to all the layers and other options you used on the iPad. In addition, you can set the iPad version to record your paint strokes and play them back to create a higher resolution version of your picture in Studio or Studio Pro.

Other export options in ArtRage for iPad include saving a PNG file to your iPad Photo Gallery (which can be transferred to your computer), emailing a PNG file, or printing the picture (if you have a printer setup to work with the iPad). Yet, ArtRage for the iPad doesn’t support JPEG export or uploading directly to the Web.

Conclusion
ArtRage and the iPad were made for each other, like children at the beach and sandcastle buildings. As a standalone program, ArtRage for the iPad is fun to use. It can produce very nice paintings suitable for screen display or small prints. Meanwhile, its real potential power may be more fully released when it is used in conjunction with ArtRage Studio or Studio Pro.

Daniel Grotta contributed to this review.

 



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