Alright, just to get it right out in the open, the Ambient Design guys rock.
Besides being a nice bunch of people (actually I’ve only corresponded with Matt Fox-Wilson and I’m sure he doesn’t remember but they’re all great guys, I’m sure) and I’ve probably been swayed somewhat because they’ve got a cat as a mascot but if you haven’t tried Art Rage with either a Tablet PC or a Wacom compatible digitizer, you’re missing out.
Especially since they’ve released version 2.5.13 and if you’re already a paying user, it’s a free upgrade.
It includes a number of new features, of which are (from their own site, skip down if you’ve seen these):
Major feature enhancements:
- Stencils & Rulers: The Stencil Picker allows you to add Stencils and Rulers to your painting, for creating precise shapes, straight lines, and curves. Press â€˜Fâ€™ to bring up the Stencil Picker, or click the Stencils button on the new Toolbox Panel. For more information, see the ArtRage Manual.
- Layer Content Transformation: You can now Move, Scale, and Rotate the contents of Layers using the Transform Layer Contents option in the Edit Menu.
- Copy & Paste: You can now copy the contents of a Layer using the Copy Layer to Clipboard option in the Edit Menu. You can Paste the contents of your clipboard to a new Layer using the Paste Clipboard to New Layer option in the Edit Menu.
- Layer Groups & Layer Names: You can now add Layer Groups, and name your Layers and Groups. For more information, see the Layers section of the manual.
- Resolution Support: In the New File or Resize panels you can now set the size of your image using pixels, inches, centimeters, or millimeters. You can also set the DPI resolution of your image.
- Smooth Blender: The Palette Knife now has a Smooth blending option which can be found in the Type picker of the Tool Controls Panel when the Palette Knife is selected.
- Precise Pencil: The Pencil now has a Precise option. Turning this option on makes your pencil sharper and more like a mechanical pencil. This option can be found in the Tool Controls Panel when the Pencil is selected.
- Mousewheel Zoom: The Mouse wheel on a mouse, or the Zoom Strip on Wacom Intuos 3 tablets can now be used to zoom the canvas.
- Recent Files List: You can access a list of recently used ArtRage files in the File Menu.
More Image Formats: ArtRage 2.5 supports more image formats for Import and Export.
- Internal Updater: The ArtRage Updater has been built in to the application to make it easier to download and install updates.
- Toolbox Panel: The bottom of the ArtRage window now has a Toolbox Panel, from which you can access your Stencils, Tracing Images, and Reference Images.
- Layers Panel: The Layers Panel has been moved to the right of the window for easier access.
- Color Samples Panel: The Color Samples Panel that used to be on the right hand edge of the window is now a floating panel. You can bring it up by pressing â€˜Sâ€™, or using the Show Color Samples Panel option in the Tools Menu or Color
- Picker menu. You can also name your color samples.
- Languages: ArtRage now supports English, French, and German from the same install. You can select your language from the Help menu.
- OSX Application Bundle: ArtRage now contains all of its resources internally on OSX so you donâ€™t need to store a folder alongside the application, you can just install ArtRage 2.5 directly to your Applications Folder.
- OSX Window Resizing: The ArtRage window can now be manually resized on OSX using a resize handle at the bottom right.
- Crash Recovery: On Windows, ArtRage attempts to save out your work to a temporary file (arrestart.ptg) if the application crashes. For more information, see the ArtRage Support Forum.
- Import To Layer: You can now import an image to a new Layer in the current document, rather than having to import to a new document. Use the Import To Layer option in the File menu.
- Bump Blend Modes: The way ArtRage layers the volume of paint on Layers can be controlled from the Bump Blend Mode menu in the Layer Menus.
- Canvas Zoom Shortcut: Holding down Shift + Space and click-dragging the canvas, or holding down Shift and right click-dragging the canvas zooms it.
- User Content Support Shifted: User content such as Custom Pickers, Canvas Size Presets, Stencils, Canvas Presets etc. have been shifted to the userâ€™s Application support folders. For more information, including information on how to move your ArtRage 2.2 content to ArtRage 2.5, see the ArtRage Support forums.
- Reference Image Persistency: Reference Images are now saved with your painting files.
- Improved Vista Support: ArtRage 2.5 is Windows Vista Certified and supports Tilt and Rotate when using Ink Services under Vista.
Unofficial Technical Features.
- Light Switch: If you want to turn off the lights in your image, to remove the appearance of volume for the paint, you can do so by pressing F5.
- Export of Channels: For technically minded users, selecting â€˜Export Layerâ€¦â€™ from the Layers Menu while holding down Shift will export the contents of that layer to multiple image files for each channel (Color, Bump, Shininess, Reflectivity).
- Toggle stencil display: Pressing F6 will show/hide all the stencils on the canvas.
I won’t go through all the features but rather the major features that I find cool.
I really like the reference image persistence. I’ve been working on transferring some images of Cartagena to "art" and having to reload the reference image each time was a pain. Not any longer.
Art Rage now supports both default and user-made stencils. The installed stencils include a number of shapes such as letters and numbers, snowflakes, comic book shapes (think thought balloons), friskets, gradients and various geometric shapes. One neat thing about the stencils is they support varying alpha so you can get some pretty complex shading by combining stencils.
You can also create your own stencils from an existing layer that has been painted on.
For example, I make a bad version of Gossamer.
I started out by drawing Gossamer on an empty layer: (any of these images can be clicked on to show a larger version)
I then converted the layer to a stencil
and then was able to reproduce my wonderful Gossamer any way I wanted.
Either a plain old standing monster
or a strange trio of fuzzy beasts.
Similar to stencils is a new rulers feature.
In the same way that stencils limit where paint is applied, rulers combine that feature with the ability of the paint to "stick" to a ruler.
Shown below is a "stop" ruler that’s been put on top of Gossamer. As I painted over the gossamer stencil, the paintbrush was attracted to the edges of the ruler and constrained by it.
Removing the stencils reveals that the paint wasn’t applied where either stencil type was on top of the paint. What you can’t see is that the paintbrush tended to be attracted to the ruler. Take my word for it, or go try the trial version.
The rulers also include a guide mode that acts as a floating ruler but doesn’t prevent the paint from appearing under the stencil.
They may have had this for a while but I only noticed it with the update to the latest version of Art Rage. Ambient Design have added a Windows thumbnail viewer to their download page. This is very handy when scanning a folder in thumbnail view as now instead of seeing the Art Rage icon you’ll see a small view of your drawing.
Honestly, I’ve never had it crash on me but having the feature does give me a bit more confidence in spending a long time working on a drawing. If I ever get to the point where I can test this feature I’ll update this post with the results.
Art Rage is an excellent program. The previous version was one of the major reasons I went looking for a Tablet PC with a Wacom compatible digitizer when I decided to upgrade from the Averatec box I’d been using. It’s very inexpensive but as a look through their forums will show, a lot can be done with it.
Thanks guys, keep up the good work.