We mentioned a few weeks back that ArtRage 3 had been released. Today I decided to take the demo out for a spin, put it through its paces, and report back. The results were not very impressive, though I do see some improvement. I also see that the price tag of the full-featured version has increased from $25 USD to $80 USD, and the reduced-feature version has gone from free to $40. Quite a jump. Is it worth it? Not in my opinion, though I should mention that I’ve been using Corel Painter nearly every day for the last five years. Today’s exercise made me realize I’d been taking Painter for granted. It’s very powerful, and there’s really nothing else like it. That said, I believe it’s too expensive, bloated, and I wish someone would buy it from the meatheads at Corel and give it a proper home. The release last year of version 11 was a disaster, and I’m sticking with version 10 until they come out with an actual upgrade to the program. As you can tell, I’m not the typical Corel fanboi, but I do use Painter and love it. For the type of work I do everyday (photo painting for photographers), I’m afraid ArtRage 3 just won’t cut it. But I had fun playing with it today, anyway. Here’s what I found.
As you can see from the before and after of the cute pup above, I was able to paint a passable portrait, using the equivalent of the smear brush in Photoshop, or the various blenders in Painter. These worked well for the dog. ArtRage has a cloning ability, though it’s not called that. It’s called a tracing. As with Painter, you can tell ArtRage to use a file for color information, to clone color. This is the way I work when altering photographs for photography studios, so it’s what I concentrated on during the “road test.” To use the tracing facility, you begin by creating a new painting, using the following dialogue box.
ArtRage conveniently allows you to determine your new file based on the size of the file you’re tracing. You can also just skip the trace file input, and work from scratch. You’ll also choose your paper texture here. The paper or canvas texture works much like Painter’s, except it doesn’t seem to “fill in” with paint; the texture remains fully visible no matter how much paint you apply. You can change the paper texture later, if you like.
After opening your new painting file, you can control the visibility of the color source image (the tracing), much like with Painter’s tracing paper. I like the controls and feel of ArtRage quite a bit, and don’t miss the Windows-clutter of Painter at all. You can easily switch the clone-color option off by clicking on the color palette, but to go back, you’ll need to dig into the menu to tell ArtRage to once again use the tracing for color information. The brushes, familiar from version 2.5, work well for color cloning, though I couldn’t get the palette knife to apply color to a blank canvas, either with color clone turned on or off. It may be designed that way. The new Sticker Spray brush doesn’t clone color accurately at all. Blues come in as yellow, or red…it seems broken.
In Painter, it’s common to start with a “Quick Clone,” which is a blank canvas. The tracing paper control allows you to see a ghosted image of the source you’re cloning. You can do the same with ArtRage, but here is where I really began to appreciate how well Painter does this. ArtRage does not bring in color accurately, to make a long story short. I tried to work from a blank canvas, and then clone back in from the original photo. The results were always crude and disappointing.
What worked much better was telling ArtRage, via the menu, to apply the tracing image to the canvas. This is like a standard clone in Painter, and it’s how I painted the dog at the top of the article. I used a soft variant of the palette knife, which worked just like a blender or the smear brush in Photoshop. New to version 3 are a whole new category of brushes, which seem to be made using a whole new technology. It takes some getting used to. It’s called the Sticker Spray brush. Stickers are similar to the Image Hose in Painter. But they also seem like a new direction for ArtRage, and I wish they had implemented it across the board instead of off to the side, so to speak. I also wish they had finished getting the bugs out before releasing it. There’s a lot of power and flexibility here, but the color cloning, as mentioned earlier, is broken. The colors are not even close to correct. ArtRage’s version of the Brush Creator is not intuitive or well-documented. Controls all over the place, in fact, have names which signal nothing to me. For instance, what the heck is “Drip Spike”? “Auto-flatten”?
ArtRage comes with a lot of brushes that remind me of a program my kids used to play with years ago, KidPix. Why anyone would want to paint with dominoes or cartoon leaves is beyond me. Interviews with the owners of ArtRage indicate they are trying to please everyone from grandma to professional illustrators. They seem to be taking the same road Painter did, adding all kinds of useless fluff with each new release. It’s a shame, because there’s a need for a nice, clean, strong painting program. Do digital artists really want stencils, rulers, and all the odd little toy brushes ArtRage offers? I doubt it. But that’s just my take. You can download and install the demo of ArtRage for free, and it’s good for thirty days. Give it a try, and let me know what you think.
- ArtRage 2.5: A Cheap Alternative to Painter?
- Tools: Three Painting Programs Reviewed
- Tutorial: An Easy Pet Portrait in Pastel with Corel Painter
- Tutorial: Create a Watercolor Portrait with Corel Painter
- Tutorial: Paint a Watercolor Bridal Portrait with Corel Painter
- Book Review: Karen Sperling’s Painting for Photographers
- Tutorial: Painting Alla Prima with Corel Painter