In my quest to become a better artist I have experimented with many different graphics programs. I’ve tried everything from MS_Paint to Paintshop Pro. But I’ve come away from every single attempt, not just disappointed but frustrated as hell. You see I have one near universal complaint to aim at most of them.
They’re too damned incomprehensible.
Seriously, with the exceptions of MS_Paint, and Paint.Net, I found myself again, and again wasting weeks trying to come to grips with programs that made virtually no sense to me. The two Paint’s are exceptions mostly because of their simplicity, being at heart a bitmap editor and a very simple striped down Raster graphics package.
Now I am quite sure that for some with the right training Paintshop Pro, or Photoshop, or any of the other high-end programs are superior products. Awesome in their abilities, and efficiencies. But to a poor uninitiated girl from Ireland they were as clear as muddy water. So I resigned myself to using Paint.Net for the ability to use layers, a more flexible palette than MS_Paint, and the fact that it is all in all more powerful.
I resigned myself, and despite my first serious webcomic being 100% drawn in Paint.Net I wasn’t happy about it. A good program within its limitations, but for all that it’s simple to use, it doesn’t feel like drawing, it feels more like “creative” technical graphics, if that makes sense to you.
Then in a Skype conversation with a friend they suggested that I take a good look at ArtRage 3. Not being one to turn down free advice I did, and I am so glad that I listened.
ArtRage makes sense. The screen is taken up with a quarter circle color palette in the bottom right of the screen, a similar display of drawing tools on the bottom left, and a few other discreet interfaces around the edge. The vast bulk of the screen is taken up with your drawing surface.
To take those in order. The color palette unlike many others I’ve used is clear-cut, and simple to use. Click on the main palette and a band of different shades of that colour pops up. Much the same as any other system. But unlike many others you can see where the system is generating those colours from. There’s no moment of “Where the F**K did it pull that shade from?”.
The array of tools is astonishing. Flat brushes, pointed brushes, painting knives, pencils, markers, crayons, even a goo gun. The best part though is that when you use them the results look, and to a large degree act like the real thing. Pick “marker” and then adjust it to the setting “with top left off” and that’s precisely what you get. A few centimetres of dark solid colour before it starts to wash out. Overlap two oil colours, and you not only get a “mixed” third colour, but you get a slight randomizing of the pigments which give the result a very real feel.
Want to paint on canvas? There’s a setting for that, you can even apparently set how coarse, or fine the weave of the canvas is.
Want to paint with metallic paints? You can do that, and what’s more it looks genuinely metallic. (A setting I hope to make great use of in the near future.)
Want to use a layer for your roughing out, one for outlines, one for colouring? Yeah they’ve got you covered on that too.
Have a shape you’re going to use constantly? Why not make a stencil?
Want to use your graphics tablet? Work away darlin’ it even detects the lightness, or heaviness of your stylus strokes. And better yet the lines really do change in thickness, accurately and in a way that is truly repeatable.
After the endless frustrations of using “art” programs which are based more on autocad concepts than anything you might recognise as drawing ArtRage is an absolute breath of fresh air. It truly is the closest thing to drawing/painting the way you do in reality, on your PC.
After weeks, even months trying to get to grips with other programs, and never feeling I had gotten anywhere. It was such a relief to find myself comfortable with ArtRage after a mere 20 minutes. I think I’ve found my new favourite toy.
The following video is obviously not mine, but it shows wonderfully why I love this program so much. And even though it’s being demonstrated here on a Tablet PC, I’ve found it just as simple to use on a regular PC with a graphics tablet, and nearly as simple with a trackball.