Ambient ArtRage Studio Pro 3 review
ArtRage Studio Pro 3 is a natural media art application that lets you apply realistic paint and ink to a canvas. Unlike previous versions, this third iteration of the software is split into Studio and Studio Pro versions. As the name suggests, the Pro version contains a considerably more robust pallet of tools, making ArtRage more attractive to serious illustrators.
In particular, the new selection tools are a useful and important addition to this version. While the more basic Studio version comes with only elliptical and square selection tools, Studio Pro augments these with freehand, polygon, wand selection and paint-area selection. This allows much more versatility in image composition by letting you work more selectively on individual parts of your picture.
The new selection tools are complemented by a more advanced implementation of layers and filtering. Unlike a real canvas, but in common with most modern design applications, ArtRage allows you to build your painting in discreet layers, which can be individually created, manipulated, grouped and merged. This allows you to build and change the composition more freely by applying different tools and filters to individual layers, and by manipulating the way that layers interact. Layers can also be individually exported as PNG files for use in other applications and there is now support for Photoshop filters.
ArtRage Studio Pro 3 retains the impressive oil-paint brush, delivering natural colour blending and realistic oil paint texture, although it now has real-colour blending, which means that when you mix blue and yellow, for example, you get green. ArtRage 3 supplements this with a watercolour brush, which opens up new stylistic possibilities. It’s well executed and versatile, with natural colour blending and both wet and dry paper modes – although not as instantly stunning as the oil brush and rather processor intensive.
The pallet knife, used for smudging strokes together, has also be updated in the Studio Pro to include blur and wet blending mode, while it is also now possible to control the airbrush’s opacity. A smoothed inking pen is also a welcome addition, producing clean and jag-free strokes. The new sticker spray lets you apply multiple pre-defined or user-defined image elements in a single stroke – pebbles for example – which helps quickly build a composition.
Ambient have sensibly left the excellent interface largely untouched. The canvas forms the backdrop of all activity, while the bottom left and right corners hold the brush and tool selection and colour picker respectively, the latter with multiple optional viewing modes, including by tint and tone. Although neither is particularly obstructive, both flick out of the way when you paint toward them. Individual brush control windows pop in and out as needed, with while quantitative settings (like brush loading, dry rate and angle) are adjusted on intuitive gauges.
This version retains the tracing tool, which places a transparency of a chosen photo behind the canvas, and can even be used to select paint colour from. This makes it pretty easy for novices to produce convincing painting s from the off. For more of a challenge, you can simply “pin” a reference photo to the canvas from which to work.
Best results are achieved by combining ArtRage with a graphics tablet, and even keen hobbyists should certainly invest in one. At just over £50, ArtRage Studio Pro 3 is a steal compared to similar products, most notably the all-singing Corel Painter for around £200. If you don’t need the advanced filter and brush functionality, you can always opt for the more basic Studio 3 for £25.
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