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Painting with the ArtRage for iPad App

Updated on October 5, 2014

What is ArtRage for iPad?

ArtRage for iPad is a realistic painting app for the iPad, based on the even more amazing desktop program. You can buy it from the iTunes store here (go on. It's only US$4.99 and then its yours forever).

I've been using the iPad app for a few months now, and I wanted to introduce people to this version of my favourite painting software (warning: I am extremely biased, because it is amazing and I love it).

The iPad app retains the main features of ArtRage, such as the realistic tools, the textured canvases and the paint mixing, as well as the ease of use and the sheer potential.

It's lost a few things, like canvas resizing and digital editing tools such as Select, due to the limitations of the iOS platform and the devices.

And it adds a few new twists, like being able to sketch on the couch trapped under a cat, and a whole new dimension to plein air painting (which... I don't really do. Well, I do paint outside, I'm just not painting stuff in front of me).


This isn't a tutorial. This is an introduction to the main features that I care about, what makes ArtRage different from other apps, and what makes the app different from the desktop version. And it's a discussion of how I use it, and how it affects my paintings.

I've also discussed a few important "getting started" issues around technical requirements, so if you're interested in this (or any other) drawing app, please read the sections on iPad memory and drawing styluses towards the end.

And then consider how long this would have been if it had been a tutorial...

Oh yes. And there are lots of pictures. I've been having fun! (All the paintings on this page are mine).

ArtRage for iPad: Ready, Steady, PAINT

ArtRage for iPad created by Ambient Design
ArtRage for iPad created by Ambient Design

Do you use the ArtRage for iPad digital painting app?

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Rate ArtRage for iPad!

5 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of ArtRage for iPad
Fields, a storm and a balloon
Fields, a storm and a balloon

Who Can Use ArtRage?

 
Fun
Easy
Realistic
Flexible
Kids
X
X
 
 
New To Digital
 
X
X
 
Plein air and professional artists
 
 
X
X
ArtRage for iPad offers a whole bunch of important features for different users. Whether you're not that good with technology, need something portable, or are transitioning to digital media and trying to find something good enough to replace real pai
This is what happens when you hand the iPad to six people at once. They ALL want to play.
This is what happens when you hand the iPad to six people at once. They ALL want to play.
ArtRage for iPad makes for very fun 'swirling randomly with shiny paint' pictures.
ArtRage for iPad makes for very fun 'swirling randomly with shiny paint' pictures.
Deliberately just sticking to colours and textures here.
Deliberately just sticking to colours and textures here.
Fine detail is fiddly with a fat stylus.  I gave up on this one because trying to draw hands was just too annoying.
Fine detail is fiddly with a fat stylus. I gave up on this one because trying to draw hands was just too annoying.

What Kind of Paintings Can You Do?

The ArtRage desktop program comes with a lot of tools, settings, zoom levels, and digital editing functions. You can use it for pretty much any art style, change your mind and canvas size on the fly, and mix and match with other programs.

The ArtRage for iPad app has a lot of tools and is definitely very powerful, but it's still an iPad app, so it isn't quite the same. I've been using the desktop version for six years and I've always viewed landscapes as 'background'. So it took a little while to retrain myself from the desktop to the iPad.

It's important to note that I haven't currently got a pressure sensitive stylus - but if you're new to drawing and only picked this app up for fun, then you probably won't have one either. It definitely affects your drawing style and how much of the program's potential you can use.

My painting style has always been heavily based around 'throw colourful acrylics at the paper and create bold images with great colours'. Over time, I learnt how to zoom, and use digital editing tools to flip paintings, crop, resize sections, and generally tweak as I went along.

I also tend to make my composition up on the fly, and use pencils to roughly sketch out ideas - which means I really need pressure for shading and line thickness.

I can't do all this on the iPad. I can't change the canvas size after I start, my stylus is clumsy and non-pressure sensitive, and not all the tools and settings are there. It's also slower to use, as you don't have right click menus, or shortcuts or modifier keys (it does have multitouch, but there are only a few supported gestures possible on an iPad), and that means that I have to open up menus every time I want to change something.

This means that:

  • I have to plan my paintings a bit better
  • I slow down a bit, and enjoy the process more
  • I avoid fine detail and fiddly things that require a lot of settings changes
  • I focus more on landscapes, large areas of colour, the overall composition and textures.
  • I have to relearn how to do realism-type drawings, as I just don't know the app well enough yet
  • I tend not to spend too long on each drawing and just move on and start another.
  • I approach them more as concept works than final paintings


I initially found the iPad app very frustrating, and preferred using the iPhone app because it was really simple. My problem was that I could see all these tools that I was used to using, and kept trying to jump straight to the sort of ambitious, detailed painting that I would do on a desktop.

Paintings like this are possible, but I was skipping over the learning process part of using the app!

Now I find it great for creative concepts, sketching ideas and just playing with paint. Being portable is a huge plus, and I can even sketch something on paper, then take a photo and import it to ArtRage!

I sketched this out on a piece of paper, then took a photo and imported it to ArtRage. This meant I could do the fine detail with a real pencil and then paint it with ArtRage's watercolours.
I sketched this out on a piece of paper, then took a photo and imported it to ArtRage. This meant I could do the fine detail with a real pencil and then paint it with ArtRage's watercolours.
Terrible lighting and no eraser means that this pencil and ballpoint pen sketch is a mess!
Terrible lighting and no eraser means that this pencil and ballpoint pen sketch is a mess!

Add Reference and Tracing Images

ArtRage has always had easy to use references and tracing images, and the iPad app is no different. Importing photos is simple, and you can even take a new photo from within the app itself!

Tip: You can use the full range of blend modes with the airbrush and the layers. Hard Light is a really good one for cleaning up sketches! You can see the original photograph on the right, and it's a lot darker.


I use ArtRage as a sketchpad sometimes; it lets me take notes and draw diagrams with LAYERS for when I mess it up. Here I'm trying to plan whether or not I can fit in a chicken run, using different media as a code for different plants/structures.
I use ArtRage as a sketchpad sometimes; it lets me take notes and draw diagrams with LAYERS for when I mess it up. Here I'm trying to plan whether or not I can fit in a chicken run, using different media as a code for different plants/structures.
One of my early 'how does this work?' paintings.
One of my early 'how does this work?' paintings.
The Settings for the Oil Brush
The Settings for the Oil Brush

ArtRage Tools

The iPad app is based on the third desktop edition, ArtRage Studio/Studio Pro.

It has most of the major painting tools, except for glitter. I miss my glitter - I use it for stars and sea foam and scales and texturing and laying down colour blends before mixing them. Glitter is awesome and I shake my head in pity every time someone complains about a 'kid's tool' being in the app. They just haven't discovered the glory of glitter.

The tools it does have are:

  • General: Eraser, Fill Tool, Airbrush
  • Painting: Paint Roller, Oil Brush, Oil Tube, Watercolour, Palette Knife
  • Sketching & Drawing: Pencil, Felt Pen, Ink Pen, Pastel

They all have adjustable settings and come with a bunch of presets.

The tools in ArtRage for iPad!
The tools in ArtRage for iPad!
A watercolour experiment. I'm not very good at delicate watercolours (I'm a bold oil paint painter, mostly), but they look lovely if you get it right.
A watercolour experiment. I'm not very good at delicate watercolours (I'm a bold oil paint painter, mostly), but they look lovely if you get it right.

ArtRage is Easy

ArtRage is just really easy to use. Oh, it's not easy to paint a Super Amazing Picture (TM), but you can just start doodling and mixing paint without having to worry about figuring the tools out. Just like real life painting.

It has a lot of settings and features and interactions that will take a while to learn, but you don't need to know them. When you decide you want your paint to be less thick, you can open up settings and discover Thinners and Loading. If you're scared of the Settings, just browse through the Presets to get started.

I've tested this app out on small passing children (I'll be sitting at a stall drawing, and they'll wander past and be all "O_o there's a PICTURE"). They all know how to use it, and the only things they have trouble with are the menus and settings - because they don't know to look for them. I'm talking five year olds, here. Sure, they'd need a hand learning how to save and they won't use the more advanced features, but they don't need to.

 I think it's a high school mixed media project. Sometimes your brain runs out of energy and your drawings stop making sense. A passing five year old happily added the border for me (I let several kids try, and they all found it easy to use).
I think it's a high school mixed media project. Sometimes your brain runs out of energy and your drawings stop making sense. A passing five year old happily added the border for me (I let several kids try, and they all found it easy to use).

ArtRage is Colourful

ArtRage is full of colour. The colour wheel is easy to use, and the media blends beautifully.

The colour mixing isn't quite realistic, as the 'realistic' colour blending* takes a bit too much effort for a puny iPad, but it looks lovely anyway.


*Real Colour Blending:

This is an optional setting in the desktop version. Digital painting programs don't use the normal primary colour mixing approach, as the colour comes from pixels of light. Instead of green, blue and yellow sort of cancel out to grey. ArtRage has invented a unique option that's a lot closer to real life colour interactions.

I just threw some paint on the canvas and happily blended away until I had something resembling a composition. Then I used the oil tube to add some nice bold, 3D mountains, refined the skyline a bit and added a glowing Phoenix.
I just threw some paint on the canvas and happily blended away until I had something resembling a composition. Then I used the oil tube to add some nice bold, 3D mountains, refined the skyline a bit and added a glowing Phoenix.

ArtRage has Textures

Texture is the thing that digital painting tends to fall flat on*. But not in ArtRage.

ArtRage has beautifully thick streaks of paint, rough pencil shading, shiny metallics, stucco-esque paint rollers, great globs squeezed out of tubes, and a range of rolling or scratchy canvases.

Everything has a texture - the various tools, and all the different canvas and paper options.

And all those textures interact.


*NOT SORRY

Lay down some thick paint, grab a palette knife and spread it across the canvas, at the breakfast table. Just don't dip your stylus brush in your cup of tea!
Lay down some thick paint, grab a palette knife and spread it across the canvas, at the breakfast table. Just don't dip your stylus brush in your cup of tea!
Look at that lovely paper texture on the mountains (I used a watercolour brush for that bit).
Look at that lovely paper texture on the mountains (I used a watercolour brush for that bit).

ArtRage is Therapeutic

Art is supposed to be therapeutic in general, but who's going to become sane and one with the the universe by fighting with fiddly settings and spending hours trying to get the colours to flow properly?

ArtRage is easy, ArtRage is fun, and ArtRage lets you swirl around mixing up the pretty colours and creating, and adding fun shiny metallics, and just blending and mixing and changing the textures for as long as you like.

And then you can start all over again with a fresh new canvas.

And you never waste paint, or have to show anyone. You can doodle and dollop as much as you like.

DELICIOUS TEXTURES. This was a mental break in which I just picked up a paintbrush, turned up the metallics and swirled around. I only used two colours here (the dark blue and the gold), the rest are from where it mixed together.
DELICIOUS TEXTURES. This was a mental break in which I just picked up a paintbrush, turned up the metallics and swirled around. I only used two colours here (the dark blue and the gold), the rest are from where it mixed together.

ArtRage Has Gestures

These took me a while to learn, as I wasn't used to an iPad and I really missed my keyboard shortcuts,but once you get the hang of them, they're really intuitive and make the painting process a lot easier.

Off the top of my head, I use:

  • Tool resize, three finger swipe up and down
  • Canvas/reference image movement and zoom, two fingers
  • Three finger tap to show/hidehide the menu bar
  • Three finger swipe sideways to undo/redo (I have a bit of trouble with this one, but I'm getting better at it!)

Cat in the Forest.  I use one of my own photos on the iPad as a reference for the cat, then shrunk her, moved her to the corner and added trees.
Cat in the Forest. I use one of my own photos on the iPad as a reference for the cat, then shrunk her, moved her to the corner and added trees.

Plein Air Paintings and Scripts

The great advantage of an iPad is, of course, portability. The iPad can be taken into the field, or slipped into your bag as you go about your day.


Whether you like sketching over a cup of coffee in a cafe, or make dedicated trips out into the countryside to make studies of landscapes, being able to carry an entire toolkit of 'traditional' media with you in one tiny package is incredibly convenient.

But this app has another feature. Scripts.

Coastal Scene
Coastal Scene

An Experimental Sunset Using A Script (no sound)

What Are Scripts and How Do You Use Them?

Scripts are recordings of your painting process. They record every step, every stroke and every tool change.

What Can You Do With Scripts?


Get Bigger Pictures

You can play them back at larger sizes than you painted them. The latest version of ArtRage 4 has 64 bit support, so you can play stuff back really big . If your computer's good enough, then you can create paintings that are 15,000-18,000 pixels wide or tall.

This is completely different from just resizing a picture. Instead of stretching out a limited number of pixels, you are repainting at a larger size, which means that you are creating new pixels. So instead of a 100% brush on a 1000 pixel canvas, you're using a 500% brush on a 5000 pixel canvas.


Change The Ending

You can watch the playthrough and stop it at any point to take screenshots, or redo what happens next. Completely messed up your painting and forgot to undo it in time? Just play the Script and pause it before it goes horribly wrong!


Share Your Painting Process

You can either use video recording software to create videos as the Script plays back (it also allows you to add annotations on the desktop), or share the .arscript file with people who might like to see how you painted something (note: the free demo of ArtRage will play scripts, it just can't save large canvases).


Turn 'Record Script' on up the top of the New Canvas screen, while you are picking out a dramatic texture and lurid colour for your canvas.
Turn 'Record Script' on up the top of the New Canvas screen, while you are picking out a dramatic texture and lurid colour for your canvas.

How Do You Use Scripts?

Turn Them On

You have to turn 'Record Script' on in the New Canvas screen before you start painting. You can start recording a script at any point on the desktop, but it has to be running from the moment you start staring a new canvas on an iPad.

Play Them Back

Once you have recorded a script, you can play it back an unlimited number of times, in real time or at a faster speed. Each playback will 'repaint' your picture, and can be stopped at any point.

Script files can be played back on the full desktop editions of ArtRage (ArtRage Studio/Studio Pro and ArtRage 4 - but not ArtRage 2, as Scripts weren't invented at that point). The desktop editions also have a few other nifty features for creating and editing Scripts, but that's getting off topic.

Share Them

Scripts can be exported from your iPad, copied, emailed, uploaded, and replayed by anybody with ArtRage, on any computer that can run ArtRage.

I whipped up this erupting volcano in the iPhone app (on the iPad).
I whipped up this erupting volcano in the iPhone app (on the iPad).

Plays Well With Other Editions

One of the nice things about the various ArtRage programs is that they are all cross compatible. All the editions that use scripts can play/create scripts for each other and they all save their paints as the same PTG file type. The mobile editions don't use custom resources like stencils and stickers, because apps don't allow that kind of resource sharing, but they'd get a bit too complicated for a mobile app anyway.

The only restrictions are if you're trying to open a large desktop file on a mobile device that just can't cope - remember, the iPad has a canvas size limit for a reason!

The ArtRage Editions

Desktop: ArtRage 4.5

There is a desktop edition (more than one, actually, but they just update it rather than adding new options, and the older versions still work fine with files from the latest one). This works on Windows and Mac OS, and apparently you can get it running on Linux, too (I need to actually try it sometime - it's an unofficial workaround, but it sounds pretty straightforward).


Mobile: iOS

There are two iOS edtions; the iPad and the iPhone versions.

The iPhone app is a much more basic program with about eight tools, 3-4 presets instead of advanced settings, and basic canvas and importing functions. It's even cheaper than the iPad app, so if you aren't sure, it's worth picking up as a trial version. I often use it as a basic quick paint app.

It works about 90% issue free on the iPad, and the only bugs tend to relate to canvas, tracing and reference image sizes, which may be larger than it was originally designed to handle. But it has layers, textures, colour mixing, an undo button and the most commonly used tools, so what more do you need?


Mobile: Android

This isn't available yet, but it should be soonish, and will probably be similar to the iPad app.



Reducing Glare on the Screen

Sharks avoid glare by hiding from the sun underwater. Sneaky. But iPads don't like water, so we need another solution.
Sharks avoid glare by hiding from the sun underwater. Sneaky. But iPads don't like water, so we need another solution.

Anyone who has taken an iPad out into direct sunlight knows just how bad the glare on the screen is. It can be almost impossible to use the tablet at all, much less paint on it.

But there are some very easy ways to fix this (over than settling down in the shade of a nice big tree).

  • Screen protectors
  • Passive 3D glasses
  • Polarised Sunglasses


iPad Speed & Memory

Like the full desktop program, the speed and memory of your device is extremely important. While the ArtRage app is usable on older iPads, I highly recommend getting the latest available.

The main problems you will experience are:

  • Limited canvas size. The current max size is 2048 pixels, but older iPads cannot handle that and have smaller maximum sizes.
  • Slower stroke processing. ArtRage is a very complicated app, and a lot of the calculations come at the end of the stroke (once it knows which way you're flicking your brush, so to speak). The slower the device, the more noticeable this lag period is. Watercolours, for example, are fine on an iPad air, but noticeably slower on an older model.
  • Available memory. iPads tend to just shut down apps when they run out of memory, which means that your painting may crash in the middle of drawing. ArtRage uses a lot of memory, so this is a major thing to keep an eye on. ArtRage tries to offer quicksave and memory warning features, but you have to notice and use them. And the iPad may still suddenly shut the app down.



The Painting That Crashed. I saved the initial sketch, then went on to keep drawing a lot more,  and even started painting, ignoring the warning that popped up. I learnt not to do that.
The Painting That Crashed. I saved the initial sketch, then went on to keep drawing a lot more, and even started painting, ignoring the warning that popped up. I learnt not to do that.

ArtRage Crashes

If ArtRage is crashing on you, then you will lose your painting progress and you may also end up with a few other bugs. This is almost always due to lack of memory and can be easily fixed.

I have had ONE crash on my iPad Air. And that's when I was working on a long and complicated doodle and ignored the memory warning.

  • If you are experiencing regular crashes, you should check that you have closed all your parked apps. iPads never close anything, instead, they have the annoying habit of leaving every app you ever open running in the background (like minimising to your start menu bar on Windows). There's a FAQ about this on the ArtRage website with instructions.
  • You can also try saving and closing your current painting and then opening it again, as ArtRage is also saving your undo actions. This means that you can undo everything right back to when you opened the painting, but it can also add up to a very large amount of memory after a while.


Basically...

The better the iPad, then the faster the strokes, the larger the files and the smoother the painting experience overall.

Random waves.
Random waves.

Use A Stylus, Not A Finger

While you can fingerpaint on an iPad, I don't really recommend it for serious artists. Get a stylus.

You can pick up various different types of stylus, and add extras to your collection, so it's not a huge commitment to pick one. They're not that complicated, for the most part, with a few caveats.

There are different Nib Types and Connection Types.


Nibs:

Both stylus connection types come in various nib (drawing end) types, so it's a matter of picking the one you want.


  • 'Blunt'
  • Fine point
  • Brush



Connection:

The non pressure sensitive styluses are cheap and reliable, but not nearly as nifty for drawing with.

  • Normal (non pressure sensitive)
  • Bluetooth (pressure sensitive)


Nib Types

'Blunt' Nibs

The commonest and most reliable stylus type, these usually have a round rubber tip that's up to a centimetre across. They mimic a finger, won't damage your screen and aren't great for fine detail.


'Brush' Styluses

Styluses like the Sensu Brush are popular because they have an actual brush tip. This makes them much nicer to paint with, and means that they'll never damage your iPad. However, they're usually not pressure sensitive. They work by hiding a normal stylus nib inside the brushes, which means that the 'drawing' point is actually halfway down the bristles.

I find that it's lovely to use for slow smooth paint strokes, but frustrating for fine detail. Luckily, the Sensu brush is double ended, so I can swap to a normal stylus nib when I want to.


Finepoint Styluses

Everyone wants a finer stylus tip, but they're a bit tricky to implement. Because of the way an iPad screen works, it will often read the end of the stylus as well as the tip itself, which will cause offsets and issues. If you hold the stylus straight up and down, it's usually fine. But as the reviews on the Wacom fineline show (released with much fanfare in September, 2014), this can be pretty frustrating for a supposedly advanced stylus.

There are some approximate software fixes for these issues, but it isn't a complete solution (so when Wacom says 'we've fixed this, and the apps just have to add it', they're... well. They've fixed it as well as they can, but the problem still shows up under certain conditions, so it may not be the app developer's fault).

This is a common problem across finepoint styluses, but there are some design modifications with a lot of potential being looked at, so give the technology another couple of years and it should go away.


The Sensu Brush being used in ArtRage

Do you use a stylus on the iPad?

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Connection Types

Normal Styluses (Non-pressure sensitive)

The cheap, readily available stylus type is basically just a fake finger that you can hold like a pen. The screen uses the same touch info as it would from a finger, so it will be a bit crude for drawing but will work for every app, all the time. The only real differences are the colour and shape.

If they don't specify a bluetooth connection or pressure sensitivity, then it will be this type of stylus.


Bluetooth Styluses (Pressure sensitive)

I don't have a pressure sensitive stylus but I really, really want one. Even an imperfect one would be better than none at all. Drawing on the iPad feels so much like real painting, and I'm so used to my desktop version with a tablet, that not having pressure sensitivity breaks immersion and is frustrating.

These are the real deal of the art world, but they're a lot more complicated, too. Pressure sensitive styluses connect to your iPad using Bluetooth, which means that stuff can go wrong sometimes. But it also allows the stylus to have functions like Palm (Touch) Rejection built in.

Palm Rejection means that it ignores your hand brushing across a screen; this doesn't work so well for art apps, which you may actually be painting in, so palm rejection in ArtRage is simply 'not accidentally painting' when you brush the screen.

They also need their own programming software (SDK) to interpret pressure. There is no single standard, so every bluetooth stylus needs to be specifically coded for.

This means that:

- Apps have to add every stylus individually, so a lot won't be supported (they may not have heard of the stylus, or be able to add it, or think it's worth the effort).

- The stylus code needs to be updated over time by the creators and by the app developers, so that they remain compatible with updates and bug fixes.


ArtRage for iPad currently supports:

  • The three Wacom styluses; fineliner, Intuos Creative & Intuos Creative 2
  • The TenOne Pogo Connect Stylus
  • The Adonit Jot Touch (original) stylus. However, this is a perfect example of the coding/stylus 'gotcha' I mentioned above. This stylus is not supported in the latest iPad iOS. The new stylus cannot be supported in ArtRage for iPad without removing support for the old stylus. So currently, they've stuck with supporting the old one for all the people still using it, but at some point they'll switch over to the new one.

© 2014 FlynntheCat1

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