having primarily used illustrator, photoshop and in the past, corel paint for all of my illustration needs, i was quite pleased to discover artrage. surprisingly robust for such an inexpensive piece of software, artrage provides an intuitive interface made for illustrators and painters. only $59.50 for studio pro, this, coupled with any cintiq tablet, makes for realistic pencil, chalk, ink and brush strokes.
what i found particularly useful were the options to import reference materials and tracing layers. true, you could always layer in reference in photoshop and illustrator but it makes the document size larger and interfers with visibility of the working image. artrage takes care of that by floating the reference on top with “push pins” keeping it separate from the working image much like you would if you were working freehand at a drafting table. this also eliminates my need for creating sketches, scanning and piecing the images together again. because the software is engineered to be used with a stylus, the sensitivity of a pen tool is captured with all of the subtleties of pressure and strokes.
the settings to adjust the brushes has an extensive range allowing for full control over blending, opacity, texture, softness, thinners, mixing, etc.
i love the canvas tool for the creation of a full range of paper textures and the ability to apply multiple paper textures to different layers (helpful if you’re going for a mixed media effect). again, you can use the brush controls to determine whether your surface is wet or dry and how media will blend on the page.
even the navigation tool is genius allowing me to rotate and zoom the canvas easily by using this handy flywheel. its little touches like this that give me the warm and fuzzies mimicking real time freehand drawing. this is especially useful when i’m layering in pencil strokes and need to rotate the image to facilitate a natural curve. the color picker is conveniently tucked in the corner of the art board and adding color samples is just a simple click.
the results are beautiful bespoke illustrations that look anything but computer generated. i’m able to work in high resolution allowing my clients to resize, crop and reproduce these images with amazing clarity.
if that wasn’t enough, there is even an artrage app for the ipad! i use sketchbook pro but like having the versatility of the artrage app as well as some of the additional tools that sketchbook lacks. again, plenty of bang for the buck and best yet, you can download for a test drive and get more info on artrage here.
all images ©janene dunbar and may not be used without my permission.