If you want to simulate natural painterly effects in a digital file, everyone knows that the application of choice is [Corel Painter](http://www.corel.com/painterix/home/index.html), right? Only $400 and all the palettes, dials, switches and options you can get in a paintbrush.
I have the limited version lying around somewhere that came with my Wacom tablet years ago. Played with it a few times. I’m not even sure if the version I have will install in OS X. When I want to draw something, I tend to fire up Photoshop (such as the flowers in my banner and icons).
Well, what if you just want to play with painting either for fun or profit and you don’t have the money to shell out for Painter or Photoshop? You have to try [ArtRage](http://ambientdesign.com/artrage.html). I know it’s been out for a while, but I just got around to trying it. It’s beautiful, runs on Mac OS X or Windows and it’s free! Really! When you launch the application there’s a kindly request for money, but it’s more of a suggestion than a rule. So far, it’s well worth whatever pocket change you can spare if this is what the company is capable of.
I’ll say this off the top…it’s not Mac-like. I don’t know why being Mac-like is so important to some people. If you’re one of those people, then avoid this application. It takes over your screen with its own set of menus and sliders, although you do have the option to have the interface in a separate floating window. It’s not Mac-like (or Windows XP-like) and quite frankly, I don’t care. You don’t need a manual on how to use this application any more than you need a manual when someone hands you a wooden stick with bristles glued to one end and a can of paint. A child instinctively knows what to do when you stick a crayon in their hand, and so will you when you launch this application.
This is a screen shot of the interface. Isn’t it purty?
You can load an image to trace over, or import an image and it loads as if it were paint (so you can blend colors together from the original image). You can export your masterpieces as JPEG or PNG (or BMP if anyone still uses that) and select from different surfaces to paint on. Mind you, those are limited options compared to Painter and if you use Painter this is probably no substitute, but for a free application it’s great.
While I was playing with it, it reminded me of Kai Krause. His applications (most famous for Kai’s Power Tools) are more about the experience than the results. You get lost in them, just clicking and seeing what happens next as one things mutates to the next. Great for finding that happy accident not-so-great when you want to duplicate the effect and can’t remember what the #%#@ you did to get it. Sure enough, [Ambient Design](http://www.ambientdesign.com) developers appear to have worked on a number of [KPT filters](http://ambientdesign.com/kpt.html) when the company producing KPT was called MetaCreations (many buy-outs and mergers ago…now Corel [has it](http://www.corel.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=Corel3/Products/Display&pfid=1047024307431&pid=1047022702225)) so my sense of comparison was not coincidental.
When I went back to ArtRage to check on a few things while writing this, I had to remind myself to stop doodling and get back to ecto and finish this entry. Just fun and creative for the sake of being fun and creative, without interface getting all in the way and no supplies to put away when you’re done.