Back in ye olden days o’ Macintosh, artists could play with Apple’s MacPaint, a basic piece of software that created basic black and white drawings. When you see Ambient Design’s ArtRage Studio Pro ($80) for the Mac, you’ll be amazed at how far art programs have come since then—from metallic oils to realistic watercolors and airbrushes, ArtRage Studio Pro goes so far beyond even the tools in Photoshop and Illustrator that you can actually create digital paintings that look like physical ones. There are less expensive $20 and $40 versions, as well as an iPad edition, but Pro is loaded with extra tools and layer features that serious artists will want to have at their disposal.
ArtRage Studio Pro’s interface is wonderfully streamlined, and actually quite similar on the Mac to the version for the iPad. Rather than overloading you with text, the app has an attractive collection of brushes and tools in an arc off to the left, with a color picker on the right, using additional intuitive buttons and sliders to let you control layers, zoom levels, metallic effects, and preset selections. As nice as the iPad version feels, it’s missing some of the distinctive tools found here, including the “gloop pen,” shown in this screenshot, which creates brighter edges with a dimmed center—just one of many really cool textured, realistic brushes in the collection. Ambient Design even provides settings to make the on-screen paint behave realistically with quick drying or “wet” characteristics that change how additional paint will interact with what’s there. All that’s missing is Mac App Store support; ArtRage Studio Pro can be downloaded directly from the developer’s web site.