While I usually only review resources and tools when I stumble across them, this summer I was contacted by a gentlemen working on publicizing the new release of ArtRage. He was curious if I would like to review version 2.5 of one of the most fanastic painting programs I’ve ever had a chance to use (read up on my original post about Art Rage). The gentlemen was even nice enough to send us a complimentary USB tablet in order to utilize ArtRage as it was intended, as a true painting simulator with stylus input rather than a mouse.
Now that the obligatory information on the free tablet and piece of software has been divulged, I can get on with the review; which is where I decided to hand things off to my wife, who just happens to be a K-8 Art teacher. I thought it would be more appropriate for her to put the software and tablet through it’s paces.
ArtRage & Adesso CyberTablet 6400 Review by Nicole Rimes
Art Rage is one of my favorite free art programs. So, when my husband told me he had a full version to review, I was tickled pink with getting to use all the nifty tools that comes with the program.
I have used the free downloadable version on my computers at school for 4 years now. My middle school students use it for multiple projects throughout the year. It takes them less than 30 minutes to get comfortable with it and create some incredible art. They can use the tracing paper over photographs they took themselves to manipulate images, or use the colors that already exist on the photograph to “color” it in. They also do some freehand work. They are able to do all this on Macs with a one-button mouse.
The first thing I noticed was that the Adesso CyberTablet 6400 was much simpler to use than the touch pad on my laptop for drawing. It has a lot more control than a mouse would too, at least for some applications. I still had trouble getting certain tools and other commands using only the stylus, and I switched back and forth to my touch pad for those things. Using the stylus for the drawing was great. There was a lot more control and I could manipulate the paint better than before. I just had to remember not to treat it like a mouse and pick it up and move it to where I wanted it on the tablet rather than sliding it along to move the curser.
I let my preschooler play with it for a while and she responded well to the tool. Once she discovered how to move it without sliding it like the mouse (guess it runs in the family), she could draw what she liked. She was able to write her name, mix colors, and draw herself. She had trouble choosing colors, but I think that was more of hand-eye coordination than with ease of use. She was able to manipulate the brushes and crayons very well, although she missed some of the stamp features of other art programs.
What I Liked:
As an art teacher who uses Art Rage with her students, I was in love with the control the tablet gave me over a traditional mouse. I could make much more refined lines than without it. I began by just playing around with a tracing image. What would normally have taken several hours, took maybe 30 minutes with the tablet. I was able to paint a portrait of my daughter in about 30 minutes using the tablet tool. I liked how I could change colors quickly, blend smoothly, and create delicate lines that simulated brush strokes. It is also sensitive enough that I could apply different pressures with the paintbrush on screen by changing pressure on the stylus. That was a nice feature versus the mouse which didn’t have any pressure sensitivity at all.
What I Didn’t Like:
While the stencil tool is a great addition, it was not very intuitive to use. Moving the stencil to where you want it is not as simple as just clicking and dragging. It requires a bit of patience and a trip to the “help” feature. Stencils can be found on page 69. The “Help” feature is wonderful and reading through the manual after having started playing with the program was a great help. Who reads the manual before you start playing anyway?
What I didn’t like was that occasionally the stylus would “jump” creating color where I didn’t want it to be. It would randomly create an extra squiggle of color near where I was working. This was very frustrating. If I had been doing something more delicate, I would have spent a lot of time erasing or undoing what I was creating.
I was also disappointed with the way it didn’t react well to other applications. I had to switch back and forth with the touch pad in order to move the window, choose new tools, or colors. The mouse that came with the tablet was nearly useless. It responded like the stylus in that wherever it was on the tablet, it was on the screen. I couldn’t slide it around like a typical mouse. The tablet was much too small to use the mouse in any useful fashion at all. The mouse HAS to be used on the tablet and can’t be used on the table or another surface, making it obsolete as far as I’m concerned. I would use my own mouse, or keep using the touch pad on my laptop rather than the mouse.
My middle school art students would probably enjoy the tablet for drawing applications on the computer. It was easy enough to get used to, as long as they don’t want to get extremely detailed. It was much more delicate than a mouse or touch pad. I would recommend the tablet to anyone who wanted it to “play” rather than as a professional tool.
Art Rage lends itself well to artists of all ages, though older users will probably get more benefit from using something of this caliber. Its many features, including stencils, metallic paint (way cool!) and tracing paper are a wonderful mix of tools to get started on your digital art project.
I absolutely love Art Rage. There I said it. I do. It’s the coolest art program out there that is SIMPLE. I can use it for doodling and playing, or I can use it for more sophisticated artwork. The paint looks like paint. The markers darken up if you use them in the same place just like a real marker. You can smear the paint right from a tube around the canvas and mix the colors just like you could with real paint: without the mess!