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Tablet As Canvas: 13 Tablet Artistry Apps, Tested

Software for iPad: ArtRage for iPad

ArtRage on the iPad has a simpler interface still, slightly fewer tools and you’ll certainly notice the difference in performance – especially if you've used it on a Core i5 Windows tablet like the HP EliteBook or the new Asus Slate. That doesn’t mean the iPad version isn’t enormously capable and it strikes a great balance between having the tools and options that a serious digital artist will want to get exactly the right effect and having good enough presets and features that you can produce interesting art without having to be an expert.

Keeping track of the color, viscosity, wetness, drying time and stroke information is demanding for the software; expect to have to close other apps you’re running to get enough memory for really complex images where you’re blending multiple paints (although we didn’t find the memory warning on screen actually caused any problems while painting).

The missing stickers and stencils make the interface less cluttered and settings are hidden too; tapping on the brush to get settings instead of a separate button is very intuitive. The color picker is even more of a pleasure to use; swipe along the color arc to pick a new hue and you get a sample pen stroke that's really easy to see on screen. While you can save colors from the picker there’s also an eyedropper handy at the bottom of the screen to re-use a color from your painting. You get many of the same presets for brushes - although ‘just water’ didn’t work as well as in the PC version, because it sometimes added color as well – and you can still make your own.

Choosing color on ArtRage

There are other differences; with the palette knife you have to put down dabs of oil paint separately on the iPad, but you still get a very natural experience for painting and drawing, especially with the best styluses.

On the iPad you also have to get the hang of using two fingers to move the canvas around otherwise you paint when you wanted to pan; you can zoom in and out for detail but remember the brush size will need reducing too.

If you think you can paint but believe you can’t draw shapes, you can use reference images – either pinning them to the canvas to copy freehand or using them as a layer you can trace over. Painting over a reference image and picking up colors is rather confusing and doesn’t work as well as on the PC; but using it as a layer to draw over can give you confidence to get started.

ArtRage is definitely more powerful on the PC, but this is a superb painting package on the iPad as well that makes it far easier than you expect to paint something impressive – and the iPad is far more portable than most PC tablets.