One particular program that has been a standout for me since its initial release is ArtRage, from Ambient Design. Like older versions, the new ArtRage emulates the appearance and production of real-world drawings and paintings. You can make a drawing that looks like graphite or charcoal on paper, or a "painting" that has the appearance of watermedia--whether transparent or opaque--on a variety of textures similar to real world counterparts like canvas or sketching paper. Moreover, ArtRage not only allows you to make a digital image that resembles traditional ones but also (at least in part) reproduces the physical qualities of the medium. That is, watercolors can be laid down transparently in ArtRage, on absorbent "paper"that allows the color to bleed into the background. Or "oil paint" can be mixed and blended very similarly to the real tubed counterpart.
The ArtRage interface is simple enough to use, with a toolbar at the top, a set of tools in one corner and a color-picker in the other, although both can be hidden to reduce clutter. Popups for layers, orientation and color samples can be left open constantly or kept closed to reduce clutter. One outstanding feature of ArtRage is a small widget that lets the artist pin a reference image to the computer screen while drawing or painting, just as you would on a traditional drawing board. Another widget, called Tracing, functions the way that a light box and tracing paper did in pre-computer days--you can upload and trace an image for easy transfer.
This image is posted larger to show the "paper"--the swirly digital surface resembles actual handmade paper. When you draw it seems to catch and darken certain media (graphite, charcoal) the way a real surface might. The idea here was to emulate the dark, twisted ridges of scars on her face. The result was gratifying, if horrible to contemplate.
Although I have not tried, it's no doubt possible to make an image to resemble oil paint as well. I one suspect it would take considerably longer and involve several layers.
For me, that remains another challenge.
Nonetheless, ArtRage5 extends the line of useful, versatile, artist-friendly art apps available at a reasonable cost. You can download it for tablets, laptops and desktops from various sources online, including of course the official ArtRage site.
Previous post: Digital Sketching