Creating Carl: iPad Art with ArtRage

Creating iPad art is easy with ArtRage. I think it feels as close to real painting as you could expect from a tablet.

I’ll show you how I use it, but the best way to work it out is to play with it yourself….

Now some would say this first stage is cheating. I say it’s time-saving. I know that I can get a likeness without tracing – but I want to get to the fun bit! So I tap the tracing icon and tap “import image”.

I select the picture of Carl from my photo library, choose the pencil tool by tapping the bottom left corner and loosely trace the image. I zoom in to draw the detail using the usual iPad finger gestures.

This is what happens when you tap the tracing icon after you have imported your image.


Tracing Icon

Tracing Icon

The eye to the top right opens or closes the image. Here it is shown in the “closed” state so the tracing image won’t show on the screen.

The third button is for options including “convert to paint” and “choose colours from image”. I don’t use these.


Tracing the image

Tracing the image

When I finish tracing, I close the photo by tapping the eye.

You can see below that my tracing is loose and not detailed. I just place the features on the page to save myself some time later.

Ah – you can also see that blob in the front which is supposed to be a basket of flowers. I decide that flowers are not my forte and just pretend they aren’t there! 🙂

Sketch layer

Sketch layer

Now I create a new layer by tapping the layer icon.

Two tips on layers which confused me a little at first:

  • make sure the layer you want to paint on is the highlighted layer. Sounds obvious, but easy to forget in the passion of painting!
  • make sure the eye is open on the layer you want to paint on.
Layer Icon

Layer Icon

I like to paint on a separate layer, then delete the sketch layer later to avoid any unwanted pencil marks. You can change the blend mode of the layer – the  blend modes are similar to those in photoshop and can get a bit complicated. At this stage I only use the Normal blend mode.

Starting a new layer

Starting a new layer


I pin the reference photo to the top left corner by tapping the pin icon. There is that eye again (open this time) and the options menu.

Pin Reference Image icon

Icon - Pin Reference Image


Painting with reference photo

Painting with reference photo

I choose the oil brush tool to start my painting. The properties of the brush can be changed by tapping the settings icon below the brush. (There is a screen shot of brush settings below – all the different tools have setting options and there are also pre-sets for some tools if you like shortcuts)


Starting to paint

I paint all the woodwork here… and in doing so, paint over the sketch of the glassware (which is underneath the painting layer) SO:

More painting

Painting the woodwork

  • I turn OFF the painting layer (by tapping the eye icon in the layers menu) so I can only see the sketch layer and the glassware layer
  • I trace my glassware sketch onto the glassware layer – making sure that the glassware layer is the highlighted layer!
  • I turn the painting layer back on by tapping the eye icon again.

Below you can see my glassware tracing layer on top of the painting layer.

Another benefit of painting the glassware as a separate (higher) layer is that I don’t have to worry about the paint of the glass mixing with the paint layer underneath it – unlike “real” painting, the paint never dries!

I make the paint very transparent when painting the glassware by adjusting the thinners in the brush setting to about 86% (see below for a screenshot of the brush settings)

Adding a layer for glassware

Adding a layer for glassware

Finishing off glassware

Finishing off glassware

Below you can see the brush settings in the lower left corner: the current settings are for a very fine line with a 2% size brush. The thinners are quite high making the paint more transparent.

Brush settings and colour mixer

Brush settings and colour mixer

In the lower right corner, you can see the colour mixer– the top bar selects the base colour, the middle adjusts other aspects of the colour.

Underneath the colour mixer you can see a folder – you can store swatches of colours which you can easily use again while painting. I have amassed quite a selection of my favourites so I rarely need to mix a new colour.

Colour Swatches

Colour Swatches

If you are finding it difficult to get a colour, you can use the colour picker tool – can you see that light circle with a dropper inside? Tap the dropper, tap anywhere on the painting or the reference photo and it will get the colour for you. You can then add that colour to your samples or just start painting with it. I call that cheating! 😉

Colour Picker tool

Colour Picker tool

Other tools I use frequently are:

  • the palette knife – to push the paint around and mix paint on the canvas;
  • the airbrush – for subtle blending, shadowing or highlights, particularly using the colour dodge or colour burn blend modes;
  • and the eraser.

For the glassware, I use the eraser on a very fine setting to erase the paint a little – so that it is almost transparent in some spots. I also use it to create the highlights in the red of the bottle neck. Handy!

And here we have the finished work. I have a new admiration for iPad artists. I find it difficult to get the details in the small canvas size – even with zooming in.

I also find it interesting that the texture of the paint in the wood shows through in the candle – even though the paint of the candle is an opaque layer, the settings of the size or thickness of the paint underneath must be such that the texture cannot be covered.

This was a great deal of fun to create and you can be sure I will be sharing more.

Important tip: ArtRage doesn’t autosave so I save my painting continuously. I once lost 3 hours of work because the app crashed!

To see some more ArtRage art:

Carl finished

Carl finished!


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Filed under artrage, ipad art, ipad painting, Portrait Paintings

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