I opened Escape Motions' Rebelle 2 for the first time and I must say, my first impression was good! What you first see is a welcome tutorial (which you can re-access at any time going to help--> intro tutorial). It's concise, well designed and gives you a quick look that will get you painting in no time.
Look and Feel
Great UI: sexy and clear. We visual artists tend to be very... well, visual. So making the tools a graphic representation of the actual medium instead of text or a tiny icon makes me feel comfortable and at ease.
All panels are dockable. You can modify, change positions and adjust the width of panels. Panels hide while painting on the canvas behind them, so you can make the interface work for you.
For someone who uses the navigator panel a lot, I love the fact that they added the most used canvas controls to that panel. Zoom, rotate, flip, fit to screen, all in convenient icons.
Even before testing specific functions, I just played with it. Just making loose strokes here and there, a stem, some leaves, a couple of petals... 20 minutes later I remembered I was supposedly just trying a few strokes and I realized... I LOVE this! I forgot about everything else and was just plain enjoying and it felt so comfortable! I truly felt free, like tools were there to assist me instead of being in the way. I know I'm just starting to test it, but I think I just found the true value of Rebelle: it sets me free!
The Shining Star: Wet Media
Undoubtedly, Rebelle's strength is in wet media, particularly in watercolor. It really feels like you're working with the real thing. No other digital watercolor engine feels as real as this one.
It also comes packed with useful and fun features to get the best out of this engine. You can wet the entire layer, dry the entire layer, pause the water dispersion, fast dry (dries the paint, but keeps the layer wet). It also has a water tool, a dry tool, even a blow tool so you can blow in the direction of your stroke, and an amazing Tilt feature that lets you tilt the canvas so you'll make the paint flow in a certain direction. You can control this from its own panel, but if you have a device with an accelerometer, the canvas will tilt as you tilt your device!
I love how everything you do interacts with the canvas. The paint deposits on the grooves of the canvas and gets darker there, just as in real life. The behavior of your strokes, wet or dry, feels good. It makes you wanna paint.
You can change the color and texture of your canvas and even import your own textures to use as canvas.
Some of the features I liked in the Color Sets:
- The ability to create a color set from the last used colors (new to Rebelle 2). Very handy!
- The mix color tool allows you to mix the picked color with the previous color. You can set the Mix mode sensitivity in Preferences.
- You can create a color set from an image, which is great if you use images as color inspiration.
New to Rebelle 2, stencils are a great addition to the tools. They're essentially masks, but you use them and interact with them as you would in traditional media. What's so amazing about them is that they interact with the wetness of the paper and the paint, opening so many artistic possibilities!
In the words of Escape Motions:
"Not only the paint is prevented from the place where the stencil is placed but also water and wet painting take stencils into consideration. For example, if you wet a layer where stencil is placed the whole layer will get wet except the area covered by the stencil. This works the other way around too - if a stencil is placed on the wet layer and you hit the 'Dry the layer' button all is dry except the stencil area."
What I'd like to see improve:
- Auto-save and recovery.
No matter how much we know we should save often, when you're creating you tend to get "in the zone" and forget all about it until it's too late.
- The ability to accelerate the water interactions.
Sometimes we want the liquid properties to keep doing their thing, but we are in the zone and want to keep painting! When working with traditional media this sucks, because if you use a hair dryer you'll stop the diffusion, so your only option is to wait. But this is digital! It would be great to sometimes accelerate what the interaction with water would do, keep it going till the end, but skip the waiting time.
The Key Features of Rebelle 2
New brush engine - You can create your own custom brushes, even with your own alphas. With an option to use GPU acceleration (yet experimental), brushes can have a bigger size and faster response. I must say, I couldn't test the GPU acceleration because when I set that preference on, I couldn't start the program without it crashing. However, they're working on it because it's a very requested feature.
Creative Stencils and Masking Fluid - Stencils in combination with watercolor diffusion opens new possibilities for budding artists. Users can mask out painting areas, wet the paper and let the watercolor simulation create its magic.
Selection Tools - Create quick masks and define shapes that block off the areas you do not wish to change. Classic freehand, polygonal, elliptical and rectangular selections got a new meaning when used in combination with traditional wet media.
Layered PSD Support - PSD import & export with layers!
Faster Performance - Undo/redo and file management are optimized so the whole painting process, including opening and saving big artworks, is much more fluent.
Multi-touch Experience - Rebelle has complete support for multitouch gestures for Wacom, Microsoft, Apple and alternative tablet and trackpad devices, including Astropad application.
User Interface - Interface is intuitive and easy to use, ideal for beginners or traditional professionals which may find that creative process can be very fluent also in a digital art. Simplicity and every important feature in reach is the first thing you find when using Rebelle.
Whether you're a digital artist who wants to try traditional media without leaving the comfort of the digital realm, or you're a traditional artist who wants to try digital painting without feeling lost, you should definitely give Rebelle 2 a try. Even if you like both worlds, like me, you'll find Rebelle's ease of use and realistic feel make a great addition to your digital toolset.