One of the best watercolor simulating programs to be found is Rebelle by Escape Motions. This is a Windows painting app and it simulates real watercolor, ink, and acrylic paint. The current version is Rebelle 3 and they have updated their watercolor simulations to be even more realistic. Textures and stencils have also been added in the newest versions.
The UI of Rebelle 3 has a main menu, brushes, special functions, brush controls, brush heads, layers, color pickers, preview, image reference, stencils, and ruler tools. You can open and close panels, dock or leave them floating, and arrange them anyway you want.
You can also customize your mouse or tablet pen and set up keyboard shortcuts.
There are eight main brush categories: watercolor, acrylic, pastel, pencil, ink pen, marker, airbrush, and eraser. You can also control the brush size, pressure, paint load, and amount of water. The brush modes are: permanent, normal, dirty, clean brush, and eraser brush. There are several presets in each brush category and you can change the settings on these to create and save new brushes.
In the photo above there are some examples of strokes from each brush category. One of the new features in Rebelle 3 is changing the depth on the acrylic impasto brush. There are 8 presets in the watercolor category, 4 in the acrylics, 3 in pastels, 6 in pencils (this includes a charcoal pencil), 4 pen presets, 2 markers, 4 airbrush presets, and seven eraser presets (including an eraser that makes a salt like texture).
There are two types of color picker palettes and you can also create and save color sets.
There is also a navigator panel where you can see your whole canvas and a layers panel. In the layers panel you have controls to see the wet parts of a layer, you can start and stop the water flow, make the whole canvas wet, make the layer dry, and remove the water. There are layer blending modes, a tracing mode, and a function like watercolor masking fluid.
One of the newer features is stencils. There are a few presets, but you can make your own stencils by importing photos into the stencils panel. You can move the stencil, rotate it, and flip it.
What sets Rebelle apart from other digital programs is the water simulations. When you use watercolor, acrylic, and ink you can control the amount of water in the brush. Lots of water makes the paint spread, diffuse, and drip on the canvas. A small amount of water gives a more dry brush effect. When you click the Show Wet button the program highlights all the wet parts of your painting in blue.
In addition to setting the paper texture for the painting, you can create a new brush and set the paper texture for each brush. The grain setting adds the paper texture for the brush. The brush shape can also be changed as well as the jitter, scatter, opacity, and more. You can save your changes as a new brush.
Here are the default paper textures for the brush heads. They are included with Rebelle 3 when you buy it.
When you start a new project you can set the paper size, dpi, and the main paper texture.
Rebelle 3 comes with eight paper textures, but you can buy more packets of paper on the Escape Motions website.
The Rebelle website has four paper packages for $9.99 each. Rebelle 3 comes with the Classic package installed.
The one new feature in Rebelle 3 that I really wanted was the reference window! The previous versions didn’t have this feature and I had to use a third party app for references, but now this version has it!
Rebelle is excellent for simulating ink. For example, you can get a sumi ink style by using a Washi paper texture and one of the ink presets. In this picture I sketched a quick drawing of cherry blossoms. You can also control the ink bleed by increasing or decreasing the water.
Stencils are a new feature for Rebelle and there are several that come with the program. To use them, pick your stencil and paint over it with the medium of your choice.
After you’ve painted over the stencil, you can move it and see your picture. Here I used a bird design stencil and painted over it with watercolor.
You can also create your own stencils by importing photographs into the stencil function. Here I used my photo reference of cherry blossoms to make a stencil.
In Rebelle you can make your watercolor, acrylic, or ink paint look runny depending on the amount of water in the settings. You can control the direction of the drips with the tilt control. This helps mimic traditional watercolor pouring techniques.
When you add other mediums to the watercolor drips, the two mediums blend together as if water was mixing them together. Rebelle 3 has improved this function from previous versions and looks even more realistic now.
When you click on the eye icon in the layers palette, it will show you all the areas that wet. These areas will show up in blue. You can dry them out with another function located in the layers palette.
by Ellie Taylor
Here is a spooky painting that I created for Inktober 2017 using Rebelle 2. As you can see, this program does a good job mimicking ink and watercolor. Here is my video lesson of that painting.
Aaron Rutten has done a very good review of the new features of Rebelle 3 in his YouTube video. Check it out here.
You can find Rebelle at https://www.escapemotions.com/