VR Painting vs. Real Life Painting

Anime Painting Girl

I personally love art, and love learning how to paint because it feels so serene!

After a long day at work, I sit down, listen to some ambient music, and paint the night sky scenery.

It’s a great way to de-stress.

There are several VR painting apps out there, but how realistic are they? Can you learn how to paint in VR? And what are the differences between VR painting and real life painting?

I’ll discuss all that in this post.

Can You Learn to Paint in VR? (with Examples)

Take a look at some of the paintings the community made (from both artists and non-artists) and decide for yourself:

VR oil painting

Courtesy of Reddit user racer7c

Vermillion Painting

Courtesy of Tagg the Wolf

VR Scenery Painting

Courtesy of someone from the Vermillion Discord server.

My answer: You absolutely can learn to paint in VR, because the controller tracking is very accurate nowadays and VR offers you a multitude of tools and brushes that makes it feel like real life!

The beautiful thing about painting in VR is that you can take online lessons and follow along during your painting with the in-app web browser. I like to put on some Bob Ross or Stuart Davis and follow along with their paintings.

This makes VR a great entry for beginners into painting.

A lot of skills that you acquire in VR will also transfer to real life.

VR Painting vs. Real Life Painting

There are several distinct differences to painting in real life vs. painting in VR.

Surprisingly, VR painting has more pros than cons. I’ll go over them here:

Pros:

  • Undo button: Unlike real life, you can undo in VR. If you’re a beginner, you’ll find it less frustrating to start painting in VR as you’re likely to make mistakes and can undo them in a single button.
  • No risk of getting paint on yourself or the environment!
  • Don’t have to clean the brushes: In VR you can instantly remove all paint from a brush by pressing a button in case you want to change paint colors.
  • In-app browser: You can open a Youtube video to learn how to paint¬† from whilst in VR.
  • Projector: Allows you to overlay an image on top of the canvas so you can follow along a painting! This is also possible in real life, but harder to set up and comes at additional costs.
  • Convenience: It’s quick and easy to set up and start painting.
  • Cost: You can paint as much as you like without running out of paint and having to buy new brushes/canvases. The minimum cost of getting started in oil painting is $170 and can easily go into the thousands. If you already have VR, it only costs the price of the app which is between $0-$20
  • Multiplayer: Some apps have multiplayer support, allowing you to paint with friends!

Cons:

  • Lack of haptic feedback: You can’t feel the feedback of putting brush to canvas. This is what I miss most, as it’s easier to control how hard I push my brush to the canvas, but sacrifices have to be made ūüôā
  • Controls/tracking take a bit of getting used to (this one’s less of a big deal)
  • You have to wear a headset.

If you have a Quest and find your headset uncomfortable, make sure to read my guide on how to make your Oculus Quest 2 ultra comfortable. I get zero fatigue from doing VR painting for hours!

Overall, VR painting isn’t meant to replace the real thing, but I find it just as relaxing due to all the conveniences that VR offers and there are some magnificent things you can draw!

Recommended VR Painting Apps (2022)

There’s many outdated apps out there, but here’s a summary of the current best VR painting apps in 2022:

  • Vermillion: The most realistic VR painting app. It’s the main one I use and recommend if you have a VR capable PC as it’s only available on Steam and Rift Store.
  • Multibrush: I use multibrush if I want to paint something with friends and have a fun social experience.
  • Open Brush: It’s like Tilt Brush or Multibrush, but it’s completely free and has many more features and has very active development.
  • Art Studio VR: Great for 3D texture modelling (painting on 3D objects) and also has brush to canvas option.
  • Painting VR: Similar to Vermillion, but available on Quest Store as well. Painting VR is slightly less realistic unfortunately.

Avoid Tilt Brush, as it’s basically the same as Multibrush or Open Brush, but costs money. Google stopped development support for Tilt Brush and made it open source, so Open Brush is just a superior version and it’s free.

Do I recommend VR Painting?

I would recommend it to everybody, 100%!

It comes very close to the real thing and is one of the most relaxing activities you can do in VR!!

Skills you acquire in VR can transfer to real life.

Just make sure you make full use of the in-built app browsers. I like to put on:

  • Bob Ross or Stuart Davis tutorials if I’m in a learning mood
  • Sounds of gentle raindrops
  • Classical music
  • Ambient music
  • Game soundtracks

Or all of the above into a Youtube playlist.