How to Paint in VR: Tilt Brush 3D Art Workflow and Unitilities

12 Jan , 2018 Academy Kab Age

How to Paint in VR: Tilt Brush 3D Art Workflow and Unitilities

About Kab Age: Kab Age, known as Zaw Imagineering in the 3D art community, is a 3D artist focusing on VR presentations/animations using Google’s Tilt Brush software. Follow him on VeeR, YouTube and Facebook to see more of his work.

Tilt Brush is a room-scale 3D painting virtual reality application developed and published by Google. Since its launch in April 2016, the program has become a go-to program for artists aspiring to bring their work into the 3D realm. 

Today I’m guiding you through a Tilt Brush painting process of a peacock, and breaking down the controls and related software while I’m at it. Without further ado, let’s jump in!

Tilt Brush Painting Process

Basics: Brush Opacity

Today I will walk you through a typical Tilt Brush workflow by showing you how to paint a peacock. 

Before we start, one thing needs to be clarified: Most of Tilt Brush’s 36 brushes are opaque, and repeated laying down of one color, be it a highlighter, ink brush or a textured brush, doesn’t so much as saturating that color as making it brighter. That said, darkening a color will make it appear less opaque, and whitening will make it more opaque.  

This counter-intuitive fact is very important to know, especially now that the closest you can get to make a wet blend is to lay down low-opacity colors. Virtually though, all of the colors will look like bright white noise after about 6 layers.

Inspect this image below to see exactly what I mean.

This characteristic of Tilt Brush is really good for highlights/dodging but kind of counter-productive for shadows/burning. For this problem, you can use a flat brush with a darker color, or contrast your current color with highlights to create shadows. 

Right here I’m painting the peacock tail, and you can see how the velvet brush starts over-driving the color into white (in this case we are using 2 colors to get several different colors). 

Basics: Controls

With the previous essential fact in mind, now we’re ready to start a New Sketch.

Tilt Brush comes with a set of various brushes, such as regular ink brushes, spatter brushes and markers; it also offers animated brushes and special effects brushes such as stars, snow and rainbow. You can flip through different pages to look for the brush you want to use.

You can use the color wheel just like any other digital painting program to select colors.

To bring up the menu, push the top button of your drawing wand for brushes, making selections, setting the environment and accessing additional controls for your sketch. The program also features a built-in camera that captures video, gifs, and high-resolution snapshots.


You can also refer to the Featured Models Library or check out Tips and Tricks to make your workflow more efficient.

Now I’m about to change the background color, so I can see the bird’s head more easily. One thing unique about the Eyedropper Tool in Tilt Brush is that when you pick up a color, it picks up the exact same brush you used as well.

On this image, you can see I’m placing a copy of the original feather set on the bird for wings. Note that it’s a good idea to keep copies of certain parts away from your 3D model for quick selections. 

It’s also important to know that selections and erasing don’t work when you’re in mirror mode, and you will have to take either or both actions manually.

Considering that you’re working in a 3D space, while you’re painting, you are also sculpting with light and modeling. In my opinion, Tilt Brush is very similar to creating paper mache art in real life. 

You can export your models into .fbx files, which can work in games and animations too. Cool huh?

Tilt Brush Utilities

Here’s a quick summary of the tools I use after working in TiltBrush. These software utilities can enhance your sketches and make your processing workflow more efficient. Most of the tools listed here can be used on 360 videos/images as well.  

Manipulating a 360 image might lose its metadata during the process. To make it display correctly, drag and drop the image into the software and click “Add Metadata”, which will rename your original image and output an injected image. 

If you have lost metadata after mixing video clips, this will give your video the proper metadata to display in monoscopic or stereoscopic format.

Not the easiest mixer but if you want to mix assorted models and images, this software can produce professional-level results, in spite of a relatively steep learning curve. 

Here is how to set up the camera for two 360 formats: monoscopic or stereoscopic.

Although designed for Garmin Virb products, this software will work with any injected image or video and is very efficient. Changing overlays is a nightmare, but the rest is pretty straight-forward. Their jargon for little planets is hyperframe mode. 

Sometimes you want a 2D image or overlay in your scene, or your image needs some adjustment, and GIMP can be a nice solution for cutting a stereoscopic image into a monoscopic image, or adding filters to your image. Do keep in mind that you will need to stitch it into a 360 panorama, so filters you use should be limited to those that don’t move edge lines.

This has a GIMP plug-in to use within GIMP, but I also recommend grabbing the CLI (command line interface) for batch processing image sequences.

(See sample effect below)

With Kolor Autopano, you can make gigapixel 360 images out of 50-100 images from a single spot taken with a camera. The software also offers 10 projection modes including little planet.

Here’s a video for stitching Garmin 5.7k raw images, which should be about same as any other dual-lens camera.

Unity’s new release on December 28, 2017 does not sit well with Tilt Brush, so I recommend that you grab the 2017.2 version for. I managed to get this to work with just limited coding skills. 

The interface is kind of overwhelming like Blender but it is actually pretty easy with its drag-and-drop coding. After you’ve got Unity loaded and running with a new project, import SteamVR assets from the Unity asset store,  download this Tiltbrush unity package on Github, and drag & drop it into your assets folder.

Now you can drop your exported Tilt Brush sketch into the assets folder. The Tilt Brush model should look and work like it does in Tilt Brush. You will have to add audio reactivity prefab from the Tilt Brush SDK to make your .fbx models react to audio though.

Got questions? I know I’m still raising new questions every day, but it’s part of the learning process. Feel free to ask me questions on specific areas, or enlighten me with easier, more streamlined processes. One thing to keep in mind is to keep drawing, painting or photographing, as all these tools would be useless without your initial work.

Kab Age is a 3D artist focusing on VR presentations/animations. In his own words, he takes a gamer’s approach to projects. He’s also a prolific 360 artist, and has created numerous digital art pieces using Google’s Tilt Brush program.
Click below to follow him on VeeR, YouTube and Facebook to see more updates from him.

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