Virtual reality has, for the most part, been associated with gaming and education. However, digital technologies, such as VR, are experiencing transformative uses in art and design. VR devices are fast becoming a creativity tool that we can use to create 3D art, from sculpting to painting and animation. Imagine having an idea, picking up your virtual sketchbook and seeing your thoughts come to life, straight from your mind into a 3D canvas. Not only that, but VR technology allows you to think big, we mean really BIG.
You can create at whatever scale you want and navigate your virtual environment however you want, like walking around or through your designs. Whether what you're looking for is painting, modeling, sculpting or animating, there's plenty of software for creating art in VR, which makes knowing where to get started quite the challenge. That's why we put this list together.
Without further delay, and in no particular order, here are the best VR art-making applications you might consider downloading.
Available on: Quest, Oculus PC, SteamVR
Ideal for: Sketching, 3D Modeling
Gravity Sketch is a communication tool for cross-disciplinary teams that allows multiple users to work on the same 3D model across different devices, environments and geographical locations. This enables the easy creation of 3D projects. Gravity Sketch is particularly useful for large scale projects that require co-creation, prototyping, detailed 3D modeling and a heavy design workload. It also enables users to upload traditional CAD models. Teams can annotate within the VR workspace, share ideas in 3D and review plans at a one-to-one scale. Gravity Sketch can help create a wide variety of virtual assets, including shoes, glasses and cars.
From the developer: Express your ideas in real-time, at any scale, from concept sketches through to detailed 3D models. Create using a wide variety of digital tools in Virtual Reality and supporting tablet applications. View and manage your designs on your desktop using the LandingPad cloud platform, and integrate Gravity Sketch within your end-to-end workflow.
Available on: Quest, Oculus PC, SteamVR
Ideal for: Illustration
This Google software takes the experience of painting in three dimensional environments to a new level. Users can make creations do virtually anything, excepting touching: walk around, walk through, have a peak and more. Tilt Brush includes multiplayer support and an open-source toolkit that allows users to export Tilt Brush drawings for use in animation. This is an incredible tool for professionals like artists, fashion designers or architects, who can walk around their virtual creations. in real-time. In fact, you might be interested in checking out Google's Tilt Brush artists-in-residence program to see some of the art created by some of the world's best artists. Earlier this year, Google axed development of the app, but it remains live as an open-source project.
From the developer: Tilt Brush lets you paint in 3D space with virtual reality. Unleash your creativity with three-dimensional brush strokes, stars, light, and even fire. Your room is your canvas. Your palette is your imagination. The possibilities are endless.
Available on: Oculus PC
Ideal for: 3D Sculpting
If you're looking for a tool to mode, sculpt and paint in an immersive virtual environment, then this is the right choice for you. Medium is a creative virtual reality tool that helps you craft high-end 3D models like spaces, characters, artwork and design assets with complete freedom. Users can benefit from using pre-created assets to aid in production, such as shapes, anatomy parts and fonts. A great feature of Oculus is the ability to reshape models on the fly without remeshing, make multiple copies, quickly change tools, and instantly undo actions.
From the developer: VR is a revolution in 3D asset creation and Medium by Adobe is the premiere VR creative tool. Sculpt and model in an immersive environment. Whether you're a total beginner, aspiring creative, or professional artist, quickly and easily create 3D objects and expressive works of art. Kitbash hardsurface models with over 300 stamps plus snapping and constraint features. Export your asset as an OBJ or FBX. 3D print your model, use it in your favorite game engine, or bring it into another program for special rendering, compositing, and painting work.
Available on: Quest, Quest 2
Ideal for: Illustration
This popular painting simulator mixes the experience of real-life painting with the unlimited opportunities for creativity enabled by virtual reality environments. With Painting VR, Users can mix unlimited amounts of fresh paint while creating on realistic canvases. Just like you would expect in real-life, brushes are realistic enough to feel authentic to the touch and users can experiment with colors and compositions to unleash their creativity.
From the developer: Painting in virtual reality is easy: mix your colors, dip your brush in and start painting. The experience is very hands-on, easy to understand, and aimed at all ages. Play around and feel the relaxing satisfaction of putting unlimited amounts of fresh paint on a huge canvas. Teach yourself the basics of colors, the painting process and composition. Sharpen your skills by experimenting with the tools and techniques at hand, and become part of a new wave of digital artists. All without having to bother about cleaning up afterward.
Available on: SteamVR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive
Ideal for: Sculpting
This is another tool that seizes on the strength of collaboration in the world of VR artistic expression. Unbound Alpha was developed by HTC Vive and allows teams to work on the same project without the hassle of sharing assets or discussing ideas outside the platform. It's a great option for those looking to bring virtual assets to life in a quick and efficient way, without a lot of technological holdups. Teams can present ideas amongst themselves, to clients and stakeholders in 360º virtual meeting spaces. Projects can be exported for 3D printing and there's also have a compatibility feature for OBJ.
From the developer: Meet Less, Collaborate More. Design new products live with your entire team inside an immersive space. Now everyone can contribute.
Available on: Oculus Store (PC)
Ideal for: Illustration, Animation
Facebook's Quill is a quick tool for 3D illustration and animation that enables the creation of immersive storytelling. Projects can be completed from initial sketch to the final product, all entirely in VR, with the help of an all-in-one timeline that helps keep storylines neat. It's an ideal tool to pre-visualize projects, create design concepts and develop short animated features. Quill features a wide array of creative animation tools, including watercolor style, pencil and oil painting options. For a quick and easy introduction to Quill, make sure to check their many instructional videos.
From the developer: Quill is the VR illustration and animation tool built to empower artists and creators, whether to create final art or as a production tool for concept creation aid. Quill allows users to paint and animate in virtual reality on an infinitely scalable canvas with rich colors and intuitive tools. Quill is designed to be expressive, precise and to let the artist’s “hand” come through clearly, whether that’s a watercolor style, pencil style, oil painting style or other.
Available on: Quest, Oculus PC, SteamVR, PSVR
Ideal for: 3D sculpting, Modeling
As the name indicates, this is an app directed mainly at sculpting. SculptrVR provides a range of tools that enables users to create shapes, carve out details and paint them. It also includes some more entertaining features like blowing up your sculpture. Sculpting is, of course, an art on touching what's being created. But SculptrVR is a great virtual reality creation tool that can help bring a different layer of creativity into this form of art.
From the developer: Create sprawling, brilliant worlds and explore them with your friends! Invite your friends to an online game, then race to the finish with hang-gliders, or switch to climbing mode for even more fun. Discover thousands of amazing creations in the interactive gallery then remix them however you want! When you're happy with your creation, you can upload to the SculptrVR content gallery and let others see the incredible things you've made.
Available on: Steam, Oculus Store (PC), Viveport
Ideal for: Illustration, Animation
This app enables users to draw and animate in VR, based on tools used in traditional animation like frames, onionskin, multiple timelines, and more. Other key pros of AnimVr include timeline features, important and export functions and compatibility with Quill.
From the developer: Hand-drawn animation in VR combines the best parts of traditional animation with the advantages of digital content creation tools. Jump right into storytelling, without worrying about topology, rigging or skinning. Create environment layouts, 3D storyboards, animatics and whole experiences! According to industry animators, drawing 3D storyboards in VR is just as fast as the traditional 2D workflow, but it gives you the freedom to move the camera anywhere you want.
Available on: Oculus Store (PC), SteamVR, Viveport
Ideal for: 3D Sculpting, Rigging
Masterpiece Studio is a suite of 3D tools across two products: Masterpiece Creator and Masterpiece Motion. Creator lets artists tap into virtual sculpting possibilities, combining traditional 3D creation abilities with volume sculpting and brush painting. Masterpiece Motion is a tool geared towards modeling and animation.
From the developer: The first fully immersive 3D creation pipeline ever. A suite of professional, intuitive, and easy-to-use immersive tools. Make high-fidelity 3D models and animations intuitively and easily. We remove technical barriers to make it easy to create 3D content from concept to animation. We harness the power of virtual reality and machine learning to let any creative professional easily adapt their 2D skills into 3D.
Available on: Oculus PC, SteamVR
Ideal for: Modeling, Animation
Tvori is a program directed at those who plan to create animated stories in VR. Users can delve into animation, scene creation, rigging and character creation. There are also extensive lighting and effects features, and users can record scenes using Tvori's built in camera. Moreover, it's easy to export and transfer models to and from other 3D applications.
From the developer: Create story prototypes such as animatics & previs, prototype XR apps, and make complete animated films. Prior knowledge of 3D content creation is not required to get started creating in Tvori. It’s easy to learn as you go! Use a library of simple shapes, props, and effects. You can also import 3D models, images, videos, and sounds. Export your work as videos, 360 videos, photos, 360 photos, VR experiences, and 3D models with animations.
Final thoughts and considerations
One aspect to keep in mind when choosing a VR art-making application is the type of VR hardware you have (most of the apps we mentioned require headsets featuring six degrees of freedom). Not only that, but you might have to take a look at your computer as these types of applications also require VR-ready PCs. If this isn't an issue for you, then the good news is that even though there are great VR tools already available for artists or aspiring artists, the technology is still in its infancy.
Better and more technically advanced art-making tools are only bound to appear in the coming years. And with that, artists will have new ways of expressing themselves and creating unimaginable forms of art.