Fabien Benetou edited this page Jan 26, 2017 · 28 revisions

TL;DR: VR painting is not perfect but it's fun and useful already today! (Watch VR_Human live painting session still)

Few days ago in Brussels the world first* VR painting jam took place! The entire weekend of the 14 and 15 of January 2017 we gathered artists and hackers at MolenGeek and set up our virtual reality (VR) hardware. Saturday early morning in cold cold Brussels we started as early as 9AM. Some fighting the snow from Antwerp and others like VR_Human, our guest artist invited thanks to Mozilla, all the way from Germany. We installed several HTC Vive and an Oculus Rift. Making sure that we could easily (and safely!) move around without having interference from each other.


Quick VR paintings from our guest artist VR_Human

Before diving into technical tips we need to clarify why we did that. Why did we all wake up so early and carried all our gear elsewhere? Because... making 3D objects is hard!

It is becoming easier and easier to consume 3D objects in VR or on a traditional screen. Yet, before playing or working with those objects someone has to make them. Until recently that meant basically

blender example

  1. Starting with a base primitive
  2. carefully picking vertices, polygons or edges
  3. adjust by pulling them around or applying complex 3d operations
  4. rotate the view to check the object from all sides
  5. go to step 1 or 2 until you give up you are satisfied

That was a pain but that was the only affordable solution. Working in a 2D space, finding the point you want to change, rotate the view, change, repeat. It works but it is terribly tedious and not natural. It was limited to the few talented (it's not easy to project yourself in space) and dedicated (it takes hours) artists willing to accept the state of the tools. Then affordable precise room scale came along. Your position but also the position of your hands could be located in a 2x2x2m box with a sub-millimeter precision. There is no projection here, no mental model of axis: you push the button, move your arm, it draws in front of you. You take a step forward and can literally walk around your painting.


Sadly this amazing progress in itself is not enough to make each and everyone of us an artist. We can all take a pencil and draw on a piece of paper. It doesn't mean we will draw a master piece. At least though, it means we can express ourselves naturally. If we are willing to dedicate the time required to progress, we can all make 3D objects a lot more easily and that is great news for VR! That's the promise of painting in VR.

In order to train we had to install the precious hardware. It's great to be able to install a bunch of fancy hardware in the same space until you figure out they don't always play so well. Here are few tips that helped us:

  • put tape as marking on the floor to delimit the space
  • draw a very conservative chaperon if your participants are inexperienced
  • there is no problem having a Vive and Rift in the same room
  • install the base stations as high as you can
  • you can install 2 Vive in the physical space sharing 2 base stations
  • you can't install more than 2 base stations in the same space
  • if the base stations can't see each other, plug the sync cable

Once that was done we had to actually decide what to do with ourselves so we briefly discussed, shown each other what was possible, what was missing, etc.

A quick trick that was found straight away was that you can use the inspector in Apainter.


  1. start Apainter and use it
  2. remove the HMD, start the inspector with ctrl+alt+i
  3. modify (move, scale, delete, etc) your strokes or reference objects
  4. got back to VR f and keep on drawing

This was a neat discovery even though it means removing then putting back the HMD and the controllers, which rapidly becomes cumbersome.

During lunch we discussed about individual motivation, what could realistically be done in less than 36hrs then started to paint and code during the afternoon. As time passed the list of ideas grew until it became hard to recall what was a new idea, what was a recurring need, etc. What could be do? Use the tools at our disposal of course: you can then explore our TODO list as a VR painting with quick prototypes on the far boundaries of the space (don't forget that you can teleport).

TODO list

Apainter on the Oculus

To setup Apainter with the Oculus Touch

  1. install the experimental chromium latest from webvr.info
  2. enable webvr and gamepad extensions
  3. use mchen's testing instance (cf mchen's branch and PR 164 )

As the list of limitations and ideas grew we had to dig inside the code of Apainter but thanks to @feiss's great article on addPoint() it was a lot easier. Code

The evening we gathered in the main room to paint one after the other, from experienced VR artists like VR_Human or artists who just discovering the tool like Raphaël Villegas to hackers to random curious visiting the space for the occasion. Everybody had to try. We played a bit of pictionary or draw inspired by music or each other.


Watching the expert show us what can be done




No excuses!

As the night settled people left one by one, only the most passionate coded and painted until the sunrise.


Raphael explored nearly non stop, learning very fast

In the morning after a quick but well deserved breakfast (with some of the tastiest croissants and pains au chocolat from Brussels!) our favorite VR artist, VR_human, gave us an incredible session: drawing live in front of us while describing his thought process. He drew a nice pleasant beach while explaining.

  • how you should not focus on details but rather draw and move on, again and again, accepting imperfections
  • which brush to use and when (e.g. 1st without light vs 2nd with)
  • how to reinforce depth with light and dark colors
  • how to play and use point of attentions
  • using helpers from a perspective that is not visible to the final user and a lot more.

If you want to efficiently improve how you paint in VR do take the time to watch this session, this was just amazing!

You can experience this beach here in VR.

After this amazing session we had the pleasure to have a remote Q&A with feiss. feiss, in addition to writing the previously mentioned article, also painting some of the nicest work done with Apainter (cf Apainter issue #99) including the beautiful VR fox. He was able to give us tips and explain what was the process that lead to Apainter. We clarified what was exciting and frustrating with Apainter right now then exchanged on how we could fix it.


After lunch as more curious joined to try Apainter for the first time new ideas came from interactions for example exercising in VR and drawing Yoga poses.


yoga VR That you can try online right now YogaVR

Despite the poor quality of the drawing (because of yours truly) this simple example shown a great use case of in VR painting: prototyping spacial experience right now.

We went from

  • discussing about a topic (yoga) to
  • a potential usage (checking proper yoga poses) to
  • testing if it is makes or not to
  • being able to share the result to anybody in the world in a matter of minutes!

This shows another advantage of VR painting and WebVR. The faster we can iterate the faster we learn.

Thanks to all participants for trusting is with your time, thanks to VR_Human for his skills and pedagogy, thanks to Mozilla for the financial support, thanks to MolenGeek for welcoming and hosting us!

Missed it and want to come to the next one? Join our Meetup and be notified for the next one!

Fabien Benetou, aka @Utopiah

##Footnote Well we think it's the first ever but if you organized one before please do let us know, we want to learn from your experience!

#But wait, there is more! Check our list of tip&tricks, code done after the event or even all our videos.