What is Tilt Brush? If you’ve ever watched Jimmy Fallon play virtual reality pictionary on his late night show, you’ve seen the power of this virtual reality app. Tilt Brush allows you to create in a virtual room using three-dimensional strokes. Essentially, your entire room is your canvas—and artists have found some incredible ways to use this tool. 

Want to learn how to use Tilt Brush and see some inspiring examples of Tilt Brush art? Read on. 

illustrated person
With Google Tilt Brush, you can reimagine your artwork within a 3D environment. 

What is Google Tilt Brush?

Google Tilt Brush is a 3D virtual reality painting application. With the app—paired with a compatible headset and touch controller—you can use a variety of brushes, effects, and tools to create 3D illustrations. 

The app comes with a wide range of brushes to experiment with. Some of the more quirky options include brushes that respond to music or constantly change color. There’s even a neon pulse brush, which creates a line that pulsates with streaks of lights. But don’t worry—there are also plenty of more traditional brushes that replicate the look of ink, paint, or a wash of flat color. 

Tilt Brush was first released in 2016, and the app has come a long way in the years since. For example, the app’s initial brushes created mostly flat, ribbon-like strokes. With this type of brush, artists would have to move around a 3D object (like a cone or cube) and color in each side. In 2018, Google released the hull brush for Tilt Brush, which allows artists to paint volumetrically. This enhancement gave artists a way to quickly and easily build characters and 3D scenes. 

In January 2021, Google announced that it made Tilt Brush open source. This means that while Google will no longer develop the app, the code will now be publicly available—so anyone with the knowledge can make their own version of it. However, the current version of Tilt Brush will remain available for purchase on app stores. 

What Do You Need for Tilt Brush? 

To use Google Tilt Brush, you will need a virtual reality headset and a touch controller. Through the VR headset, you will see the “room” where you can paint, and you will control your brush strokes to create the art in your virtual environment. 

VR heeadset
To use Google Tilt Brush, you will need a virtual reality headset, as well as a touch controller. 

As far as how to get Tilt Brush, you will need to download the Google Tilt Brush VR app. Where you download the app will vary based on your VR headset. For example, if you have an HTV Vive or Windows Mixed Reality headset, you will first need to install Steam, and then you can download the Tilt Brush app. With other headsets, such as Oculus Rift or Oculus Quest, you can download the Tilt Brush app directly. 

If you’ve never used a VR headset before, make sure you understand how to get oriented and engage with the app safely. For example, because the headset positions the screen very close to your eyes, it can be beneficial to take regular breaks (think: every 30 minutes or so). It can also be more physically taxing to illustrate in a VR app than by sitting at a computer, so in addition to resting your eyes, do a little walking and stretching between sessions as well. 

How Much Is Google Tilt Brush?

Tilt Brush is available on several different VR devices, including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, Windows Mixed Reality, Valve Index, and Playstation VR. Google Tilt Brush costs $19.99 on most app stores. 

If you’re looking for a Tilt Brush free alternative, keep an eye out for new versions created from the Tilt Brush open source code. For example, Open Brush—a version of the original app based on the open source code—is now available for free on Oculus Quest. 

8 Examples of Tilt Brush Art

Wondering what you can create in Google Tilt Brush? We’ve rounded up eight impressive examples of Tilt Brush art to inspire you and get you started on your virtual reality painting journey.

  1. Joey Yu Notebook

This virtual reality drawing is a collaboration between two artists with very different styles. With the goal of practicing virtual reality art in a new style, Collin Leix interpreted this gestural watercolor by Joey Yu, ultimately creating a 3D notebook showcasing the original art. 

  1. Jonathan Yeo Self-Portrait 

Jonathan Yeo was the first artist to design a sculpture with virtual reality software, which was then translated to bronze as part of an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Once Yeo finished the sculpture design within Google Tilt Brush, it was 3D printed and then cast in bronze. This allowed the physical sculpture to accurately capture the virtual brushstrokes from the original illustration.  

  1. Art of Wonder

A character artist in the video game industry, Liz Edwards has quickly mastered the art of virtual reality painting. In this project, she partnered with Google and Warner Bros. to create a Wonder Woman-inspired 3D piece of art. 

  1. Gates of Minsk

This nighttime cityscape, illustrated by Anna Redko, demonstrates an effective use of some of Google Tilt Brush’s unique features. The moving lights—created with some of the app’s unique dynamic brushes—simulate the flow of traffic in front of the regal buildings. 

  1. Moths in VR 

An early virtual reality piece by Collin Leix, this illustration depicts a 360-degree view of moths attracted to a light—a moment seemingly frozen in time. 

  1. Adidas Trainer

In this piece, artist Danny Bittman took a seemingly simple subject—a sneaker—and recreated it in precise detail in 3D. The resulting model of the shoe incorporates every detail of its real-life counterpart, from the mesh panels on the side to the textural detail of the toe box. 

  1. Butterfly Metamorphosis

In this virtual reality piece, artist Estella Tse puts the viewer at the center of the artwork. By rotating through the piece, you can see the sequence of a butterfly’s metamorphosis—from caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly. 

  1. Trainscape

In this stunning landscape of train tracks curving over a waterfall, artist Andreas N. Grøntved showcases how to effectively use some of Google Tilt Brush’s most unique brushes. The waterfall, for example, comes alive with flickering lights and moving streams of water—likely created with the neon pulse brush. 

If you want to quite literally immerse yourself in your art, there’s no better way than through virtual reality painting. Google Tilt Brush provides a unique, innovative way to create all kinds of impressive illustrations, from landscapes to characters. And, as a relatively new approach to art, virtual reality painting provides plenty of opportunity to innovate and develop your own unique artistic style. 

The (Virtual) World Is Your Canvas 

Virtual Reality for Artists: How to Bring Illustrations into 3D with Tilt Brush

Written By

Katie Wolf

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