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VR Art - Tilt Brush & Quill

General / 21 December 2017


This past year I've been focused on making 3D illustrations with VR art tools like Quill and Tilt Brush. It's a really wonderful way of working and I'm determined to convince people that it is a legitimate tool for illustration, concept art, and even the creation of 3D assets. 

Note: All Sketchfab models in this post are very heavy. It may not be possible to view them on mobile.

I'll start by talking about my work and some of the things I've learned so far - here's my most recent 3D illustration! This Wolfenstein II fan art was painted with Quill and making it felt like a mix of 3D sculpting in ZBrush and painting in Photoshop.

Here's a work in progress version where my sketch is still visible:

Quill supports layers, brush opacity, the recolouring of strokes (including dodge, burn, hue - most of PS layer modes) and has a very good nudge tool, making serious 3D illustrations possible. I'm able to paint in Quill very much the same way I paint in Photoshop - just with an extra dimension!


A lot of people have asked me if these kind of models can be used as game art assets. Yes! They're made of regular geometry with alphas and vertex colour and are generally compatible with 3D software and game engines. There's a really wonderful Tilt Brush toolkit for Unity that ensures art looks the same in engine as in Tilt Brush itself.

The biggest problem is the sheer size some models can be. The illustration of BJ above is over 1 million polys and full characters can easily exceed 5 million. Luckily, VR art made with 3D brushes (the Wire brush in Tilt Brush and most brushes in Quill) can easily be retopologised and baked the exact same way a ZBrush sculpt would be.

To prove this I went through the entire process with a Tilt Brush character. First, here is the high poly illustration - over 1 million polys:

She is made up of brushstrokes - tubes of vertex coloured geometry. (note: this Sketchfab version has been decimated before upload).

Here's the low poly version  - around 17k polys including the shell:

It was a little tougher than working with a normal sculpt because it's made up of tubes and not continuous geometry. The surfaces are rough and require more care than usual and a fair amount of reconstruction, but it wasn't a big deal. I baked the diffuse map in Marmoset Toolbag 3 and it required only a small amount of cleanup.


 The scale possible with these VR sketches is immense. It is possible to sketch a character, vehicle, landscape at a doll size in the air in front of you - then blow it up to real world scale or larger and keep working. 

It's hard to get across how amazing this is without demonstrating it in VR, but here's some examples. 

Let's take a look at this mountain range I sketched in Tilt Brush.

If you zoom into the lake you will find a cabin:

And if you zoom into the cabin you'll find a nice little interior. It's possible to stand inside this at 1:1 scale in Tilt Brush and look out the window at the mountain range outside.

A final version of this scene with extra detail inside the cabin can be added to Tilt Brush here:

It's also super fun making vehicles the size of toys - then scaling them up to sit in the cockpit:

This ability to quickly sketch out characters, vehicles, entire environments and levels and view immediately in 1:1 scale is so incredibly powerful. I haven't really begun to take advantage of this yet.


Finally - it's a real joy to make art in VR. I wouldn't spend hundreds of hours with a VR headset on my face if it wasn't! I firmly believe VR art has a bright future.

I'll finish up with a few more pieces of mine I'd like to share. I hope they help demonstrate what is possible with this new medium!