What comes to mind when you hear the term “virtual reality?” Fighting with a sword and shield through dungeons? Shooting space aliens? Rhythm notes sliced like a musical Jedi? Virtual reality allows us to do the impossible, live out wild fantasies, and put ourselves in ridiculous situations. But VR is more than just immersive games; it also has practical applications. VR can be used to train new pilots. The FDA has begun to approve headsets as a therapy treatment tool to help people suffering from chronic pain. VR can also be used as an exposure therapy tool for people who have severe phobias, such as a fear of flying. The technology is great for gaming, but there’s limitless potential to what can be done in a virtual space.
Which brings us to Painting VR, a game that — surprise! — is all about letting you paint virtually. There’s no story mode, no wacky gameplay mechanics, and no memorable “only-possible-in-VR” moments. It’s exactly what it says on the tin. And it’s fantastic.
The basics of VR
Having your own massive art studio with nothing but an easel and art supplies may appear to be a pointless and novel VR concept; after all, you could just as easily paint in real life. However, virtual reality eliminates the need to clean up messes, waste expensive paint, or purchase supplies.
It makes painting more accessible to those who have already purchased a VR headset. Too often, I’ve found myself wishing I could learn to paint, but it’s simply not a hobby that fits my budget, not to mention that the small duplex where I live is severely lacking in free space.
That’s why I was eager to try Painting VR. It was exactly what I needed to have access to a vast space and an infinite supply of materials right inside my Quest 2 headset. And boy, does it spoil you with its art supplies selection. A giant block brush, flat brushes, round brushes, cone brushes, a splatter brush, three sizes of markers, spray paint cans, and even a paint roller are all included.
Each of these brushes has its own settings that allow you to change the opacity, how well it blends with other colors, and how much it smudges. By adjusting these settings, you can make each brush feel unique. My cone brush settings may vary between paintings, effectively giving me more than one cone brush. It’s almost overwhelming to have so many artistic tools at your disposal.
It’s in the way that you use it
Using said tools feels fantastic because everything works as expected. Your tools have haptic feedback, which helps to give them a sense of weight. You can even smudge paint around with your virtual fingers directly on the canvas, creating a gross-yet-satisfying sound effect that reminds me of playing with Nickelodeon Gak as a kid.
An eyedropper-like function allows you to quickly switch colors on your tool, or you can use a palette and manually blend colors together with your brushes. If you want to take it a step further, you can quickly balance levels by pouring cans of paint together. Every aspect of how painting works feels extremely well thought out and elevates Painting VR above the novel idea of taking a virtual brush to a virtual canvas.
Painting VR feels even more player-friendly with additional features like an in-game web browser that lets you Google prompts or watch videos. I did the obvious thing and watched a Bob Ross video on YouTube to help me along. It… did not turn out well, but that was entirely due to my lack of technical skills. It is possible to paint while watching an episode of The Joy of Painting or another art tutorial video, which is ideal for anyone learning to paint.
You can also upload your own reference images, drop them into your studio, and resize them as needed. Can’t get that waterfall to look right? Simply scale it up to the size of a real waterfall. And, if you’re like me and can’t bear the crushing weight of your own mistakes, virtual reality provides you with the convenience of an undo button.