Watching this artist drag an easel into Half-Life: Alyx makes me want to be a VR painter too

Of all the VR painting apps around, Vermillion is the one we've got our eye on right now. It brings the joy of painting with realistic, analog colour mixing into VR games, and one artist has been taking full advantage of its features in Half-Life: Alyx.

Liz Edwards is a Senior Character Artist working on Apex Legends. Just recently, she's been diving into City 17 to create gorgeous oil paintings of the characters (via Mixed), and her surroundings. When used as an application overlay in VR games, this comprehensive oil painting sim is giving artists the tools to capture gorgeous gamescapes that are far beyond what a simple screenshot can accomplish.

Designed on a whim by Thomas van den Berge (support the creator) in under a week, Vermillion's beta overlay mode allows artists to whip out their easel in any Steam VR game they see fit, to have a go at painting in portrait or landscape, small-scale or humungous. 

Not only does Vermillion simulate wet-on-wet paint techniques, it even includes an integrated web browser so you can look up the odd tutorial from the man, the meme, Mr. Bob Ross himself when you get stuck. Imagine, taking a break from the post-apocalyptic hellscape around you to paint some happy little clouds in a moment of pure, expressionist serenity. 

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(Image credit: Valve)

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As our Jeremy says, "It looks like a welcome break from guns, guns, guns." Though Liz's previous painterly exploits involved cracking out a Photoshop overlay in Fallout 4 and attempting to use a Wacom tablet in-game, while being constantly assaulted. That went probably about as well as you'd think.

The base Vermillion application itself was released last year and allows you to paint happily in a variety of environments, and even in multiplayer. Yes, you can have your own wee virtual artists studio. 

And now that studio can be in City 17 with Alyx, the cockpit of an X-Wing in Star Wars: Squadrons, or even in Rick Sanchez's garage... if that's somewhere you want to be. Don't forget there's always the VR version of Skyrim to dip into if you want to draw some potato-faces.

The beta overlay can be accessed through the launch options for the main Vermillion application. Though as Tom notes, while the HTC Vive and Valve Index seem to run pretty smoothly, he's still looking into "how to keep the overlay from juddering on Quest". 

Katie Wickens
Hardware Writer

Screw sports, Katie would rather watch Intel, AMD and Nvidia go at it. Having been obsessed with computers and graphics for three long decades, she took Game Art and Design up to Masters level at uni, and has been demystifying tech and science—rather sarcastically—for three years since. She can be found admiring AI advancements, scrambling for scintillating Raspberry Pi projects, preaching cybersecurity awareness, sighing over semiconductors, and gawping at the latest GPU upgrades. She's been heading the PCG Steam Deck content hike, while waiting patiently for her chance to upload her consciousness into the cloud.