Artists have been using tablets to make 2D art for years now, and recently, the proliferation of VR headsets and software like Google's Tilt Brush have also allowed them to paint in 3D space. But while both approaches can produce some beautiful art, neither offers the kind of tactile feedback you can get with a brush and some paint on a real-world canvas. That's what Adobe Research's Project Wetbrush hopes to change. Nvidia, who partnered with Adobe to produce the software, describe it as the "world's first real-time simulation-based 3D painting system with bristle-level interactions" — an app that allows artists to draw on 2D surfaces with virtual 3D paint.
That means that Project Wetbrush's paint has the thickness, flow, and viscosity of actual oil paint. It's applied by stylus to a screen, as in existing 2D drawing applications, but Adobe Research's software simulates real-world brushstrokes, leaving texture in the virtual oil paint as if the artist had daubed it onto real canvas. Brush speed and angle affect the textures users can produce, and the simulation even takes into account drying time based on the thickness of the paint.
The software was developed in partnership with Nvidia and powered by its top-end graphics cards. It may not be feasible for struggling artists to build a killer gaming rig to paint when they could just get a canvas and some oil paints from an art store, but Project Wetbrush has one up on the real world in its color mixing — users can flip through any color in the world without needing to spend hours adding whites and blacks to their palette to get the shade they want.