NVIDIA Canvas is an interesting app in the NVIDIA Omniverse suite of tools. It can create a 360 view image of plants, rocks, mountains etc. from kindergarten grade drawings. You draw patches of color, and it replaces them with artwork. This is useful for creating backdrops for 3D scenes. The normal use-case is to create 3D objects for the foreground scene, then have a background image behind to fill in the gaps. For example, you might create a room with furniture, but can see the surroundings out through the window.
What does Canvas do?
Canvas uses generative AI techniques to create realistic artwork from simple sketches. For example, I drew (with a mouse) the following:
And it produced the following 360 image.
You can pan around the image using a 3D preview panel to get a feeling of how it would feel in a real project. (360 images are distorted near the top and bottom as they are wrapped onto a sphere where the top and bottom meet at a single point.)
To install, start with buying a bigger disk. Okay, I jest… a little. Most of the tools from the NVIDIA Omniverse range I have experienced so far come with rather large downloads. Canvas comes in at 4.5GB after installation. So make sure you have lots of free disk space if you want to try installing it yourself. (Omniverse Canvas is free for personal use, if you have a supported NVIDIA GPU to run it on.)
The first step for installation is to install the Omniverse Launcher. This provides a simple way to download other Omniverse tools and launch them. However the Canvas app failed to launch for me, I believe due to a space in the directory name under which I installed all the tools (“D:\NVIDIA Omniverse\”). So it might be safer if you install NVIDIA Omniverse tools under a directory path without spaces. I manually changed into the directory and ran the Canvas.exe file directly to get it up and running.
Drawing Tools and Layers
The tool is pretty simple to use. You have very basic drawing tools (brush, line, eraser, fill, dropper, and pan). You can adjust the thickness of the brush.
To make it easier to draw an image, you can create multiple layers to draw on and rearrange as needed, which I found convenient for experimenting with different shapes and getting the colored areas to overlap with clean edges.
You paint with different colors, which are mapped through to different types of terrain (sky, clouds, hills, mountains, water, lakes, snow, sand, flowers, grass, bushes, trees, and so on).
Generative AI Settings
The most interesting settings are the styles and variations panel. You can pick a style (luscious vegetation, dry desert, etc) and a variation number for different versions of the generated artwork. You can try a few versions until you find one you like.
Saving and Export
You can save your hand drawn artwork to continue work at a later time. You can also export an EXR, PSD, or PNG file containing the artwork. The PSD file for example includes all the hand drawn layers used to form the final artwork.
This was a quick introduction to Omniverse Canvas tool. The introduction is quick in part because it’s so easy to use. But would I use it or recommend it to others?
It is interesting. It shows how you can have some artistic control over a background without being an artist. The quality of output sometimes you can see is not perfect. But that may not matter for a background image. Normally you want the viewers to look at things in the foreground. You would still create models for everything close to the camera. The 360 image is for the background to reduce the total modeling effort.
For example, in this shot, some grass is included near the firepit, but the distant trees, buildings, and mountains are a 360 image. If the camera moves too much up and down, the illusion is broken. But it is much less effort than modeling all of the background.
In the end, it is fun to see what it can do, but it is limited in the number of styles and it generates a static image. I would rather model trees somewhat into the distance so they can sway in the wind to feel a bit more dynamic. But if I needed a background image that I could not find anywhere else, it is an interesting tool.