Painted Earth

The planet as our canvas

Your phone is a brush. The planet is your canvas.

Painted Earth is a painting tool commissioned by the State Architect to celebrate the opening of the Galileo Reference Centre. It might result in the largest possible artwork since its canvas covers the complete surface of our planet.

The Galileo Reference Centre is an important instrument of the Galileo Navigation System, a network of 24 satellites orbiting around our planet at 23,000 km height. These satellites constantly transmit the current time. Our mobile phones use the tiny differences in travel time of these signals to position themselves.

Once the painting tool is loaded into your mobile web browser, you can begin to draw simply by walking ➝ walk fast and the lines transform into drops, stand still and the ink will begin to pool and bleed. When you go out with a group, the collaborative image is synced between devices in real-time and up to 200 people can draw simultaneously in one area.

Once a painting is complete, it stays in that area forever.

A selection of paintings

Frequently Asked Questions

Can other people see my creation?
Yes! You can even see someone else painting live. Up to 200 people can draw simultaneous in one locality.

I see lines I did not paint. Where do they come from?
Every painting made with will stay there forever. The things you see are formerly drawn paintings. The planet is one big canvas for everyone.

How can I show my creation to my friends?
You can either make a screenshot when you are finished painting or take your friend to the location and open Also, we display a fine selection of creations from all over the world on the homepage of when opening it on your desktop browser.

Can I download the app from the App Store?
No, but you can add the app to your phone by “add to homescreen”

Opening performance

GNSS experts in the field
The result of the performance
The building by Architekten Cie. B.V.

On the 16th of may 2018

At the opening of the Gallileo Reference Center we did a performance together with about 120 GNSS experts and scientists. It involved walking around pylons in various patterns. We listening to David Bowie's Starman and made big star shapes together. It was great!

Also, our minister for infrastructure and water management Mrs. Cora van Nieuwenhuizen was opening the facility.

Did you know that Gallileo is the result of Europe's collaborative effort and that its a civil service unlike GPS, GLONASS or BeiDou which are military services?
Go Europe!

Developing the App

We spent a lot of time finding the right technique for representing the virtual ink in a way it looked good even when there are thousands of lines being simultaneously drawn with more than 100 devices on any given location on earth.

We tested multiple techniques to get the best visual results while making sure the performance was acceptable even on lower-end devices. After experimenting with feedback loops, marching squares, and marching cubes we settled on using 2d metaballs to create an ink like aesthetic. We chose to use ThreeJS to easily utilise the power of WebGL for the best performance.

Another challenge was making sure the drawings on the screen would line up with the physical world. We linked the 3d world of ThreeJS to Mapbox to get this right. These two components, along with the rest of the user interface, are being controlled by React and Redux.

To enable users to draw together in real time we let the front-end communicate with our server using Websockets. Using Google’s Geocoding API we group users in neighbourhoods. For each neighbourhood our server is collecting and distributing the drawing data so users can always see if someone’s nearby.

Selected Coverage

  • Paint the planet with your phone
  • Collaborative painting tool turns the Earth’s surface into a giant canvas


  • Concept and technology
  • Design
    Jolana Sýkorová
  • Client
    Galileo Reference Center
  • Commisioner
    State Architect, Gijs Frieling
  • Technical development
    Thomas Boland
    Tjerk Woudsma