Painting a 3d printed model
How to Prime and Paint 3D Printed Parts (With Video)
Primer is a special type of paint that adheres strongly to the part and provides a uniform surface for paint to bond with. Different primers have different uses. A spray-on primer is the best way to paint your printed parts because it quickly covers a surface with an even coating. Brush-on primers are available, but they are tricky to work with and better for fine touch ups. For best results, choose a primer and paint that are plastic compatible and from the same brand. We like Krylon and Montana (though both are thick formulas), but nothing really compares to Tamiya brand model paint - it goes on extremely thinly and evenly, preserving delicate surface details.
Because sometimes you want to sand fast. With interchangeable bits, rotary tools offer a variety of options for sanding and polishing parts. Drum sanding bits quickly sand down supports, while steel wire brushes smooth surface marks. Rotary tools are rough, so you will still need sandpaper for a smooth finish. There are plenty of great brands: Dremel and Craftsman are popular in the states, Proxxon in Europe. To avoid scorching your part, turn down the RPMs to the minimum (usually 500-1000) and use a light touch.
Not as clumsy or as random as a palm sander. A more elegant tool…for a more civilized age.
One of the most simple yet effective tools, a hand file removes supports and sands down surfaces. Using a firm grip, you can remove marks with more control than with a rotary tool. Keep a wire brush on hand and clean the file’s teeth often (otherwise plastic and resin will gum up teeth). Like a rotary tool, a hand file will leave a rough surface, so it’s best for removing the larger support marks.
The most unglamourous tool in the shop, sandpaper has come light years in the last decade with the release of flexible sanding sheets. Available at home improvement stores, flexible sanding sheets last 15 times longer than paper ones. They don’t curl, puncture or crease.., and they hey can be used wet, which reduces dust and prevents buildup in the sanding tooth. Because they flex, they can easily reach small interior spaces and rounded surfaces.
Even after wet sanding, some dust will remain. Remove buildup with water and a soft scrub brush (an old toothbrush works). For serious cleanup, an inexpensive sonicator can quickly remove fine particles caught in corners and cracks of a surface. If you work in an area with hard water, using deionized or distilled water will prevent spotting between painting.
Tack cloth is a soft, slightly sticky cotton cloth designed to remove remaining dust and leave a clean surface for painting. Let your model dry before using the tack cloth — the waxy surface does not work well with water.
Painting Block, Dowels & Drill
This simple trick will save you grief in the spray booth (we were excited when we saw this technique in a modelmaking how-to video by Adam Savage). By mounting your 3D print on a dowel (often you can use a preexisting hole in the part), you can quickly maneuver while spraying, allowing you to get to all sides and into the nooks and crannies of the part without creating any fingerprints. When you want to add an even coat to all sides of your model, this is pretty essential. We recommend ordering a variety of size of dowels. To minimize the hole size on a part, start with a small size and work your way up until the model feels firmly seated. Drill a corresponding hole in a block of wood or MDF and insert the part with the dowel - now you can keep the model hands free while spraying.
Spraypainting means working with airborne particulates and solvents, both of which pose health hazards. Remember to use a NIOSH approved respirator and work in a well ventilated workspace. While painting, wear nitrile gloves to avoid spraying paint on your hands and and also protect your model from fingerprints.
Ultimate Guide to Painting 3D Prints
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as a PDF!
The simple post-processing techniques presented in this guide are an excellent way for professionals to create low-cost silicone molds, threaded inserts for enclosures, vacuum formed parts, and more.
If you’re an engineer or product designer creating concept models, a prop or set designer, artist, or an educator looking to add incorporate a bit more creativity into your classroom 3D printing activities, painting your models can be a great solution.
In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to create a nearly automotive quality paint job on any of your 3D printed objects.
Working time will vary depending on your model. Including drying time, the process shown took us about 6 hours from start to finish.
80, 120, 240, 220, 1000 grit sandpaper
Sanding block & sandpaper
Need some of these products? We've curated an Amazon wish list for you.
STEP 1: PREPARE & PRINT MODEL
When preparing models for painting in MakerBot Print, keep in mind how your print settings will affect the quality of your paint job.
Consider: Print settings, print orientation, number of build plates
Surfaces printed in the Z axis will have the smoothest surface finish.
Printing models in 100 micron layer resolution will result in a slightly smoother surface finish, but will take significantly longer.
If possible, avoid placing support material in places you intend to paint as they will require more post processing to remove completely.
Supplies used: Needle-nose pliers or flush cutters
After you remove your print from the build plate of your printer, you will need to remove any raft or support material.
A. Remove prints from the build plate
B. Remove rafts
C. Remove large pieces of support
D. Approach smaller pieces and fine details
Supplies used: Sanding block, electric sander, 80,120, 240, 400, & 1000 grit sandpaper, Cyanoacrylate glue (super glue), Bondo
For the highest quality paint surface, an optional next step is to sand your model.
Make sure to wear eye protection, gloves, and a respiratory mask.
A. Dry sand the model using 80-240 grit sandpaper
B. Wet sand the model using 400 & 1000 grit sandpaper
C. Glue the parts of your model together
D. Apply filler to any gaps or blemish in your model and sand once dry
Find more detailed information here on gluing and sanding.
The 2021 Guide to 3D Printing Materials
Learn about polymers, composites, and metals all available for 3D Printing!
Supplies used: Hanging cord
Once your model is ready for painting - hang it in an open, dust free space with plenty of ventilation. This will allow you to paint all surfaces evenly without having to handle the model while paint is drying.
A. Tie hanging cord around the model
B. Hang the model in an open room with a tarp
STEP 5: PRIMER/FILLER
Whether you have chosen to sand your model and apply filler or you are simply painting a rough PLA model printed at high resolution, a few layers of primer/filler will fill any small surface imperfections before painting.
Primer filler is a high build spray filler that comes in aerosol form and can be purchased at most local hardware stores.
Before spraying remember to wear gloves, eye protection, and a respiratory mask.
BE SURE TO:
Shake well before use
Use wide strokes beginning and ending in space outside of the model
Hold the can 10-12 inches from the model
Paint in thin layers using a misting technique
Painting in thick layers
Holding the can in any spot for a long time
Holding the can too close to the model
Once you’ve sprayed 2-3 layers of primer/filler, allow your model to dry for 30-40 minutes.
STEP 7: SAND
A. Lightly sand your model with 1000 grit sandpaper (dry). This will smooth the surface of the model as the primer filler tends to create a rough surface texture similar to sandpaper.
B. Evaluate for quality.
C. If there are still surface imperfections you would like to smooth, continue to apply consecutive layers of primer/filler, and sand.
Once you are happy with the model surface, move on to painting.
STEP 8: PAINT
When choosing paint, you typically have a large degree of freedom as to which color and type of paint you use. Make sure to pick something that adheres well to plastic.
A. Choose a paint
B. Test for color in an inconspicuous location before painting the entire model
C. Let the paint sit overnight to cure
Typically the paint will be dry to touch within an hour or so, and ready to polish within 24-48 hours.
If you’d like to protect the surface of your painted model, you can also apply a thin clear coat at this point.
In the end, you’re left with a beautiful painted model ready for approval presentation, enhanced for sets or galleries, optimized for better classroom learning, or simply improved for better innovation.
Here you can see just how far we have come.
Visit one of our other applications pages for tips on how to take your print even further.
We recommend that you visit our pages on:
Last but not least, remember to share your work with us on Thingiverse and social media @MakerBot.
We can’t wait to see what you make!
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Painting advice for 3D models (PLA, ABS, PETG, NYLON)
3DPrintStory     Reviews     Recommendations for painting 3D models (PLA, ABS, PETG, NYLON)
Despite multi-material extruders and a stunning variety of 3D printable plastic colors, you'll still want to paint some of your 3D models sooner or later. The most common reason is to improve the external 3D model, especially if you are printing on an FDM 3D printer where the model is built up by layering material over time. It is FDM 3D printers that form a model with feature lines along the Z axis.
When finishing a 3D model, small cavities between layers are sanded, filled, or both. The result is a smoother surface. Painting can also help protect the model from the environment.
This article is divided into two parts: the first will introduce you to the different techniques for painting a 3D model, and the second will (hopefully) answer all your little questions about painting techniques and how best to do it. Read on to find out how to enhance your 3D models with paint!
Primer is paint's best friend
Priming a printed model improves ink adhesion. With any painting method (other than nylon dyeing), using a primer is a good idea. Spray primer is said to be the easiest way to get good results. The process for using the primer is very simple:
- Clean and sand your 3D model.
- Apply the primer in thin, even coats.
- Sand after the first and last coats until the surface is smooth.
- Let each coat dry according to the instructions supplied with the primer.
Method 1: Paint with a brush
Best for: PLA, ABS, PETG plastics.
If you paint a 3D printed model with a brush, you will definitely achieve a unique "handmade" effect.
Try a few brushes first because it's easier to get good results with a comfortable brush. As a rule, it is enough to use only 1 or 2 different flat brushes.
- Choose a quality brush that is hard enough to handle the viscosity of the paint you are working on.
- Experiment with different bristle types and handle shapes to find the one that works for you.
- Stop painting to clean the brush as soon as the paint starts to dry. Naturally, the brush must be cleaned after each use. Do not leave drying paint on the brush bristles.
- The brush must be stored on the handle after cleaning and not on the bristles.
When it comes to brush painting, you're better off using acrylic paints.
- Clean and sand your 3D printed model.
- Apply the paint in thin, even coats.
- Let the individual layers dry.
Method 2: Spray painting
Best for: PLA, ABS, PETG plastics.
If you want to paint a 3D printed model uniformly using one color, then using an aerosol will give the best result.
Some brands offer nozzles with different specifications.
Shake can according to manufacturer's recommendations before use. Allows the paint to come out more evenly.
Keep the nozzle clean. This is usually achieved by spraying the inverted can slightly at the end of each session.
Keep can away from open flame and store in a cool place. Don't forget that this is a high pressure container!
When looking for spray paint, you will find that there are many varieties. If you want to use a specific shade, please read the RAL, CMYK and RGB values on the can carefully.
- Clean and sand your 3D printed model.
- Start spraying by aiming the jet a little beyond the edge of the object you want to paint.
- Apply the paint by spraying on the surface you want to paint in slow, even strokes.
- Stop spraying by directing the jet a little beyond the object you want to paint.
- Let the paint dry.
Method 3 Liquid Color (nylon only)
Best for: NYLON plastics.
Instead of trying to get paint to adhere to the surface of your 3D printed nylon model, we recommend using liquid dye instead. Note that this will not work with other materials. Although PLA is hygroscopic and absorbs some water from the environment, it cannot be dyed by absorbing dye. ABS and PETG are also not suitable for this technique.
In order for the ink to give a good pronounced color after absorption, it is better to use a translucent or white nylon material when 3D printing. Darker nylon fibers can also be dyed, but the color will be much less pronounced.
There are many brands of colorant to choose from, but MatterHackers recommends Rit DyeMore for example. But in general, if the dye is intended for synthetic fabric, then everything will be in order.
Since nylon is very hygroscopic, it absorbs water even outdoors. This is why you should always dry your nylon material before 3D printing. We recommend painting the finished model, not unprinted.
How to use
Read the manufacturer's instructions for your colorant. In short, using a dye is a pretty simple method:
- Clean up your 3D model. When sanding, remember that painting will not cover scratches and marks on the surface of your model. Everything will be visible even after staining.
- Mix the dye with water and heat in a saucepan.
- Use a thermometer to monitor the dye temperature. Follow the manufacturer's instructions, but keep the temperature below the thermal deflection temperature of the filaments.
- Attach the weight to the 3D print and dip it into the paint pot.
- After coloring, rinse well in a bath of cool water.
- To make sure you get the expected color, it's worth doing a few test coats.
How to tell if a paint will set with a 3D model
Probably the most important factor in causing the paint or liquid of your choice to stick to a solid surface is the difference in surface energy between the liquid and the solid. The one with the most surface tension always wins (surface tension has its own unit called dynamos, or dynamos per square centimeter).
The general rule is that the surface tension of the paint must be at least 10 units lower than the solid material for good adhesion. This means that we have a liquid with a high wetting ability on a solid, and we need wetting.
To get an idea of how well the surface to be painted is wetted, look at the shape of the drop of liquid on the solid surface:
- Apply a drop of paint or liquid to the surface of the 3D model you want to process.
- If the liquid forms a ball, it has too much surface tension to effectively wet the object, and the solid cannot "pull" the liquid onto itself.
- If the liquid spreads over the surface, forming something like a lens, wetting is better.
Is it possible to paint a 3D model from any material?
Painting 3D models from PLA and ABS plastics is a fairly simple task.
PETG can have paint durability issues, but the same techniques apply as for PLA and ABS. But if you really need a rich, vibrant color, then it's best to print your 3D PETG model in the desired color and leave it as it is.
When it comes to nylon, which is used for 3D printing, we must remember that the paint does not set well. In general, it is possible to paint with acrylics and nylons, but this will require some heat treatment to maximize the surface tension and allow the paint to wet. Often this is done with an open flame or plasma... In general, this does not look easy at home, so it is better to use dyes.
Planning before 3D printing
In order to facilitate the process of finishing and painting, before 3D printing your model, we recommend that you consider the following:
- Lower 3D printing resolution saves printing time, but increases processing time.
- Consider the geometry of your model. Your tools should reach where you want to sand or paint.
- Do the smallest details need sanding, priming or both? If so, can they handle it without breaking?
- If dimensional accuracy is important for some parts of your 3D model, you may need to take this into account when modeling. Add material to be sanded to size, or reduce size to make room for primer and paint.
- Primer and paint add thickness and can completely hide the fine details of your model.
- Sanding removes material and makes your 3D model less durable.
Items to improve paint adhesion
And finally, a few simple steps to improve paint adhesion:
- When working with a 3D printed model, wear clean gloves to protect the skin from chemicals and the surface of the model from sebum.
- Remove dirt before sanding, you don't want dirt to get into your model. Often, isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) on a soft, lint-free cloth works well.
- Use a regular vacuum cleaner with a soft and clean brush to remove sanding particles.
- Sand off any roughness added during the primer.
- Always test chemicals such as paint, cleaning solvents, sanding, or other materials and finishes before moving on to the final model you want to refine.
How to prime and paint 3D printed models (with video)
Primer is a special paint that adheres strongly to the part and ensures that the paint adheres to the surface evenly. There are different primers designed for different purposes. Spray primer is the best way to paint 3D printed parts as it quickly covers the surface in an even coat. There are primers available for brush application, but they are difficult to work with and are better suited for fine finishes. For best results, choose a plastic-compatible primer and paint from the same manufacturer. We love the Krylon and Montana brands (although they are thick), but Tamiya's paint is unparalleled - it forms a very thin and even coat, retaining all minor surface features.
Sometimes you need to finish sanding quickly. The use of interchangeable nozzles for rotating tools allows you to grind and polish models in various ways. The drum allows you to quickly grind marks from supporting structures, and steel wire cleans marks well on flat surfaces. Rotary tools are designed for rough cleaning, so you will need sandpaper to make the surface smooth. There are many great brands: Dremel and Craftsman are popular in the US, and Proxxon is popular in Europe. In order not to burn your model, reduce the speed to a minimum (usually 500-1000) and do not apply pressure to the tool.
These tools are not as clumsy or inaccurate as a hand sander. An elegant instrument...for a more civilized age.
The flat file is one of the simplest yet most effective tools for effectively removing support structures and sanding surfaces. By holding it firmly in your hand, you can remove marks with greater precision than with a rotary tool. Keep a wire brush handy and clean the file blade regularly (otherwise plastic and resin can get stuck in it). Like a rotary tool, a flat file leaves a rough surface, so it is best used for removing large imperfections.
Sandpaper is the ugliest tool in the workshop. Over the past decade, it has made a real breakthrough with the release of flexible sanding sheets. Flexible sanding sheets can be purchased at hardware stores. They last 15 times longer than paper ones. They won't curl, puncture or bend, and can be used wet to reduce dust and prevent build-up. Thanks to their flexibility, they easily reach small interior spaces and rounded surfaces.
Even after grinding with a damp tool, a small amount of dust remains. Remove plaque with water and a soft brush (an old toothbrush is fine for this purpose). For serious cleaning, you can take an inexpensive ultrasonic device that will quickly remove small particles trapped in corners and surface cracks. If you are working in a hard water area, using deionized or distilled water will help prevent blemishes between coats.
Dust cloth is a piece of soft and slightly tacky cotton cloth designed to remove residual dust and provide a clean surface for painting. Let your model dry before using the dust cloth: the waxed surface reduces its effectiveness on wet surfaces.
Block, pins and drill
This little trick will keep you out of trouble in the paint booth (we were thrilled when we saw this technique in Adam Savage's how-to video). By mounting the model on a pin (you can often use a pre-drilled hole in the part), you can quickly maneuver while spraying and paint the model from all sides, penetrating hard-to-reach places and leaving no fingerprints.