Tips for Painting 3D Prints: A Comprehensive Guide

    3D PrintersTips for Painting 3D Prints: A Comprehensive Guide


    Tips for Painting 3D Prints: A Comprehensive Guide

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    Does your 3D print lack smooth, professional-quality finishes? It’s no secret that achieving a great paint job on 3D prints can be tricky. This guide will walk you through tips and methods for painting your 3D prints, from the crucial step of sanding to final touches.

    So let’s dive in and take your 3D printing to the next level!

    Key Takeaways

    • Prepare your 3D prints for painting by removing unwanted parts and sanding the surface for a smooth finish.
    • Apply a primer coat before painting to improve paint adhesion and create an even result.
    • Choose the right painting method, such as spray painting or hand painting, based on your preference and desired outcome.
    • Add finishing touches like small details, washes, or weathering techniques to enhance the appearance of your painted 3D prints.

    Steps for Painting 3D Prints

    To paint a 3D print, you will need to secure the necessary materials, remove any unwanted parts, sand the prints for smoothness, apply a primer coat for better adhesion, choose your painting method, and add finishing touches for a polished look.

    Securing materials needed

    Let’s get your supplies ready for painting 3D prints. You will need the following:

    1. Your 3D print model.
    2. Sandpaper to smooth your model.
    3. A primer, like an automotive or brush – on primer.
    4. Paints that work well with 3D prints like acrylics or gesso.
    5. A paintbrush or spray can if you plan to use spray paint.
    6. A clear coat for finishing your model for a shiny look.

    Removing unwanted parts

    Removing unwanted parts is an important step before painting your 3D prints. Here’s what you need to do:

    • Carefully inspect your print and identify any excess material or support structures that need to be removed.
    • Use a pair of pliers or clippers to cut away the unwanted parts, making sure not to damage the main structure of the print.
    • If there are any rough edges left behind after cutting, use sandpaper or a file to smooth them down.
    • Be gentle when sanding to avoid damaging the print, but make sure to remove any rough surface texture that could affect the paint application.

    Sanding the prints

    Sanding the prints is an important step before painting your 3D prints. It helps to create a smooth surface for better paint adhesion and a more professional finish. Here are some key tips for sanding your prints:

    1. Start with coarse-grit sandpaper (around 100-150 grit) to remove any bumps or imperfections on the surface.
    2. Use gentle and even pressure while sanding to avoid damaging the print.
    3. Move the sandpaper in circular motions or back and forth to cover the entire surface evenly.
    4. Gradually switch to finer-grit sandpaper (around 200-400 grit) for a smoother finish.
    5. Check your progress by running your fingers over the print’s surface to feel if it’s smooth enough.
    6. If needed, repeat the sanding process with even finer-grit sandpaper (around 600-800 grit) for an ultra-smooth surface.
    7. After sanding, remove any dust or debris from the print using a soft brush or compressed air.

    Applying primer coat

    To ensure a smooth and professional finish when painting your 3D prints, it’s important to apply a primer coat. This will help the paint adhere better and create a more even result. Here are some tips for applying the primer coat:

    1. Start with a clean surface: Before applying the primer, make sure to wash your 3D print to remove any dust or debris. This will ensure that the primer adheres properly.
    2. Use the right primer: Choose a primer that is suitable for your specific type of 3D print material. Automotive primers or spray-on primers work well for most prints.
    3. Apply thin coats: It’s better to apply multiple thin coats of primer rather than one thick coat. This helps prevent drips and ensures even coverage.
    4. Allow each coat to dry: After applying a coat of primer, give it enough time to dry completely before applying the next coat. This helps prevent smudging or smearing.
    5. Sand between coats: For an extra smooth finish, lightly sand the surface of your print between each coat of primer. This helps remove any imperfections and creates a better surface for painting.

    Choosing a painting method

    To achieve the best results when painting your 3D prints, it’s important to choose the right painting method. Here are some options to consider:

    • Spray Painting: This method is great for covering large areas quickly and evenly. It provides a smooth finish and is ideal for painting larger 3D printed objects.
    • Hand Painting: If you prefer more control and precision, hand painting is a good choice. You can use small brushes to carefully apply paint to specific areas of your 3D print.
    • Airbrushing: Using an airbrush tool allows you to create smooth gradients and detailed effects on your 3D prints. It requires some practice, but the results can be impressive.
    • Special Techniques: You can also explore different techniques like dry brushing or sponge painting to add texture and depth to your painted 3D prints.

    Adding finishing touches

    To make your painted 3D prints look even better, you can add some finishing touches. Here are a few ideas:

    • Use a fine paintbrush to carefully add small details or highlights to your model.
    • Apply a wash or glaze over the painted surface to give it a more realistic or aged appearance.
    • Use weathering techniques such as dry brushing or sponge painting to create texture and depth.
    • Add decals, stickers, or other small embellishments to enhance the design of your print.
    • Consider using a clear coat or varnish to protect the paint and give it a glossy finish.

    Tips for Painting PLA 3D Prints

    Choose high-quality acrylic paints specifically formulated for PLA prints to achieve the best results.

    Best paints for PLA

    When it comes to painting PLA 3D prints, there are a few types of paint that work well. Acrylic paints are a popular choice because they adhere nicely to PLA surfaces and come in many colors.

    Gesso, which is often used as a primer for canvas paintings, also works well on PLA prints. Automotive paints can be used too, providing durability and a glossy finish. It’s important to remember that you don’t necessarily need paints specifically labeled for 3D printing – materials like acrylics or automotive paints will do the job just fine.

    So feel free to experiment with different types of paint!

    Step-by-step process for painting PLA prints

    To paint your PLA prints, follow these steps:

    1. Start by sanding the entire model with sandpaper to ensure a smooth painting surface.
    2. Clean the print with soap and water to remove any dust or residue.
    3. Apply a primer coat to improve paint adhesion and create a smooth base for painting.
    4. Let the primer dry completely before moving on to the next step.
    5. Use acrylic paint, gesso, or automotive paint to add color to your print.
    6. Apply multiple thin coats of paint, allowing each layer to dry before applying the next one.
    7. Consider using different painting techniques such as airbrushing or hand painting for more intricate details.
    8. Add any finishing touches you desire, such as adding highlights or shading to enhance the appearance of your print.
    9. Once you’re satisfied with the paint job, apply a clear coat (such as varnish) for protection and added durability.

    Different painting techniques

    There are several painting techniques that you can use to paint your 3D prints. One technique is spray painting, where you use an aerosol can to apply a thin and even coat of paint onto the model.

    This is great for covering large areas quickly. Another technique is hand painting, where you use a brush and acrylic paint to carefully apply the colors onto the print. This allows for more control and detail in your artwork.

    You can also add realistic effects by using techniques like dry brushing or layering different shades of paint. Finally, adding a clear coat at the end will give your print a smooth and shiny finish.

    Tips for Smoothing and Priming 3D Prints

    To achieve a smooth surface for painting, removing support structures and using sandpaper to smooth the print is essential. Applying a primer coat before painting also helps improve paint adhesion.

    Learn more about the best techniques for smoothing and priming 3D prints in our comprehensive guide!

    Removing support structures

    To prepare your 3D prints for painting, you’ll need to remove the support structures first. Here are some important steps to follow:

    1. Carefully examine your print and identify any support structures that are still attached.
    2. Use pliers or a sharp tool to gently break away the supports from the print.
    3. Be cautious not to damage or break any delicate parts of the print while removing the supports.
    4. If there are any stubborn or hard-to-reach supports, you can use sandpaper or a file to smooth them out.
    5. After removing all the supports, inspect the print again to ensure that no remnants of the support structures remain.

    Smoothing the surface of the prints

    To achieve a polished finish on your 3D prints, it’s important to smooth the surface before painting. Here are some tips for smoothing:

    1. Sand the print using fine – grit sandpaper to remove any roughness or visible layers.
    2. Use a sanding block or tool to ensure even pressure and avoid inconsistencies.
    3. Pay extra attention to areas with support structures or overhangs, as they may require more sanding.
    4. After sanding, wash the print in warm soapy water to remove any debris or residue from the sanding process.
    5. Dry the print thoroughly before moving on to priming and painting.

    Applying primer for better paint adhesion

    To achieve better paint adhesion on your 3D prints, it is important to apply a primer coat before painting. Here are some tips:

    1. Clean the print: Before applying primer, make sure to clean the surface of the print thoroughly. This will remove any dust or debris that could affect the adhesion of the primer and paint.
    2. Choose the right primer: Select a primer specifically designed for use on 3D prints. Automotive primers or primers labeled for plastic surfaces can work well.
    3. Apply multiple thin coats: It is recommended to apply several thin coats of primer instead of one thick coat. This ensures even coverage and promotes better adhesion.
    4. Allow drying time: After each coat of primer, allow it to dry completely before applying another coat or starting the painting process. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying times.
    5. Sand between coats (optional): If desired, you can lightly sand the surface between each coat of primer to create a smoother finish.
    6. Check for imperfections: Once the final coat of primer is dry, inspect the surface for any imperfections or rough spots. Sand them down if necessary before proceeding with painting.

    Painting Techniques for 3D Prints

    Spray painting and hand painting are two popular techniques for painting 3D prints. Spray painting allows for quick and even coverage on large prints, while hand painting allows for more control and detail.

    Additionally, adding realistic effects such as weathering or highlighting can enhance the overall appearance of the print. Finally, finishing with a clear coat will protect the paint job and give it a polished look.

    Spray painting

    Spray painting is a popular technique for painting 3D prints because it provides an even and smooth finish. Before spray painting, make sure you are in a controlled environment with no wind or drafts that could affect the application.

    It’s also important to complete the entire process in one session if possible. After applying the first coat of primer, let it dry before making any touch-ups or additional sanding.

    When spray painting, hold the can about 8-12 inches away from the print and use short bursts of paint to prevent drips or uneven coverage. Remember to shake the can well before using it and keep moving your hand while spraying to avoid buildup in one spot.

    Hand painting

    Hand painting is a great way to add detail and personalize your 3D printed models. It allows you to have more control over the colors and effects you want to achieve. Before starting, make sure that your model has been sanded and primed properly.

    This will ensure a smooth surface for the paint. When hand painting, use small brushes with fine bristles for better precision. Start by applying thin layers of paint and build up the color gradually to avoid clumps or streaks.

    Remember to let each layer dry completely before adding another one. Finishing touches like shading, highlighting, and adding texture can be done with smaller brushes or even toothpicks.

    Adding realistic effects

    To make your 3D prints look even more lifelike and impressive, you can add realistic effects during the painting process. For example, you can use dry brushing to create subtle texture and highlights on the surface of your model.

    This involves dipping a small brush into paint and then removing most of it by wiping it off onto a paper towel or cloth. Then, lightly drag the brush across raised areas of the print to create realistic shadows and depth.

    Another technique is called washes, which involves diluting paint with water to create a thin, translucent layer that runs into recessed areas of the print. This helps accentuate details like crevices or grooves for a more realistic appearance.

    You can also use weathering techniques such as sponging on different colors or using small brushes to apply rust or dirt effects in specific areas.

    Finishing with a clear coat

    To complete the painting process for your 3D prints, it’s important to apply a clear coat as a final step. The clear coat helps protect the paint and gives it a glossy finish. It also adds an extra layer of durability to your printed model.

    You can use a spray-on or brush-on clear coat, depending on your preference. Make sure to apply thin and even coats, allowing each coat to dry before applying the next one. This will prevent any drips or uneven areas on your finished print.

    Once the clear coat is applied and fully dried, you can enjoy your beautifully painted 3D print with confidence!

    Key Takeaways and Conclusion

    In conclusion, painting 3D prints can be a fun and rewarding process. By following these tips, such as sanding the prints, applying primer coats, choosing the right paints, and using proper techniques like spray painting or hand painting, you can achieve professional-looking results.

    Don’t forget to add finishing touches to enhance your painted models. So go ahead and unleash your creativity on those 3D prints! Happy painting!


    1. Can I paint my 3D prints without any preparation?

    No, it is important to prepare your 3D prints before painting by sanding the surface and applying a primer to ensure better adhesion of the paint.

    2. What type of paint should I use for painting 3D prints?

    Acrylic paints are commonly used for painting 3D prints as they adhere well to plastic surfaces and offer a wide range of colors to choose from.

    3. How long does it take for the paint on 3D prints to dry?

    The drying time of the paint on 3D prints can vary depending on factors like humidity and thickness of layers applied, but generally, acrylic paints dry within a few hours or overnight.

    4. Do I need any special brushes or tools for painting 3D prints effectively?

    Using small brushes with fine bristles can help in achieving better precision while painting intricate details on your 3D prints. Additionally, having sandpaper, masking tape, and a spray sealant can be useful tools for the process.

    Rush Chapman
    ( Founder )

    Hello, my name’s Rush Chapman. I’m a 3D printing enthusiast. I started this site to help people choose 3D printing projects and select the best 3D printer for your needs, whether you’re a hobbyist or a pro!