Guide to Painting 3D Prints
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Painting 3D Prints: A Comprehensive Guide

Utilizing art in 3D printing markedly enhances your designs, adding a unique personal touch. Striving for excellence improves everything from a polished, elegant look to customizing your print designs and hiding imperfections in your 3D-printed creations. The comprehensive manual offers guidance on meticulously crafting PLA 3D prints, beginning from the crucial basics to the most intricate details. Time to dive right into it!

Benefits of Painting 3D Prints

Before we delve into the painting process, let’s explore the numerous benefits of painting your 3D prints:

  • Smooth finish: Painting is an effective finishing strategy that can transform the surface of your 3D prints, creating a smooth and aesthetically pleasing appearance.
  • Protection: Painting your 3D prints can act as a protective layer, making them more resistant to environmental factors such as UV radiation and moisture, thus increasing their durability.
  • Customization: Painting offers endless possibilities for customizing the look of your designs. With a wide range of colors and the ability to combine different shades, you can personalize your 3D-printed items and make them truly unique.
  • Visual impact: Painting adds a personal touch to your designs, making them stand out and look more realistic. By choosing the right combination of colors, you can achieve a professional and visually appealing result.
  • Imperfection camouflage: If your 3D prints have any imperfections or flaws, painting can help to hide them, giving your models a polished and flawless appearance.

Now that we understand the benefits, let’s explore the step-by-step process of painting your PLA 3D prints.

What You Need to Paint Your 3D Prints

To ensure a successful painting process, you will need the following tools and materials:

  • Paint: Choose the right paint variety and hue for your design. For creating PLA 3D prints, acrylic and enamel paints are favored.
  • Primer: Employ a primer to ready your print’s surface for painting. The primer enhances the paint’s adherence and offers a sleek foundation for the color.
  • Paintbrushes: The choice of paint dictates the variety of brushes required for application. Make certain your brushes are appropriate for both expansive spaces and intricate details.
  • Sandpaper: Employ sandpaper to even out any uneven edges or flaws in your 3D prints. Optimal outcomes might necessitate varying levels of grit.
  • Cleaning supplies: Ready a moist fabric to erase the print and clear away any grime or rubble. Isopropyl alcohol is also effective in eliminating persistent flaws.
  • Protective equipment: To safeguard yourself while painting, donning gloves, safety spectacles, and various protective gear is essential.
  • Masking tape: Apply masking tape to safeguard parts of your 3D prints against painting, guaranteeing a neat and accurate application.
  • Support removal tools: Should your print be supported by structural elements, safety measures like pliers or a knife are required for their removal.
  • Wire, string, or newspaper: The type of paint you choose might require, be it a wire or string for suspending your print, or a newspaper to shield your workspace from paint splatters.

With these tools and materials, you are ready to begin painting your 3D prints.

Step 1: Remove Supports and Other Unwanted Parts

The first step in preparing your 3D print for painting is to remove any support structures and other unwanted parts. If your model has 3D printing supports, carefully remove them using pliers or a knife. Be gentle to avoid damaging other parts of the print. It’s recommended to wear gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges.

After removing the supports, inspect the print for any additional unwanted parts that may have been left behind. Remove these parts using suitable tools, ensuring a clean and smooth surface for painting.

Step 2: Smooth the 3D Print

Next, it’s time to smooth out the surface of your 3D print. This step helps to remove any blemishes, layer lines, or imperfections, resulting in a more polished finish. Sandpaper is the go-to tool for smoothing PLA 3D prints.

Start by using a coarse sandpaper, and gradually work your way up to finer grits. Rub the sandpaper gently in a circular motion over the print’s surface, paying attention to any rough areas or visible layer lines. The goal is to achieve a smooth and even surface without removing too much material.

Remember to use light pressure when sanding, as excessive force can damage delicate parts of the print. For hard-to-reach areas, consider using sanding sticks or small pieces of sandpaper folded into tight corners.

Step 3: Wash the 3D Print

After sanding, it’s crucial to clean your 3D print thoroughly. Use water with a mild detergent to remove any dust, debris, or residue from the sanding process. Pay special attention to crevices and hard-to-reach areas.

If there are stubborn imperfections or residues, you can dip the print into isopropyl alcohol and gently scrub it with a soft-bristle brush. This will ensure a clean surface for priming and painting.

After cleaning, allow the paint to dry completely before proceeding to the next step.

Step 4: Prime the 3D Print

Priming is an essential step in painting PLA 3D prints. A primer provides a smooth and uniform base for the paint, enhances adhesion, and helps to fill in any remaining imperfections.

Choose a suitable primer for your project, such as a primer filler designed for plastic surfaces. Shake the can thoroughly to mix the contents, and then apply an even coat of primer to the entire print. Ensure that you cover all surfaces, including hard-to-reach areas.

Allow the primer to dry completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, this takes around 30 minutes to an hour. If necessary, you can lightly sand the primed surface with fine-grit sandpaper to achieve an even smoother finish.

Step 5: Paint the 3D Model

Now comes the exciting part: painting your 3D print! Choose the paint type and colors that best suit your design and desired outcome. Acrylic paint and enamel paint are popular choices for painting PLA prints.

If you opt for spray paint, find a well-ventilated area and hang your print using a wire or string. Apply the spray paint in thin, even coats, moving the can back and forth to ensure complete coverage. Remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and allow each coat to dry before applying the next.

For hand painting, use brushes suitable for the size and detail of your print. Apply the paint in smooth, even strokes, working from the larger areas to the finer details. Take your time and layer the paint as needed to achieve the desired opacity and color intensity.

If you’re using multiple colors, consider using masking tape to create clean, sharp lines between different color areas. This will help you achieve a more professional and precise finish.

Additional Tips for Painting 3D Prints

Experiment with different techniques: Embrace various artistic methods, like dry brushing or cleansing, to bring depth and texture to your prints.

  • Seal the paint: After the paint sets, think about coat-on or varnish application to shield the surface and prolong the durability of your 3D printed artwork.
  • Practice and patience: The art of creating 3D prints is enhanced progressively with regular practice. Exercise patience, proceed slowly, and don’t lose heart if initial endeavors fall short of your hopes. With regular practice, you’ll gain unique skills and attain remarkable outcomes.
  • Bear in mind that the art of 3D printmaking serves as a medium to animate your designs and exhibit your unique flair. Relish your adventure by trying out various colors, methods, and finishes.


The act of painting PLA 3D prints offers a fulfilling and inventive experience that can enhance the aesthetic allure of your designs. Adhering to this guide’s detailed steps can lead to outcomes that appear professionally executed. Ensure to refine your prints by eliminating any supports and smoothing them, employ superior tools and materials, and exercise patience while applying the paint. Through consistent practice and exploration, you’ll cultivate unique painting methods to craft exquisite, individualized 3D printed works.

Time to unleash your artistic flair and begin creating your 3D prints!

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