This article is a collection of the essential notions for those who want to complete their work with 3D prints, painting, make more realistic and somehow “live” their prints through coloring 3D prints. We aim to discuss this theme in more details, through articles on more specific topics to transform those who want, in real artists of the brush.
What you need for 3D prints painting
First of all it is necessary to have everything you need, here we list the essential tools:
- A finished print
- Brushes of different sizes
- Abrasive paper with a grain size from 120 to 3000
- Paints suitable for plastic painting
- Latex gloves
- Covering cloth/old newspapers
- A lot of time, patience and desire to learn (not on sell)
Note: Remember that if you have to paint something that by its nature is handled often, like a tool, you will need more coats of paint to last for many uses. It is a good idea to sand/grind objects slightly before being coloured. Take care not to erase details by applying too much pressure or with unsuitable tools.
For this purpose we recommend the use of 320/400 grit abrasive paper (or finer but not thicker) or similar grit abrasive sponges.
Find a suitable paint for your plastic. Not all products are good for coloring objects of this type, applying the wrong paint the color will not adhere to the object and will come off once dry. Find out at a paint shop, or search online for a specific paint.
You can certainly rely on the paints used by modelers, among which the most used and famous are: tamiya, humbrol, model master, life color gunze sangyo.
The colours are divided into two types: acrylics and enamels.
Acrylic is resistant over time. These types of colors can be used more or less dense depending on the effect you want to give, whether matt or glossy.
Enamel, on the other hand, is more opaque than acrylic; in fact, its chemical composition is similar to that of glass, as it is formed by a mixture of silica, while tin is added to give it an opaque appearance.
Often you can find the spray or liquid versions to be applied with the brush of the same color, and we will have to combine them to get the best results, a given background with the spray will be more uniform while certainly you can not use this method for details.
Once the painting work has been completed, it will be possible to evaluate the application of a sealant to protect the paint and to give brilliance to the object.
Even if the plastic does not in itself require the use of a primer we recommend the use, for the reasons that we will specify below.
3D prints painting: Organization
Organize everything you need. In addition to the object, the paint, the brushes, cloths and newspapers already mentioned, you should have some other tools. Water and soap, a sponge or a brush for cleaning, turpentine or alcohol (depending on the paints used), a small spatula / chisel and paper tape if you do not want to color the entire surface of the object.
NB: If you work in a room with poor ventilation, you will need a mask in case you use spray colors.
We know that we are not dealing with children, but it is recommended to wear old clothes and plastic gloves during painting operations, to avoid dirtying the skin or clothes.
Once everything you need has been collected, you can start by studying the colour combination that we want to give to our object. In case it is the reproduction or the copy of another object we can not unleash the imagination but simply reproduce the original colors, if it is an original creation you can choose your own color combination: normally you use 2/3 bright colors and you balance with a dark color. (For example, red, lime green and black, or yellow, bronze and dark brown).
3D prints painting: Start
To start this process it is also a good idea to have a comfortable and well-lit position, we must not make mistakes due to fatigue or miss a few details because poorly lit.
- The first step is to prepare the object we are going to paint. First clean the object, if the plastic is dirty or dusty, the paint will not stick. In addition, the dust can get trapped under the layer of paint and spoil the work leaving an appearance not perfectly smooth.
Any supporting structures must be removed and the surfaces must be sanded (using very fine-grained sandpaper). The entire surface of the object must be treated. The varnish struggles to remain attached to the plastic because it is a non-porous material, so this step is necessary to ensure the surface to the bottom. If the object has been printed for a long time and has a large amount of dirt, you should wash it with soap and hot water or wash it thoroughly with a sponge or brush.
Let’s make sure the object is completely dry before continuing. If you want to keep some parts in its original color, you have to place tape.
We recommend, even if not necessary, the application of a primer. A first coat provides a smooth base for the subsequent layers of paint, then you can use special primer colors to enhance the effects of the paint. Black as the background is normally used if you are thinking of using metallic colors. White if you want to paint a very colorful object, or with gray we can continue on both roads.
3D prints painting: You can apply a primer in several ways
• Spray paint. This will give you the best results in a very short time, it is faster than applying by airbrush. All you have to do is make sure that you use the fabric or the cartons mentioned above to protect the laboratory, because a lot of paint is used with the spray cans.
• Airbrush. This method is very similar to the previous one, but more precise. However, the set-up takes longer.
• Hand-painted. Painting the bottom by hand can be long as a process. You can use this method also for retouching substrates applied by spray paint or airbrushing. When painting by hand make sure to mix the paint with a little special thinner before applying it.
Note: If you are using a spray can, hold the nozzle over the surface. Spray with wide movements from right to left. At the end of each movement, remove your finger from the nozzle. Now, make sure you apply even coats and prevent paint from dripping.
•Shake the can for 1-2 minutes before use.
•Wait until each coat is dry before applying the next one.
•Depending on the type of color you are using, it may take two or more layers to complete the job.
- Prepare your paints. Use a palette (or small container) to separate the different colours you will use or to create new ones. Now, you can start painting. Try to be precise with the brush strokes and give priority to the areas of dominant colors for your object. You must proceed with many brushstrokes with little color and avoid laying them. If the result is not as clean as you want it to be, don’t worry too much – you can always adjust and retouch it later.
3D prints painting: Don’t worry too much about the details for now, and pass many light hands.
- Shadows and details. Some parts of the pattern – such as cracks, shadows, mesh crush and more would naturally be darker. To simulate this effect, an extra-thin black paint can be used on these areas to achieve realistic shading.
Another equally valid technique for adding details to a face, for example, is dry-brushing. To adopt this technique you must load the brush with undiluted paint. Unload the brush onto a piece of fabric or paper towel until most of the paint is lost. At this point, brush upwards over the area you want to highlight. The paint will adhere to the raised areas of the figure. For example, to paint a Caucasian face, you start with flesh color. Then put the darker shades under the eyebrows and jaw. Finally mix a little white with the flesh paint and dry front brush, nose, upper lip and cheekbones.
To simulate the metals, you can mix the metal paint with some black/brown ink, and paint the grooves and hollows, and highlights with the technique of dry-brushing and the light metal color.
3D prints painting: Adding details
- Add details. To proceed we recommend you to dilute the paint to avoid lumps before painting the smaller parts of the model. At this stage it is necessary precision with the brush.
- If we have painted a model that has a base you can end with this. There are different types of treatment for the bases to simulate a dirt road. We can, for example, pass glue on the base and immerse it in the sand. We can shake the base well to get rid of the grains and pass a coat of vinyl glue watered down to fix the whole. If we want to simulate a lawn, paste a sheet of velvety green. Or simply paint the floor that suits us best.
- Once the painting phase is over, the delicate layer of paint must be protected with sealant, satin or glossy to personal taste. Only then is it necessary to ensure that all the previous processes are completed, i.e. the model is perfectly dry.
- Final touches. It is necessary to wait at least 24-36 hours for the paint and the sealant to be completely dry. At this stage, remove any pieces of adhesive tape applied and add the last necessary details. Your 3D printed object is now ready for use or display and can be left safely indoors or outdoors.
- If we are not fully satisfied with our work, we can remove the paint from the paint using a few delicate solvents and start the process again from the beginning. Take care not to repeat the mistakes made with the first varnish.
With this we have the basis to start, so what are we waiting for? Let’s start!
P.S.: If you want, send us photos and description of the various steps taken to complete your works. Obviously recognizing the authorship and credits of the work.
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