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How to Paint 3D Prints

  • 6 min read

Step-by-step Guide: How to Paint 3D Prints Easily

3D printing technology, also known as additive manufacturing, is a versatile and rapidly evolving field that can transfer digital design into tangible products and accomplish tasks in various fields. 3D-printed objects often come out in a single color or a basic filament color, which may not be visually appealing for certain projects. Painting is a good way to conceal flaws and make your creations more visually attractive.

So, how to paint 3D prints? While 3D printing is widely applied in manufacturing and healthcare to art and education, individual users are still new to it, let alone painting techniques. That’s why we’re here to guide you through the process of painting 3D prints, equipping you with the knowledge and skills to transform your 3D prints from plain to visually stunning. Let’s get started!

Materials and Tools Needed for 3D Prints Painting

Before we go over how to paint 3D prints, it's essential to gather the right materials and tools. Equipping yourself with the following items will ensure a smoother painting process:

  1. 3D Prints:
    • Ensure that your 3D prints are fully printed and ready for painting.
  2. Painting Materials:
    • Primer:A high-quality primer creates a smooth, uniform base that helps paint adhere better and prevents issues like peeling and uneven colors.
    • Paints:Acrylic paints are a popular choice for 3D print painting due to their versatility and quick drying time. You can also choose watercolor paints, oil paints, and others based on your needs.
  3. Painting tools:
    • Brushes:For detailed painting, you can prepare a variety of paintbrushes, including fine detail brushes for intricate work and larger brushes for broad strokes.
    • Sandpaper and Sanding Blocks: Essential for smoothing surfaces, eliminating imperfections, and preparing 3D prints for painting.

Step-by-Step Guide to Paint 3D Prints​

Now that you have all the necessary tools and materials ready for painting your 3D prints, let's proceed with how to paint a 3D printed object.

Remove Raft or Support Material

The first crucial step is to remove any raft or support material left from the 3D printing.

  1. Carefully inspect your 3D print for these structures, which are used to support overhanging sections during printing.
  2. Using pliers or appropriate tools, gently detach these elements, ensuring not damaging the main print.

Important Considerations:

  • Be patient and methodical, especially with intricate designs.

Smooth 3D Prints

Achieving a flawless paint job requires a smooth surface, which may not always be the case with 3D prints due to layer lines or imperfections. To address this, the next step is smoothing the 3D prints.

  1. Use sandpaper of various grits, starting with coarse grits and gradually moving to finer grits.
  2. Gently sand the entire surface, paying extra attention to areas with visible imperfections. For a more efficient smoothing process, consider using sanding blocks, which provide stability and even pressure.
  3. After sanding, wipe the prints clean to remove dust and debris.

Important Considerations:

  • When sanding your 3D prints, apply consistent and controlled pressure. Avoid pressing too hard, as excessive force can lead to uneven surfaces or even cause damage to delicate parts.
  • After sanding, thoroughly clean the 3D print to remove all dust and debris.

Add Primer for 3D Prints​

Once your 3D prints are smoothed to your satisfaction, start to apply a primer. Primer serves as a critical foundation for your paint, enhancing adhesion and ensuring an even, consistent finish.

  1. Choose a suitable primer based on your project requirements.
  2. Apply the primer evenly over the entire surface of the 3D print.
  3. Allow the primer to dry thoroughly as per the manufacturer's instructions.

Important Considerations:

  • Choose a primer that is compatible with the type of paint you plan to use.
  • When applying primer, ensure you are in a well-ventilated area or wear a respirator mask.
  • Apply the primer in thin, even coats to avoid drips or runs.
  • Use light, overlapping strokes to avoid creating thick, uneven coats.

Paint Your 3D Prints​

With your 3D prints primed and ready, it's time to apply the paint:

  1. Select the colors and paint typesthat suit your project. Acrylic paints are a popular choice.
  2. Using fine brushes for intricate details and larger brushes for broader strokes, carefully apply the paint to your 3D prints.
  3. Start with a base layer and allow it to dry completely before adding additional coats. Depending on the desired finish and effect, you may need multiple layers.
  4. Once your paint job is complete, you can optionally seal it with a clear varnish for added protection and a polished look.

Important Considerations:

  • Be cautious when layering different colors.
  • Let each layer dry thoroughly before proceeding to the next.
  • Regularly clean your brushes during the painting process to maintain their effectiveness and prevent cross-contamination of colors.

Essential Painting Tips for 3D Printing

Aside from the step-by-step guide, we’ve also covered some tips for 3D printing. Following these tips will help you better know how to paint 3D prints.

  • Prepare Your 3D Print:Before you start painting, make sure your 3D print is clean and free of any debris, dust, or residue. You can use isopropyl alcohol and a soft brush to clean the surface.
  • Thin Your Paints:If you're using acrylic paints, thin them with a bit of water or acrylic medium. This will make it easier to apply thin, even coats and reduce the risk of brush strokes.
  • Use Multiple Coats:It's often better to apply several thin coats of paint rather than one thick coat. This helps to prevent paint build-up, dripping, and obscuring fine details.
  • Allow Proper Drying Time:Allow each coat of paint to dry thoroughly before applying the next one. This may take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, depending on the type of paint and environmental conditions.
  • Masking:If you have multiple colors or want to protect certain areas from paint, use masking tape or liquid masking fluid to cover those areas before painting.
  • Touch-Up:If you make a mistake or need to fix imperfections, you can always touch up the paint. Just make sure the previous layers are completely dry before applying the new paint.
  • Safety Precautions:When using spray paints or paints that emit fumes, work in a well-ventilated area and wear appropriate safety gear such as a respirator or mask.
  • Clean Your Tools:Clean your brushes, airbrushes, and other painting tools immediately after use to prevent paint buildup and maintain their longevity.

Can I Paint 3D Prints without Sanding?

It is not recommended as the surface of 3D prints often exhibits some imperfections, such as roughness and unevenness. If you paint directly on the 3D print without sanding, these flaws can adversely affect the quality of your painting.

However, if you wonder how to paint 3D printed objects without sanding, opting for a high-quality 3D printer is a reliable solution. Because advanced printers can produce smoother and more even surfaces. We’ve come up with two top-tier professional 3D printers below. Check them if necessary.

If you're just embarking on your 3D printing journey, the AnkerMake M5 3D Printeris an excellent choice. It combines user-friendly operation with robust functionality. It offers an extrusion flow of 24 mm³/s, ensuring enhanced print quality, and the time-lapse video function helps you record and share your printing ideas. This makes it exceptionally suitable for high-precision projects and results in a smooth and pristine surface.

For more seasoned users, the AnkerMake M5C 3D Printer stands as the ultimate choice. It features an all-metal hotend, mitigating the risk of material blockages or jams in the hotend and achieving a more even extrusion. With a 35mm³/s extrusion flow, it achieves quicker printing speeds, catering to the demands of rapid production.


Over the course of this guide, we have delved deep into the intricate world of painting 3D prints. From selecting the right materials and preparing the print surface to the actual painting process and final touches, each step is crucial in achieving a flawless finish. While the journey of transforming a simple 3D print into a vibrant and lifelike object might seem challenging, with patience, practice, and the right techniques, anyone can master this art.


How long willthe3D prints paint dry?​

The drying time for paint on 3D prints varies based on factors like paint type, layer thickness, and environmental conditions. Acrylic paints dry quickly, often within minutes, while oil-based paints can take hours to days. Thicker paint layers dry more slowly than thin ones. Additionally, low humidity and high temperatures speed up drying, but proper ventilation in the workspace is also crucial for quicker drying.

What kind of paint do you use on 3D prints?

For painting PLA 3D prints, acrylic and enamel paints are the top choices. Before applying paint, it's crucial to remove any supports and sand the print's surface for smoothness. Priming the print not only provides a sealed and even surface but also enhances the adhesion of the final paint coats to the plastic material.