Best Paint for 3D Prints | Painting Guide

The world of 3D printing is vast in the maker world. You get the freedom of transforming your ideas into reality.  However, merely creating the models is not enough, you have to work on the personalization to make them look stunning. While painting the 3d printed plastics sounds easy, it is actually a bit tricky. You have to take care of a lot of things at the time of painting your models. These include the selection of colors, primers, sanding and a lot of other things.

In this guide, we will not only tell you about the best paints for 3D prints, but we’ll also discuss the right way and tips & tricks to do the painting.

In a hurry… Here’s Our Top Picks

Crafts 4 All Acrylic Paint Set

A high quality non-toxic paint that works well on most 3D printed parts. We recommend following our 3D printing guide below on prepping your 3D print before painting. This will result in a quality finish that will last.

Editor's Choice -Best Paint for 3D Prints

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Createx Colors 5803-00 2 oz Opaque Airbrush Paint Set

Createx brand is famous for their high-quality and rich airbrush paints. In fact, these are used by a majority of professionals.

Editor's Choice - Best Airbrush Paint for 3D Prints

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Types Of Paint for 3D Prints

There are a variety of paints you can use to paint your print models depending upon their type. They come in different categories such as oil-based, latex, lacquers, enamels and acrylics. Also, a majority of these paints are suitable for both ABS, PLA, and other 3D printing materials.

Types of Paint for 3D Prints

Generally, beginners are recommended to use the simple acrylic paints with the help of brushes. These are very simple to use and you get the proper control while painting. Also, acrylic paints dry quickly and offer easy cleaning.

You have to select the type of paint you want to use: spray paint, brush paint or airbrush paints. Out of these, the brush is the cheapest option and is suitable for the beginner, it doesn’t give a very smooth application. You can find the ugly strokes when you apply too many coats of paint using brushes. On the other hand, airbrush is a bit pricey but gives a natural and glossy finish. But it also requires a good in-hand experience.

Lastly, there are spray paints, which are both affordable and easy to use.

Depending upon your comfort level and budget, you can go for any of these paints for painting your PLA and ABS models.

Painting PLA and ABS

The methods of painting and the selection of paints for both PLA and ABS is almost the same.

However, due to the differences in surface, you need to pay a little bit extra attention. The surface of PLA models is porous, so when the first coat of paint is applied, it doesn’t look great. Therefore, to make the surface smooth and to fill the pores, you should always apply a good primer, especially for PLA.  After 2-3 coats of primer, you can apply multiple coats of paint to get the desired results.

The best paint for PLA is an acrylic based paint.  An acrylic paint will leave the best overall finish on your 3D print after only a couple coats.

On the other hand, ABS models have a smooth surface and painting them is straightforward. But here also, you need to sand and smooth out the models before applying the paints otherwise be ready to notice the ugly ‘blobs’.  Also, applying a primer is a crucial step before painting, so don’t skip it.

best paint for 3d printed plastic

How To Prepare 3D Print For Painting?

Painting the 3D prints doesn’t mean just picking the model and stroking it with a brush right away. You have to follow a complete process in order to prepare the print for painting. It involves cleaning, smoothing and priming the 3D print prior to painting them.

1. Cleaning

First thing you should do is clean the finished object very well to remove any extra parts and supports, or abnormalities. You can use a knife or a cutting blade to eliminate the artefacts. Just make sure to make your surface as smooth as possible before moving to the next steps.

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2. Smoothing

Smoothing the 3D model involves various methods like sanding, acetone vapor for ABS and ethyl acetate for PLA. But the latter methods impose various health hazards and hence, sanding is the best way to smooth out the models.

You can use a combination of grit sizes to get rid of all the artefacts, fine lines from the print. You can use sandpapers as a newcomer but if you have experience then you can go for power sanding tools as well.

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Further, you can also use fillers to make the surface smooth at the glued joints. For that, clean and sand your model to remove the dirt and small particles from it. After that go on with multiple layers of spray fillers or primers. Also, go for grey filler instead of white as it makes the flaws visible in a better way. After the application of primer, dry the model and sand it again using fine-sized grit of sandpaper. Spray the primer again and sand it again till the printed object is completely smooth.

3. Painting

Finally, when you’re done with smoothing and have selected your paint, you can proceed with painting. If you’re a beginner then you can use acrylic paints otherwise spray paint and airbrush are truly great.

Once your product is dry after the application of paint, you can finish it with a clear coat to protect and seal the colors. It will also give a glossy and natural finish.

Best Paint for 3D Prints

Rust Oleum Multi-purpose Spray Paint

Spray paints are considered to be the best because they are easy to use as well as affordable. Even a beginner can use them without facing any problem. This Rust Oleum spray works very well on plastic surfaces as well as wood, metal, ceramic and masonry. Its oil-based formulation makes it free from odor and offers a long lasting impression. Further, it dries quickly and a single bottle covers up to 12 sq ft. It gives a high-end glossy finish.

Rust Oleum Painter’s Touch

Another product from Rust Oleum. It is a multi-purpose spray paint suitable for PLA, ABS, wood, foam, metal, masonry and few other materials. It is quite durable and transforms the entire look of the object. It makes the model look professionally designed. Also, it gives a matt finish which gives a vintage look.  A great option for your 3D printer projects.

Smooth-On XTC-3D Print Coating

*Great Alternative Finishing Option

If you’re looking for a great quality and beginner-friendly coating for 3D prints then, you should check out XTC-3D print coating. It is a great option for finishing the your 3D prints that are already painted, as it results in a natural and glossy finish. It works for PLA, ABS, SLA, SLS along with other materials such as wood, foam, fabric, paper, plaster etc.

Best Airbrush Paint for 3D Prints

Below are some of the best airbrush paints for 3D prints :

U.S. Art Supply Airbrush Paints

The US Art Supply’s airbrush paint set comes with deep and rich colors that will enhance the beauty of your project. You can either use them individually or by mixing them. You can use these paints on plastic, fabric, paper, foam, wood and a few more surfaces. This paint set also comes along a color reducer, airbrush cleaner and a mixing wheel using which you can try different color combinations.

Createx Airbrush Paint – Best Paint for PLA Filament

Createx brand is famous for their high-quality and rich airbrush paints. In fact, these are used by a majority of professionals. This set includes a total of eight vibrant colors each packed in 2-ounce bottles. You can use them on a variety of surfaces including plastic, wood, fabric, paper etc.

ChromaAir Airbrush Paints

Another choice of professionals! ChromaAir airbrush paints are great for beginners as well. They come in a set of eight rich colors which are water-based. You can either use them on their own or dilute them. There are 2-ounce bottles and also a bottle of reducer included in the set.

Which Primer To Use on 3D Print Parts?

Enough emphasis can not be laid on the importance of priming before painting. It makes a world of difference to your 3D objects and makes them look professionally designed. It also makes the surface easy to paint by concealing the flaws like pores and fine lines. So, if you desire for a perfect object, priming is a must.

But the question is which primer to use on 3D prints? Well, this is not at all tricky.

Select a primer that is suitable for your plastic. There are brush-on primers and spray ones. Although both are great, spray primers are easier to use and give an even application. You can use the brush-on primers for reaching the tough corners of your object.

How to Paint 3D Prints PLA and ABS

Here are some useful pieces of advice for painting the 3D print models :

  1. Always paint in a closed environment because wind strokes can mess with the paints and can allow the dirt to stick on the paint.
  2. If you’re using brush-on paints then, make sure to apply the paint smoothly to avoid the brush strokes.
  3. While using the spray paints, try to do it in one go for achieving an even application.
  4. Always paint the object in a covered zone to prevent other things from getting the paint spots. You can use a cardboard enclosure for this purpose.
  5. Maintain a good distance while applying the spray paint.
  6. Applying multiple coats for a better finish.
  7. Always mount your model on a dowel to avoid any fingerprints on them.
  8. Wear safety gears and proper clothing like gloves, respirator, glasses and maybe an apron to avoid spotting your clothes and prevent yourself from the strong fumes.

Finishing Up

Overall, there are a lot of different ways to paint your 3D Print, whether it’s with acrylic or and airbrush paint.  Just make sure to properly prep your 3D printed parts before painting.  Soon you will be a 3D printing machine and might even start your own business.

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