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In this tutorial, we are going to show you how to paint FDM 3D printed parts. When done right, it can look really good & also be a lot of fun! Some parts, such as matte PLA, can be painted directly with cheap craft paint without the need for priming.


But if you want a super professional finish, then a little sanding, priming, & bodywork is needed. The large display model shown here was glued together with 2 part epoxy, filled with 3M Glazing Putty, and then sanded down with an electric sander. Be sure to do this outdoor & also wear a respirator while sanding!

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To further hide the layer lines, our favorite protocol is to spray the model with Rustoleum filler primer. 


Since labor is so expensive & healthcare is even more expensive, be sure to wear a respirator & do this outdoor! This is a one-time $50 capital expenditure that will save you hundreds in labor & thousands in healthcare.


Here was the display model after a few mist coats & 1 wet coat of filler primer. As you can see, it looked super smooth with no visible signs of layer lines!


To prepare the model for a metallic finish, a mist coat of black was sprayed (since flat colors dry way faster than gloss colors).


And then a few mist coats of metallic silver was applied on top of that. Be sure to let each coat thoroughly dry before recoating. The number 1 hack we learned over years of building & painting model kits is to let the damn paint dry! 

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To add more visual interest, apply some cheap artist oil paint around the corners & crevices. Then wipe it off with a paper towel. Be sure to wear disposable gloves & put some old newspaper on the table as this process can be a bit messy! We are essentially painting on the shadows as well as grease & dirt (depending on what color you use & how heavy you apply the effect).


To add further visual interest, another popular technique is dry brushing. This means adding a lighter colored paint to the paintbrush, wiping off most of it on a piece of cardboard such as an old Amazon box, and then lightly brushing the brush onto the corners & edges almost like painting on the highlights.

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While you could, in theory, hire an artist, doing it yourself is not only fun & cost-effective. But it is also extremely therapeutic if you have a free weekend or a few evenings! In fact, you could even do this with your family or friends for craft night!

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