Can You Paint 3D-Printed Parts? Tips for Painting PLA

Can You Paint 3D-Printed Parts? Tips for Painting PLA

2023 Mar 6th

While 3D printers can create many things, they can’t add a layer of paint to your 3D-printed model. Can 3D printing hobbyists paint their 3D printed PLA parts? We answer that and more below!

Yes, You Can Paint 3D Prints

Yes, many 3D printing artists like to paint their models and parts after printing to add another layer of depth and creativity to their designs. While painting 3D-printed parts is possible, it’s not as simple as taking the model directly from the printer bed to the paint shop. So, we’ve compiled some helpful tips for painting PLA filaments.

How To Paint PLA Filaments

Use the Right Paint

Not every paint will be compatible with PLA 3D printing filaments, but luckily, it’s not hard to find paint that is suited for 3D prints. As anyone could guess, paints specifically designed for plastic work best for 3D-printed parts and models.

The most common paints for 3D printing are acrylic or enamel paints. While both will work, each has unique characteristics. Acrylic paints offer a matte finish, and enamel paints are more glossy. Consider the finish you want for your project before making a selection.

Smooth Before Priming

Before you can start priming and painting the 3D-printed part, the surface needs to be prepared by smoothing. Before sanding, your 3D-printed model should not have any significant protrusions or defects. Use some sandpaper or a small knife to eliminate these overhangs or lumps.

Once that’s done, you can start to sand the surface of the 3D model to a smooth surface (120-grit sandpaper is a favorite for many 3D printing hobbyists). Ensure you sand in circular motions to avoid scratching the surface, and pay close attention to the corners and edges. You don’t want to sand away the print’s fine details!

Prime Before Painting

Once the surface of the 3D-printed part is smooth and sanded, it’s ready to be primed. Priming helps create a more pristine surface for the paint and will even out any gaps left over from sanding and smoothing.

It’s recommended to put on two coats of primer, and while you can certainly use a brush-on primer, it’s typically easier to use a spray-on primer. Spray-on primer is much quicker and easier to use. Sweep it across the 3D-printed part quickly with rapid bursts to avoid drips or buildups.

Finally, Get Painting!

After being coated with primer, your 3D-printed model is finally ready to be painted. Like with the primer, we generally recommend using spray paint for convenience. You can still use painter’s tape to mask certain parts of the print.

A final clear coat over the paint is also wise to seal the 3D-printed model and protect the paint’s surface. If you want a glossy finish, feel free to polish it with wax too!