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3D printing is amazing, but if you want to get the most out of your project, your work is just underway after the print comes off the platform. Here are some tips to take your 3D print to the next level. 

A movie director doesn't yell "Cut!" on the set and turn the movie over to the film studio; he relies on multiple takes, angles, and then editors go over the project to make it the best it can be. The same is true for the design process. It is unlikely that you will design a print perfectly and have it come out looking like a finished product, but there are a few simple steps you can take after the print is complete to get a more polished appearance. If it is your first time using a 3D printer, I'd recommend that you start out by selecting a pre-designed print that is well reviewed in a 3D model repository such as Thingiverse. In this example, we will take a pre-designed Pokeball with pink parts and make it look like the real thing!


I recommend using a high resolution setting in your software. At the Barrington Area Library, we typically use a layer height of .14 millimeters on projects as long as they take less than 6 hours to print at that resolution. If supports are needed you can remove them after the job is complete with needle nosed pliers.


Even though the resolution is .14mm, you will still be able to pick out the lines on your print, and after removing supports the print might need some attention. Sanding with a course sandpaper will eliminate many of the surface blemishes and provide a smoother finish. After using a course sandpaper, use a fine grit sandpaper to remove any additional inconsistencies. Below is a picture after sanding with a course sandpaper. Make sure to sand in an open space and use a facemask or respirator when needed.

Prime & Paint

Priming is a step that many people will skip over, but it helps to add an even base and further remove any surface scratches. Additionally, you may not always have control over which color filament is used on your 3D print. For this Pokeball, there were three different colors, so primer helps to mask any color beneath. You can use a spray primer or use a brush and a liquid primer.

After your base coat of primer is applied and dried, you can either use a brush or a can of spray paint to add your color. When the project has large surface areas that are the same color, spray paint is a great choice and a big time saver. When using spray paint, be sure to follow all of the instructions on the can, such as to use in a well ventilated area. 

Other projects may have significantly more detail and can benefit from the use of modeling materials and fine paintbrushes. One of our talented patrons, Dan Tisoncik, primed and painted a 3D printed model of Barrington's Catlow Theater. This took significantly more time and skill to paint, but the tremendous result speaks for itself. 


After you complete a pre-designed print, you might want to take the next step and design your own project. There are some wonderful resources on Lynda.com to get you up and running with 3D design. If this is your first design, I would recommend using the free, web-based software, Tinkercad. Remember, the design process can be a challenge, but you'll walk away with new skills and I'll bet the desire to make another project!