Can 3D Printers Print in Color? How to Change Colors While Printing

The 3D printing process is one that has been developed gradually and has slowly been increasing its abilities. Some people wonder whether 3D printers print in color, so I decided to write an article answering that question.

3D printers can print in colors and can even have colors mixed together using a dual extruder 3D printer, using certain devices that separate colors during printing, and even manually changing filament yourself.

Keep on reading through this article to get more knowledge in 3D printing with multiple colors, and other useful info.

Do 3D Printers Print in Color or Multiple Colors?

3D printers are able to print in one color or multiple colors in a range of different materials. You have a wide range of filament colors to choose from such as white, black, yellow, red, blue, green, pink, purple, brown, rainbow, wood textures, and much more.

Some techniques even allow you to mix two filaments together to make a different color, but this is quite difficult to do and requires precision in certain settings, as well as the right equipment.

Multicolor printing is a fantastic technique for 3D printer hobbyists as it allows you to bring your simple 3D file into life using contrasting colors.

Color 3D printing options are majorly divided into two basic categories, direct color 3D printing, and indirect color 3D printing.

In direct 3D color printing, color is directly derived from the filament being used in the printing process while in indirect color 3D printing, an external device, equipment, or any type of external source is used to apply color to the model while it is being printed.

The print below is a mixture of silk gold PLA and red PETG using the pause at layer height or layer swapping method described later in this article.

How to Mix Multiple Colors - Dog & Lion Mixed Colors - 3D Printerly

How Do You 3D Print with Two Colors

One of the best methods to 3D print with two colors is to use the pausing function on your 3D printer, or inserting pauses within the printing file, then switching the filament yourself. You can get a dual-color hotend that has two entry points and one nozzle at the end, or a dual extruder 3D printer.

Color mixing is the process in which two different filaments are extruded at the same time to form two-color prints or develop a unique color by merging of both. It can be done with special hotends that are built to mix filament.

Many people have been starting to use objects like the Mosaic Palette 2 from Amazon or the Prusa Multi Material Upgrade 2S (MMU2S) from Prusa, which enables you to 3D print with up to 5 colors at the same time.

It simplifies the process by incorporating a calibration process, a new filament sensor, as well as a standalone filament buffer – all to produce reliable multi-color 3D prints.

How to 3D Print Multiple Colors on an Ender 3

As we all know that Ender 3 comes with a single extruder which is considered as not applicable to 3D print multiple colors, but the truth is that you can easily print multiple colors on an Ender 3 with the help of a few simple steps.

All you have to do is to slice the file in Cura a certain way and get it to work. We will go through printing a CHEP CUBE on the Ender 3.

The cube will be 100 layers and we can print every 25 layers of the model in a different color by inputting a pause function in the G-Code instructions.

Check out the video below to see how it’s done.

Load your CHEP CUBE into Cura Slicer.

Click on Extensions (in the top menu bar) > Post Processing > Modify G-Code.

A new window will open, click on the Add Script button (present on the left side of the window) and a drop-down menu will appear.

Click on the Pause at Height from the drop-down menu. (new settings will appear on the right side of the window).

Click on the dropdown menu located in front of the Pause at the option and (as height doesn’t have to be a dimension) select Layer No.

As we want to print the first 25 layers in a color, enter 25 in the Pause Layer

Adjust all other settings according to your needs or depending on your model. You can go with Park Print Head X at 20mm, Park Print Head Y at 20mm, Retraction at 25mm, Retraction Speed at 50mm/s, Extrude Speed at 3.333mm/s, Redo Layers at 1, and Standby Temperature at 25 Degrees Celsius (these settings are only recommended for printing color CHEP CUBE).

Setting the Standby Temperature is important because it will avoid the chances of over extrusion that can happen before starting the new layer because of nozzle heating up.

For layers 26 to 50, add a new script just like it is mentioned above. All the settings’ values will remain the same, the only thing that will differ is the number of layers in the Pause Layer tab which will be 50 now because it is the last layer for the second color.

Repeat this step from the Pause Layer at 75 and click Close (you are not required to perform the same steps for the 100th layer because it is predefined as an ending layer).

There will be a button called Prepare in the bottom-right corner of the Cura’s window with a Wrench symbol to its left as well.

Click on the wrench symbol if you want to go back to these settings for adjustments and if your settings are proper, click on Prepare.

Once the process is completed, save your file and review the newly generated G-Code.

Double-check your values in the G-Code before starting the printing process.

Now insert your SD Card into Ender 3, load the filament color you want to add in the first 25 layers and start the printing process like you normally do.

Once 25 layers are printed, the printing process will stop automatically with a message on Ender 3 screen as Wait for User…

Pull back your previous filament and insert the new color for layers 26 to 50.

Heat the nozzle to drain all the previous filament until you clearly begin to see your new color filament.

Now resume the printing process by pressing the printer button.

Another option which can be done in less steps is using the same “Modify G-Code” button, but choosing the “Filament Change” option.

This is a simple script which asks you to input which layer you want to change filament, where you can choose multiple options by putting a comma between the numbers.

The other options don’t really need to be changed, being the retraction distances and XY extruder position for changing the filament.

How to Do Two-Color 3D Printing with a Single Extruder Machine

People usually think that they can only print two-color models with a single extruder by spending extra costs on upgrading their printer. Well, we have summed up some of the best methods that can help you print two-color 3D prints of your interests with a single extruder.

  • Separate Part Printing
  • Layer Swapping
  • First Layer Inlay
  • Top Layer Inlay

Separate Part Printing

As its name implies, separate parts of a model are important in different colors and then combined to form a complete model. This is best suitable for prints that do not include any complex angles and have straight walls so that they can be slotted together properly.

Layer Swapping

This is one of the most common and favorite methods of printing color models using a single extruder because of its ease. You only have to pause the print where you want to switch the color.

Change the filament and pull back the previous filament from the nozzle properly.

The process of pausing and resume can be done through your printer’s control box or through the G-Code file. This method allows you to change colors with the specific layer count and can print models that will include a lot of colors.

It is the same as the method described above, using the “Modify G-Code” line to help make those changes to the filament every so often.

First Layer Inlay

This is a process in which you print a part of the print and once the print is completed, let it stay on the print bed. Now design your second part, insert the filament of different colors, and print the second part directly on the previous printed model.

Top Layer Inlay

Instead of extruding into the model and declaring it finished, create the first layer inlay as usual. Then on the top surface, add the chamfer or draft angle to the extrusion. This process allows you to print multiple layers of the top inlay so that you cannot see through different layers.

The taper or cavity is specifically selected to leave enough space for the nozzle tip, to ensure that it doesn’t collide with the previously printed model layers. You usually have to print three models to get one of different colors as:

  • Print first layer inlay and then pause the printing process.
  • Print the main body and again pause printing.
  • Print top layer inlay and complete your color 3D printed model

2-In-One Aibecy Dual Color Metal Hotend Extruder Kit

This dual-color hotend extruder kit is best suitable for CR-10 series or Ender 3 3D printers, but still works for others. This kit has the ability to access two different color filaments while extruding from a single extruder.

It works by switching from one input to another during the printing process. It is fast, reliable, stable and the resultant print usually doesn’t have any visible defects.

  • Aluminum heating block
  • Extrude through a hot end while switching between different inputs during the printing process.
  • Quick processing
  • Stable printing
  • High-quality prints
  • Stainless steel body

One user had nothing but praises for the 2-in-one Aibecy hotend after completing their first 2-color 3D print. Once you dial in your retraction settings such as distance and speed, you can get some amazing looking 3D prints.

Even if you don’t use the two colors all the time, one user mentioned how he created some of the cleanest 3D prints he’s ever done after installing this device. They got zero clogs even after consistent 3D printing over a 2-month period.

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