How to Make 3D Prints Look Like Wood


Many people have learned about 3D printing with wood filament, but they want to learn how to make 3D prints look a lot like wood, with a nice wood texture. This article will take you through the steps on how to do this properly.

Keep on reading for more information about how to make 3D prints look like wood.

Can You 3D Print Wood Furniture?

Yes, you can print wood furniture on your 3D printer but not real wood. Wood filament that is used in a 3D printer is a hybrid of wood strands and PLA filament. One example of a popular wood filament is HATCHBOX 3D Printer Wood Filament. Many users have successfully made 3D printed furniture like plant pots and tables.

A cool thing about wood filament is that it adds heat resistance to your models and helps with making layer lines less visible.

You can see this really cool wooden 3D print from Hatchbox Wood Filament on an Ender 3. It’s a Modern Geometric Succulent Plant Pot which you can find on Thingiverse. The user sanded the pots and used a wood stain to get the wooden effect.

You can check out my article 30 Best Wood 3D Prints That You Can Make Now (Free).

Using the same techniques, you can 3D print furniture that looks wooden.

I’m addicted to printing with wood filament from 3Dprinting

Here’s an example of 3D printed furniture, but in a white filament. You can replace the filament for a good wood filament and create a similar wooden look.

3D printed some furniture from 3Dprinting

Here’s another example of 3D printed furniture that was created, without any separate additions.

How to Make 3D Prints Look Like Wood - 3D Printed Furniture - 3D Printerly

Check out this really cool video by Scott Yu-Jan making some furniture with a 3D printer.

How to Make 3D Prints Look Like Wood

These are a few ways to ensure your 3D print will look the most like wood as possible:

  • Use a Good Wood Filament
  • Add Texture to the STL File
  • Sanding
  • Staining

Check out my article on How to 3D Print With Wood Filament Properly.

Use a Good Wood Filament

The first step in order to make sure your 3D print will look like wood is getting a good wood filament as there are a few of them available on the market.

Here are some great wood filament choices:

  • Hatchbox Wood Filament – One of the most popular wood filaments out there. Users think it may be a bit expensive but it also produces great looking results and looks great after sanding and staining.
  • SUNLU Wood PLA Filament – a great option for wood filament, as users state that it is pretty strong when printed, producing solid layers and with a very appealing transparency.
  • AMOLEN Dark Wood Walnut PLA Filament – a good wood filament for 3D printing. Users review points that finished pieces have seamless layers and are quite strong. One user stated that you can slightly bend the pieces without them cracking, which is more than you can do with standard PLA.

Breaks’n’Makes has a really cool video about 3D printing with wood filaments where he talks about the different types of wood filaments, check it out below.

Add Texture to the STL File

A very cool way to make sure your 3D prints will look a lot like real wood is to add a realistic wood grain texture using displacement mapping in the open source software Blender.

There are a few tutorials online about how to use Blender and add a realistic wood grain texture to any STL file you want. Users considered it a game changer for printing wood-like objects.

Check out this tutorial video below, or go to this website that has a nice written guide.

One user warned not to orient the wood grain texture perpendicular to the direction of the layer lines, since it can negatively effect sanding and staining.

Try to correctly orient the wood grain texture with the layer lines to get the best looking result and to avoid problems and sanding and staining.

Here is a phone stand one user 3D printed using Hatchbox Wood Filament and adding texture to the STL file on Blender.

View post on imgur.com

The 3D printing slicer IdeaMaker implemented a similar feature on their latest version, called Texturing. It allows you to add a grayscale image around your object and depending on the gray value of the image, it will morph the outer perimeter, generating different textures.

Breaks’n’Makes shows some great examples of Texturing in IdeaMaker, even showing some wood grain examples.

One user showed some cool wood grain texture he created by using IdeaMaker. It has a texture icon in the software and you can choose custom textures and even community ones, or you can download one from Google to use.

Some wood texture I was able to get using Ideamaker. from 3Dprinting

Sanding

If you want your 3D prints to really look like wood then a good idea is sanding them after they are printed. You can use this Paxcoo 42 Pcs Sandpaper Assortment 120-3,000 Grit from Amazon.

One user recommends sanding in the direction of the layer lines with a 180 grit sandpaper but to be careful not to sand it too smooth or it will have trouble absorbing the stain.

Sanding wood filaments tends to be pretty easy as wood leaves less visible layer lines so usually the sanding is done so the stain will absorb better, also, it can add irregularities that will help you achieve a more realistic grain wood look.

Another user recommends using an electric sander, like the WEN 6301 Electric Detailing Palm Sander, which reviewers state that has great performance and is very easy to work with, at 180 grit and going at it for at least ten minutes, maybe more.

One user who purchased this said it is really helpful for when they are sanding small 3D printed pieces.

Sanding before staining is very important as the prints may be very smooth right off the printer, especially compared to standard PLA, with minimal layer lines, but users do reassure you that spending 15 minutes on sanding will make a lot of difference.

Wood filament Flexi Rex after sanding and staining from 3Dprinting

One user 3D printed a beautiful watch stand in wood filament and said the secret is all in the sanding and the staining!

How to Make 3D Prints Look Like Wood - 3D Printed Wood Watch Stand 1 - 3D Printerly

Modshapes did a really great video where they sand and stain a sunglasses holder 3D printed using the eSUN Wood Filament, check it out below.

Staining

After sanding, to finish off your 3D printed wood object with a realistic wood look, you will need to stain it to achieve that real wood texture.

There are many different stains, oil-based stains and gel stains and from many different brands. You will need to experiment with different ones to find the best suited one for your prints.

Another user 3D printed a beautiful self-balancing wine holder using his Ender 3 with Filaments.ca Home Brand Wood PLA. He said he uses the same settings as regular PLA, maybe just leaving it a bit hotter by around 5- 10°C.

Stained wood filament wine holder. from 3Dprinting

Check out the Balancing Wine Bottle Holder on Thingiverse.

He also shared a picture of the wine holder before sanding and staining and you can see a clear difference in texture and look. You will find out more in the next section about how to make 3D prints look like wood.

3d printed bottle holder in wood pla

Most of the 3D printing community seems to suggest gel stains to work better with wood filaments, especially filaments with real wood.

One user recommends, after sanding your entire piece, taking a small piece of rag, something with a texture, and applying the stain lightly in the same direction as you did the staining. He recommends Minwax Express Color Wiping Stain as he found great results with it.

Be aware that you will have to experiment with different motions, such as swiping or wiping and with heavier and lighter applications to really achieve the perfect look for your 3D printed wood piece. Remember that the stain will take at least one full day to dry it out.

Another user recommends using foam brushes with very little light color wood stain soaked into the foam and applied at the same direction you previously sanded in. This should keep the object from getting streaks and dark lines absorbing into the fiber too much.

He also suggests you make sure the stain has polyurethane in it in order to fully protect the 3D printed object.

Tried 3D printing with wood filament /sanding /staining again and loved the results from 3Dprinting

 

Check out the video below by Andrew Sink about staining 3D printed wood filament.

How to Fix 3D Print Wood Filament Stringing

A very recurring problem for people trying to 3D print wood filaments is the constant stringing but rest assured that are ways to solve this problem, such as:

Here’s how to fix 3D print wood filament stringing:

  • Dry Your Filament
  • Lower the Temperature
  • Increase Retraction Settings

I wrote more about 5 Ways How to Fix Stringing & Oozing in Your 3D Prints.

Dry Your Filament

Most 3D printing filaments are known to absorb moisture from the air, which can lead to stringing during the printing process. What you should do in this case is dry your filaments with a professional filament dryer like the SUNLU Filament Dryer from Amazon.

You can also use something like a food dehydrator. One user fixed his stringing issues by putting the wood filament in a food dehydrator on the lowest setting for 24 hours. Before this, he was trying other methods for a whole week to no avail, so make sure to do this early.

Lots of stringing on this Nova wood filament no matter the temperature. Any suggestions? from prusa3d

Another user was experiencing stringing with any setting he tried, when 3D printing wood filaments. He finally managed to reduce stringing by drying the filament for about eight hours and printing it directly from the dry box.

Breaks and Makes has an awesome video where he talks about 3D printing wood filament, its problems and a lot more you can check below!

Lower the Temperature

High temperatures are one of the main motives for stringing when 3D printing wood filaments, so a lot of the users recommend lowering your temperature in order to reduce stringing.

Finding the optimal temperature for your wood filaments can help fix stringing issues, as well as adhesion and surface quality issues.

Users suggest doing temperature tests for your wood filaments.

You can do a temperature tower to find out what gives you the best results. It has multiple towers which automatically switch temperature so you can find the best quality tower/temperature.

You can follow the video below to see how to one directly in Cura.

 

One user said he 3D prints Hatchbox Wood PLA at 195°C with success, and also suggested trying to tune your Flow Rate.

CHEP has a really good video on YouTube talking about 3D printing wood filaments and their correct temperatures.

Increase Retraction Settings

If you are experiencing problems when trying to 3D print wood filaments such as stringing, then increasing retraction speed and distance seems to be one of the recommended solutions by users from the 3D printing community.

One user turned his retraction speed from 35mm/s to 50mm/s and his retraction distance from 5.5mm to 8mm and had great improvements in his results with a lot less stringing than he was experiencing before.

Another user said he uses up to a 7mm retraction distance on his Creality CR-10 to handle the stringing well.

It’s a good idea to do your own retraction test to dial in your settings properly.

Maker’s Muse has a really good YouTube video teaching how to change retraction settings in order to avoid stringing! Check it out below!

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