How to Prime & Paint 3D Printed Miniatures – A Simple Guide


When it comes 3D printed miniatures, learning how to paint them does take time to get right. There are techniques that the experts use that many people don’t know about, so I decided to write this article to show you how it’s done.

To prime and paint 3D printed miniatures, make sure that the model is cleaned up well and sanded down to remove imperfections. Once done, apply a few thin coats of primer to prepare the part’s surface. Then use high-quality acrylic paints with the right brush size or an airbrush for superb-looking miniatures.

After reading through this article, you’ll learn some of the best methods to paint your 3D printed miniatures to a high standard, so keep reading on for more.

Do I Need to Wash 3D Printed Minis?

Filament 3D printed miniatures don’t need to be washed, but you should clean up any excess plastic. For resin 3D printed minis, you want to wash them as part of your normal post-processing, either with isopropyl alcohol or soap & water for water washable resin. Use a wash & cure station or an ultrasonic cleaner.

Washing your resin 3D printed minis is actually recommended to get rid of excess resin that might be present inside and on the outside of your model. Make sure you’re using the right washing technique for your specific resin.

Normal resin prints shouldn’t be cleaned using water because it isn’t the right type of solvent that can wash off the residues in your print. The usual cleaner for resin models is isopropyl alcohol.

In other news, there’s another special type of resin called Water Washable Resin that can be cleaned with water. Check out my article Water Washable Resin Vs Normal Resin – Which is Better.

As for filament 3D printed minis, most users recommend getting straight to priming. One person found out the hard way that PLA absorbs water and may react badly to it. However, sanding FDM prints with water is a much better working solution.

You can get yourself a full-fledged washing station too for your resin 3D prints.

Some of the best ones are Anycubic Wash and Cure or the Elegoo Mercury Plus 2-in-1.

You can also choose to wash resin models in an Ultrasonic Cleaner, something that many users choose to wash their models with.

Lastly, if you’ve bought 3D printed minis from a marketplace, it’s better to wash them with soap and water for safety purposes when they arrive. You may also need to cure the prints, so it’s better to ask the seller here for further instructions.

How to Prepare 3D Printed Miniatures for Priming & Painting

One of the first things to do after taking your miniature off the build platform of the 3D printer is to assess if it needs any clean-up.

If you’ve got pieces of filament sticking out, you can use an X-Acto Knife (Amazon) to easily clear out any unwanted protrusions.

Next comes sanding, which is essentially hiding the apparent layer lines of your mini. It’s best to start with low-grit sandpaper that’s about 60-200 grit and work your way up to higher ones for finer results.

You then have to prime your miniature. A flawless paint job starts with good priming, so ensure your model is clean of any dust from the sanding and apply your primer.

After that, the main step is the actual painting part. Most of the experts use acrylic paints with brushes to paint 3D printed miniatures, so you should do the same for high-quality results.

When it comes to cleaning up 3D prints and smoothing over the models, you can check out the video below that shows you a professional look on how to do it. It involves flush cutters, blades to cut plastic, and other useful cleaning tools.

How to Prime 3D Printed Miniatures

The best way to prime 3D printed miniatures is to apply multiple thin coats of the primer rather than thick coats. Make sure the coverage is even and the primer doesn’t accumulate. You can also use a sandable spray primer that can let you sand down visible layer lines for the best results. 

Using a primer prior to painting 3D printed miniatures can bring you the best results as opposed to when you don’t use it. Priming actually prepares the surface of the print so the paint can adhere much better to it.

If you’re using a spray primer, it’s advised to maintain a distance of 8-12 inches away from the model, so the coatings can be thin and do not accumulate too much at one point.

In addition, it’s advised to rotate the 3D printed miniature when you’re spraying a primer on it so every part of the model can catch the spray evenly. Use quick strokes at a decent distance and you should be good to go.

Keep safety in mind by wearing a 3M Half Facepiece Respirator (Amazon) or a facemask.

Some people use some type of string attached to the miniature or a stick underneath so it can be rotated and elevated to make it easier to spray with primer.

Once you’ve applied the first coat, let the miniature dry for about 30 minutes to one hour depending on what primer you’re using. After that, sand the model if needed using around 200 grit sandpaper, then gradually move up to the finer sandpaper.

You can go with the Austor 102 Pcs Wet & Dry Sandpaper Assortment (60-3,000 Grit) from Amazon.

It’s advised to sand the model in circular motions and be gentle overall. When you move up to higher grit sandpaper, like 400 or 600 grits, you can choose to also wet sand the model for a smoother and finer finish.

The next step is to apply the second coat of the primer to get some better coverage of your miniature. The process of doing this will be the same.

Apply the primer quickly while the part is rotating and make sure to let it dry once you’re done. If you use sandpaper again, do get rid of any residual dust before moving on to the painting part.

The following is a highly descriptive video on everything you need to know about priming 3D prints, so do give it a watch for a visual tutorial.

How to Paint 3D Printed Miniatures

To paint 3D printed miniatures, you first need to clean up your print by removing any supports or excess material from the model. Once done, sand the miniature to hide any apparent layer lines. Now move on to painting your model with acrylic paints, an airbrush, or spray paint for the best results. 

Painting a 3D printed miniature is a fairly fun thing to do, especially when you know what you’re doing and what techniques you should follow. Check out the video below for a great guide on painting 3D printed minis.

I’d recommend wearing gloves and goggles during painting for safety. In some cases, you should also wear a respirator or a face mask.

I’ve put together an effective list of the best tips and techniques to really get better at painting your 3D printed miniatures. Let’s have a look at it below.

  • Split Your Parts Before Printing
  • Use Brushes With Different Sizes
  • Use High-Quality Paints
  • Get a Wet Palette

Split Your Parts Before Printing

A very useful tip that works wonders for people looking to create high-quality miniatures is simply dividing your prints into multiple parts so they can be glued together later.

By doing so, you can paint each split-up part individually and this can definitely make things a lot easier for you. This technique is used when a miniature consists of fairly complex parts and you’re looking to paint it with high precision.

There is a wide variety of ways you can do this, such as using Fusion 360, Cura, and even Meshmixer.

I’ve covered the techniques of Cutting and Splitting STL Files in another one of my articles, so do check it out for a detailed tutorial on how to split your parts before printing for high-quality painting.

You can also check out the video below to learn how to split models on Meshmixer, and even add pegs so the parts attach better after printing.

Use Brushes With Different Sizes

Another pro-tip that you should know about is the importance of picking the right brush for the job. I’m not only talking about the quality but the size of the brushes too.

The experts typically have a specific brush for each part in a miniature. For instance, the base of a figure is probably something that’s painted fast without caring much for the details.

In instances like those, you’re going to benefit greatly from a bigger brush. On the contrary, use a smaller-sized brush for when things get small and complex.

Save yourself the hassle and grab the Golden Maple 10-Piece Set of Miniature Brushes directly on Amazon. The brushes are top-rated, are priced very affordably, and come in all sizes to accommodate your figure painting needs.

Use High-Quality Paints

This obviously comes as a no-brainer but using high-quality acrylic paints can help you achieve really good-looking miniatures. However, this isn’t set in stone, as you can also get desirable results from cheap acrylics as well.

But when we talk about how the pros do it, you cannot ignore using the best paints around.

Some of the most well-established options that you have in this regard include Vallejo Acrylics that cost around $40-$50 when purchased directly from Amazon.

These are specially manufactured for miniatures, so it should help you to get the best-looking minis out of using these acrylics. The paints are non-toxic and non-flammable as well.

One miniature printing enthusiast wrote that the bottles are very long-lasting, the colors look rich and vibrant, and the finishing is remarkable on 3D printed figures. Many others have gone even as far as calling it the best paint for 3D printed minis.

If budget isn’t an issue for you, it’s also worth looking into The Army Painter Miniature Painting Kit. This wonderful set costs about $170 and comes with 60 non-toxic bottles of high-quality paints.

 

It almost guarantees no loss of detail on miniatures and gets the job done in lesser coats. You also get droppers with each bottle that makes painting seamless and exceedingly convenient.

A customer who bought the painting kit for their fantasy miniatures says that it’s better than anything they’ve used before. The colors look fantastic, the application is smooth and easy, and the quality is just great all around.

Get a Wet Palette

Getting a wet palette is probably one of the best investments you can make to make your life a lot easier when painting 3D printed miniatures.

As compared to a dry palette, a wet palette is made up of an absorbent material that provides active hydration to your paints as soon as you place them on it.

This allows you to keep your paints wet for an extended period of time using the paint palette with a lid, so you don’t have to keep mixing water and paint to apply to it to your miniatures.

It has an all-in-one storage so you can store your hobby brushes and stored paints, also coming with 2 hydro foam wet palette sponges, and 50 hydro paper palette sheets.

This is a great time-saver and many professionals use a wet palette to work on figures, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t get one for yourself as well.

The Army Painter Wet Palette from Amazon is a product that I can vouch for. It’s top-rated on the platform with more than 3,400 global ratings and a 4.8/5.0 overall rating at time of writing.

A customer who uses this palette says that he left their paints inside the palette for about 7 days, and when they returned to use it again, most of the paint was still fresh for use.

It’s definitely worth purchasing The Army Painter Wet Palette if you want to take your 3D printed miniature painting to the next level.

Can You Paint Resin 3D Prints?

Yes, you can paint resin 3D prints to make them more detailed, high quality, and have a smoother surface finish. You can use acrylic paints, canned or spray paints, or even airbrushes for this purpose. However, both sanding and priming are recommended prior to painting for the best results. 

Painting resin 3D prints is actually a great way to make them come alive and change their look from ordinary to professional. Doing so can even hide undesirable features that might be standing out in the model.

The following is a descriptive video by MyMiniCraft that shows a model of our favorite web-slinger being printed and painted.

Therefore, it’s definitely possible to paint resin and filament 3D prints and there is a wide variety of ways you can do this. Let’s get into all of that now, including some pro-tips that can really take your painting to the next level.

What is the Best Primer for Resin Miniatures?

Some of the best primers for resin miniatures are Tamiya Surface Primer and Krylon Fusion All-in-One Spray Paint.

The best primer for resin miniatures is one that reveals imperfections so they can be sanded down while the rest of the print is prepared for paint. 

As we’ve discussed above, a primer is essential if you want to make your prints look superb when they are painted. Let’s take a close look at the best primers for resin miniatures below.

Tamiya Surface Primer

The Tamiya Surface Primer is simply one of the best primers that people purchase for painting their resin miniatures. It’s priced around $25, which is a bit higher than other options, but definitely worth it.

The product is very well-established for its high quality and is known to apply a realistic undercoat to models. It also boasts fast drying times and can even negate the need for sanding your model.

You can purchase the Tamiya Surface Primer directly from Amazon. At the time of writing, it enjoys a solid reputation on the platform with a 4.7/5.0 overall rating with 85% of the customers leaving a 5-star review.

One user writes that one of the major advantages they got by purchasing this primer is that it doesn’t smell like a solvent when it’s dried. The same cannot be said for most other primers.

Another person wrote that they were able to get spectacular results from painting after priming the model with the Tamiya Surface Primer. It’s just super smooth and works as intended effortlessly.

Krylon Fusion All-in-One Spray Paint

The Krylon Fusion All-in-One Spray Paint is a staple in the 3D printing industry that covers the priming and painting needs of most 3D printer enthusiasts. That is to say, it can be used for both priming and painting resin minis.

One 12 ounce can of this product costs about $15. It gets your print dry to the touch in about 20 minutes or so and you can even paint your model in any direction you want without running into errors, even upside down.

You can purchase the Krylon Fusion All-in-One Spray Paint directly on Amazon. At the time of writing, it has a 4.6/5.0 overall score with more than 15,000 global ratings. Additionally, 79% of the buyers have left a 5-star review.

One user writes that he loves the UV-resistant quality of the spray paint. They also commended the ease of use with the big button spray tip, not to mention how smooth the surface of the resin got after application.

Moreover, another customer said that the finishing of the Krylon Fusion holds up great. It’s fairly resistant and can last for several months without obvious deterioration.

Recent Posts