Painting Shapeways 3D Printed Models

How I prep to paint Shapeways 3D models printed in Fine Detail Plastic.


As of 7-27-19: The following methods I describe below are subject to change since processes can always be improved and refined - and 3D printing is always evolving.

Quick Note: Many opinions exist online about how to finish and paint Shapeways fine detail plastic 3D prints, and and I've got some too. I think many of them result from the the choice of "Fine Detail Plastic" a customer chooses to have their models printed in. Shapeways offers the Fine Detail Plastic is two finishes, Smooth and Smoothest. The price difference for the Smoothest is well worth the additional nominal cost and certainly made up for in prep time and final appearance after painting.

(1) Examine the model for any support material left over from the printing process. It will appear like white powder and is typically found where support material was necessary. I use my No.11 Exacto knife tip and lightly scrape it off prior to cleaning as needed.

(2) I use room temp water in a container with Dawn dishwashing detergent and a nice soft long bristle model paint brush and gently clean the models one at a time.

(3) After cleaning, rinse with clean room temp water and let dry. Examine the models again and repeat step one if needed then dust off any powder with another fine bristle paint brush.

(4) I prime with Tamiya Metal & Plastic Primer-L and let dry.

The following painting instructions are for a flat paint finish which I find to be most realistic.

(5) Spray paint the entire model with Testors Bright Silver. When dry, seal with Testors Dullcote.

(6) I then brush paint the fronts of the heads (and the backs depending on prototype being modeled) using Createx Opaque Black acrylic airbrush paint.

(7) Brush paint the foundation with Testors Model Master Concrete.

(8) Paint the number boards with Model Master Flat White or Flat Black depending on your preference.

(9) If included on your signal model, modern junction boxes mounted to the masts get brush painted Testors Flat Gull Gray, and the conduit gets brush painted Testors Gunship Gray.

(10) When these newly painted parts are dry, I spray to seal again with Testors Dullcote.

***For the number boards, waterslide decals work great directly applied to your number boards after painting. Printed paper number boards are great and easy too if your printer is capable. Arial 4 point font is what I use.