The following is about airbrushing, specifically on 3D printing. It is somewhat similar to traditional model making and its figures. Moreover, this may be because the materials are related. So you can certainly use some familiar experience as a synergistic effect if you have already been involved in the design of models.
Otherwise, the following will show you comprehensively what you need in terms of materials and equipment for airbrushing on the 3D printed model and what you should specifically look for in these. Finally, you will also receive an airbrush tutorial on the steps involved in airbrushing.
What do you need for 3D printing airbrushing?
As briefly mentioned, 3D printing is similar to model making. However, it can be assumed that you use slightly different printing materials and experience some “conspicuousness” after a 3D printer, which you no longer see or make in the purchased models.
However, this is not a problem for the treatment with the airbrush. You can even use the technique specifically to eliminate minor errors, make the models beautiful colorful, or even make a realistic design.
Therefore, a list of all the materials you will need will be pretty thorough below. You don’t have to have everything as a beginner. But for an intensive and regular activity, it will serve you as a complete shopping list.
Depending on the size of the objects, you should plan on an airbrush gun with a 0.15mm or 0.2mm to 0.3mm nozzle. This is the most suitable airbrush for model making.
The larger nozzle is essential for primers for airbrushes and an extensive area paint application. The 0.15mm (/ 0.2mm) nozzle is more suitable for small details such as cracks, hairs, or scars.
Of course, a quiet airbrush compressor is part of the standard equipment, as with all work. This includes those with a noise level equal to or less than 50 dB. A corresponding connecting hose should, of course, also be included.
You can use transparent or opaque acrylic paints for airbrushing as with modeling. Because you should apply a primer on 3D models, if you use white or light gray primer, it wouldn’t matter what kind of colors you choose.
You always need an airbrush holder, too. Because if you work on your model, mix the colors, and need both hands free, it is a valuable helper. It is available individually, for several guns, or even connected with a “spray-out.” Then the holder sits above a box for emptying the gun by spraying.
Documents and protection of the ambiance
Either protect your work table with old newspapers or cardboard. You always need these in some form or other to test the spray pattern beforehand. Or you can use a large cutting pad that you can use at the same time when cutting for stencils with a scalpel, without scratching your table.
Priming is generally indicated for the models. Usually, the models come out of the printer with a smooth and trouble-free surface. To make them adhere, you should apply a primer.
A respirator mask also always belongs in the shopping cart as essential equipment. “When in doubt, always protect your lungs and health. You also don’t know which additives you might want to spray and inhale in addition to the health-friendly airbrush colors.
An airbrush extraction system is always necessary if you cannot provide good ventilation yourself or if the air pollution caused by paint and additives is too high. Therefore over time, it is always recommended for many jobs with the airbrush.
Either use fine cloth gloves that you can wash out repeatedly or disposable gloves. These protect the model from fingerprints or, as far as possible, from paint rubbing off in the still unprotected phases. Nevertheless, you should not touch the model with the paint application only or very carefully if necessary.
Touch-up utensils such as sandpaper, epoxy resin, polyurethane spray, etc.
Below the primer is recommended to treat sandpaper. It already removes all minor imperfections.
Unfortunately, smaller but visible streaks or openings have appeared during printing; you do not necessarily have to print again and discard the model. You can, for example, apply polyurethane spray to the PLA material or basically an epoxy resin to repair the small cracks and holes. You can do this either with the spray from the can or with a brush.
Embellishment utensils such as nail files, scalpels, etc.
Since you sometimes want to bring even more detail and realism to the models, the nail files are recommended for a finishing touch and a scalpel for furrows, delicate structures, scars, cracks, and much more that you want to depict even more realistically.
Holder for the 3D model
Depending on the model, the mounts for a 3D model can differ. However, what has not proven itself is the alternative that you simply attach the model to the ceiling with hoes and a chain. Due to the airflow of the gun and the lightness of the material, it would move back and forth. The result would be an irregular application of paint.
It is better, however, to consider the three options below, which you can choose from with the following advantages and disadvantages:
- Temporarily gluing on a homemade grab handle.
- Like model making, you can temporarily glue an old tin can to the bottom using super glue. Then you have a handle.
- With the other hand, you hold and spray over it from all sides with the airbrush gun. On the one hand, however, some experience as an airbrusher is necessary for fine misting and line work. It is always better to have both hands on the gun for the excellent line.
- Place on a non-adhesive surface
- Depending on the model, what I just mentioned may not be possible. Then simply place the model on a non-adhesive base. Again, the cutting plates discussed above are recommended. They do not stick and immediately offer the double function for cutting the individual templates.
- However, the disadvantage of placing the model on one side is that you always have to wait a bit between operations for the sprayed side to dry. On the other hand, you have to actually touch it, with the risk of abrasion of the paint.
- Attach the table vice to the table
- If you’re modeling more often, this is why a tabletop vise is recommended for touch-free paint application. It works similarly to your airbrush gun holder. In this case, however, it holds your model on a small surface and ensures problem-free processing.
- Ensure that you select it with a foam or rubber padding for the holder and preferably with a swivel joint. Then you can always turn the model comfortably towards you, and it will be held carefully.
- You only need to loosely re-spray the area where you have fastened the model on the table.
If you want to spray individual areas with different colors, this is also possible. For this purpose, we recommend that you use the non-adhesive stencils, which you then hold close to the model. The standard adhesive foils often tear off individual color areas.
Alternatively, you can also use the small stencils for the fingernails if you have them to hand and apply the corresponding motifs for spraying. They stick a little more carefully to the model base.
If your goal is to work with non-adhesive stencils, you must actually choose the just mentioned holding options 2 and 3 to have the second hand free to hold the stencil.
Fine hair brushes
Fine hair brushes are recommended for the most delicate nuances and details with high precision. For the sake of quality and a uniform appearance, feel free to use the airbrush paint for application.
However, it must not be diluted at all or only minimally. In addition, you should paint out the brush beforehand and not have too much paint on the meeting. Otherwise, there is a risk that it will quickly run down on the smooth model.
In the end, you need a clear coat to fix the airbrush paint forever and thus protect it. You choose between a matte and glossy clear coat, which is best to select in the finished spray can.
It then depends on which one you prefer or what model it is. In the military field, you would undoubtedly like a matte clear coat. The classic metallic metal effect is achieved with a glossy clear coat for a metallic skull or model car.
Prepare airbrush gun and 3D printing.
Usually, the 3D model is convenient and fits on your desk, which you also use for airbrushing. But so that everything is ready for the airbrush technique, you should have everything within reach.
Depending on the type of fixation, you should then fix the model for spraying after removing dirt and grease. Then you can immediately start with the following steps.
Spraying a 3D print with an airbrush (instructions)
The following steps are essential for spraying the 3D models and serve you as an extraordinary airbrush step by step:
- First, make the model free of dirt and grease. You can rinse it well with liquid soap and water to do this. This is especially important if the model was not printed “fresh” and you have had it in your hands many times in the meantime.
- Allow the model to dry afterward. The airflow from the airbrush alone will help it dry more quickly.
- Now put on your (disposable) gloves and fix the model according to the holding tips mentioned above.
- Depending on the surface, you may need to prime the model. It works similarly to model building.
- Once this is done, you can start with the airbrush gun after drying and mixing your colors.
- Do not spray an intensive paint application too densely. You should choose a longer distance and thin layers instead so that the color does not run. Instead, pour in two to three coats with a break in between.
- Alternatively, you can dry the model more quickly with the airflow of the gun.
- You can then apply finer details close up with less paint application.
- Then paint on any final details with the brush, if desired.
- After sufficient drying time, you can apply the protective clear coat in the spray can at the end. Two coats may also be necessary to ensure that the entire model is covered here.
Is every 3D print suitable for airbrushing?
In principle, you can spray any 3D print and any plastic material. There are no restrictions whatsoever. Only some require priming in any case, and some only optionally. However, gentle sanding of the surface and subsequent fixing with clear varnish is mandatory.