Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Series: Colorizing 3D Prints #2 - First Try

As I said, for better or worse, you will be along for the ride as I explore the concept of colorizing 3D prints with Craftwell's eBrush airbrush system.

Before I post an image, I need to remind you that (1) I have never done this before, (2) I do not have have all the Spectrum Noir pens that I need to do this right (And, yes, I now know they work  the best!), (3) I'm old and my eyesight is probably not as good as yours and lastly (4) the local art supply store was closed by the time I got by so I am using the wrong masking tape.

What do I think?

 Well, aside from all the caveats above, I'm absolutely sure I'm on to something good.  While it clearly makes a difference which markers you use, the overall experience is a LOT of fun and the eBrush perferms just as I'd hoped.  The major problems I ran into involved using a set of markers that were locally available that (1) did not flow as well as the Spectrum Noir and (2) tended to dry too slowly and run.  You can see this on the light switch plate.  The dark blue and red were the Spectrum Noir.  The black and gold were Sharpie Fine Point, which worked well and the lighter blues were Chartpak AD, which I will be glad to leave behind.

The First Attempt

I decided to try something that would take a minimal of color feathering for this first try.  The goal was to create a custom light switch plate for a person that liked to surf.  So, a white plastic light switch plate was painted to roughly simulate the surf.  (Roughly being the operative word!)  And, a surf board 90mm x 20mm was created in Moment of Inspiration, printed on an M3D Micro in white ABS-R, colorized using the eBrush system and glued to the light switch plate. 

For better or worse here is my first try,

Airbrushed 3D Print / Light Switch Plate
First, let's talk about the switch plate coloring.  The dark blue Spectrum Noir worked exactly as I had hoped.  I used a piece of torn paper as a mask to simulate the waves.   But, since the dark blue was the only blue that I had from Spectrum Noir, I picked up some lighter blues in the Chartpak AD line.  Things fell apart fast.  It was tough getting the correct spray and then I ran into the problem of running and splotching.  Even so, the affect was modestly successful for a first attempt.

As for the 3D printed surfboard, it's obvious that I need to do a better job of applying the masking tape.  Some of that has to do with the only tape I could find this evening, which was actually intended for fabrics.  The tape didn't exactly handle the contours all that well and there was some color bleed under the tape.  I know I can find better tape at the art supply store.

The Red Spectrum Noir was a dream to use.  But, some of that was probably because I cheated and sprayed the whole thing solid rather than attempting some color feathering.  It dried very quickly. 

The black and gold Sharpie also worked extremely well.  The issues I have with the stripes are not an eBrush or marker problem, they are a user taping problem.

I intend to coat the entire surf board with a clear gloss of some type.  After all, most surf boards have a nice deep gloss finish.  But, first I need to find out from Spectrum Noir what kind of gloss spray paint is safest for their colors.  I don't want to cause the colors to run just because I want to apply gloss.

Next Step

For the next step, I think I will try some color feathering.  It dawns on me that we can print our own stencils with our 3D printers.  So, I have widened the surf board and created an overlay that will mask the center of the board as I apply color.

I will also go by the local art store and pick up some more appropriate masking tape!


It's very clear to me that we can add value to our 3D prints by using the eBrush airbrush system to colorize them.  While it IS going to take some effort to become an expert with it, I now know that it is well worth the effort.  I also know that it HAS to be a lot easier to use an airbrush system that replies on markers than to try to get the right paint consistency using a traditional airbrush system.  It's also a lot easier to clean up after we're done using it.  All I had to do was throw away the tape and the scap paper used while painting!

Moreover, this is going to be a BIG hit with our cadets (and my grandchildren).  We won't colorize every 3D print; but. just having this capability to use when appropriate is going to be VERY popular with them.   So, the eBrush not only adds value to the print, itself; but, to the class.

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