Monday, August 15, 2016

Series: Colorizing 3D Prints #1 - Introduction

This is an introduction to a new series that I am planning to write about colorizing our 3D prints.  There are several ways we can accomplish this, like using paints or fingernail polish.  But, I want to go beyond these methods to something I have always wanted to try... air brushing.

Due to my daughter's work with ceramics, we have several traditional air brushes around here.  But, I have always been too intimidated by the need to properly mix the paints or fingernail polishes and the tedious clean-up they require to try them.  Besides, I do NOT consider myself an artist.

I needed something that wasn't so intimidating with which to start.  And, I have found it.

Craftwell eBrush

The eBrush by Craftwell is a unique air brushing system that is able to use MARKERS instead of traditional paint.  Before posting a link, let me warn you to turn down the sound if at work!  The link fires up some lively music.  eBrush Page

The eBrush uses a unique siphoning action to draw ink out of any number of brands of markers.  The best way to introduce it is to show you a video by one of Craftwell's design team.

As you can see, this is a remarkable tool.  I have briefly tested the eBrush using the 3 included Spectrum Noir markers on M3D's ABS-R and Tough 3D Ink.  It works beautifully and dries both quickly and permanently.

Obviously, it's going to take practice to get good at it.  But, how hard will it be?  I don't know yet.

But, I suspect that using Spectrum Noir's color matching system is going to help make it easier.  In any case, easy or tough, you will be along for the ride.  If a non-artist, like me, can use the eBrush to bring some color to my 3D prints then rest assured that you can too. 

Spectrum Noir Marker System

I had never heard of Spectrum Noir markers before receiving 3 of hem with the eBrush system.  The eBrush comes with 6 different adapters that allow it to use other markers, like Copic, Chartpak AD, Prismacolor, Sharpie Fine & Tombow.  But, a little research into the Spectrum Noir series led me to believe that is the brand with which I want to start in earnest.

The reason why I came to that conclusion is that they offer a variety of six pen color packs that range from pale to intense for each matched color set.  For instance, if I am trying to colorize a face from a 3D print make from a 3D scan, I have the benefit of 6 different skin tones to use, which should make it easier to blend colors for facial features.  Moreover, each marker has two tips... one fine point and the other wide.  We should be able to modify and enhance our airbrushed colorization with direct use of the pen's points if needed.  They also have a specific colorless "blending" pen for the task of blending ANY colors together.  Very cool.

While this video shows how to use the Spectrum Noir color system for blending with 2D drawings, I think it is worth watching because it makes it plain to see that we should be able to augment the air brushed results with the two different pen tips in each marker. 

Again, I'm waiting for some color packs to arrive so I can't be definitive as yet.  But, I am confident that having matching color sets with which to work is going to go a long way in helping me get a handle on using the eBrush to successfully colorize my 3D prints.

Things I know Now

The only things I know for sure at this point are:
  • Alcohol based markers work very well with M3D's Tough 3D Ink (flexible) and ABS-R.  I'm assuming the same is true for regular PLA and Chameleon, which should make for some very fun and interesting colorizing possibilities.
  • The eBrush system is a whole lot easier for a novice than a traditional airbrush system would be.  It is not nearly as intimidating.
  • I want to test it with our Z450 powder prints as well as our FDM prints.  I have a feeling that the eBrush can be used to touch up the colors on our prints from 3D scans using the Sense and RealSense scanners, which produce relatively low resolution color maps.

In any case, I think it's going to be a great adventure and one I am looking forward too with great expectations.  Plus, it brings 3D printing closer to the world of crafting... and that, in and of itself, is reason enough to travel down this path and expands the practical applications for 3D printed objects into entirely new areas... like sewing and holiday decorating!

I'm going to ask you to be a bit patient with me.  It may take a little while before the next article in this series appears since I'm going to have to put in some serious practice time and I'm waiting for the Spectrum Noir markers to arrive.    However, while waiting for the Spectrum Noir pens, I might just try my hand at using metallic Sharpies since I can buy them locally.  If so, I'll let you know.

Stay tuned!  :)


  1. I am looking forward to watching your ebrush videos forthcoming.

    1. Thanks! I am certainly enjoying using the eBrush. I love the fact that there is so little preparation and no cleanup aside from throwing away the scrap paper under the print!