Post-Processing Your 3D Prints

3D Print Post-Processing

Adding a few extra finishing touches to your 3D printed parts can significantly elevate their appearance and enhance their performance/functions. Post-processing also enhances their durability and strength.

A common technique for achieving a glossy surface finish on ABS-printed parts is vapor smoothing. It involves exposing the object to saturated acetone vapors in a closed environment.

1. Polishing

When a plastic 3D print comes out of the machine, it is important to get a smooth, glossy finish. This is because the final product will be used in a variety of applications, and it will also enhance the visual appeal of the part.

In order to achieve a good surface finish, there are several techniques that can be applied. Some of these techniques can be done manually, while others are more advanced and require the use of a machine.

First, it is important to sand the surface of the model. Sanding will help to remove any imperfections and improve the overall appearance of the model. It is also a great way to get rid of any layer lines that may be present on the surface of your model.

Another way to get a smooth, polished surface on your 3D print is to use a heat gun. This can be used on both ABS and PLA prints.

This will help to melt away the waviness and roughness on your model’s surface, helping to make it look much more streamlined. It can also help to get rid of any blobs or strings that might be present on the surface of your model.

It is important to be careful with a heat gun, because prolonged exposure can cause the surface of your 3D print to deform and change shape. Therefore, it is important to follow instructions carefully and work at a steady pace.

Using a heat gun to polish your 3D print is a quick and easy way to get a polished surface on your model, but it is not recommended for all types of models. In addition to causing your 3D print to deform and change its shape, it can cause the parts to break down or fall apart.

A better and more effective method of getting a polished surface on your model is to use an acetone solution. This is similar to the process used to remove nail polish, but it involves heating acetone until it becomes vaporous.

You will need a jar and some acetone; you can also use the heat plate of your 3D printer to help you with this process. This method is more time-consuming than the heat gun method, but it will give you a much more even polished surface.

2. Sanding

Sanding is a great technique for removing layer lines and other visual flaws. It’s also a great way to level the surface and create a smooth finish for your 3D prints.

The sanding process begins with a grit of sandpaper that’s just fine enough to remove minor flaws, but coarse enough to not damage your print. Start with a grit of around 200, and slowly work your way up to a grit of about 400 – 600 (or a finer grit than that, if it will be necessary).

As you progress through the grits, use water to help remove material and prevent clinging to the sandpaper itself. Continue sanding until you’ve removed most of the visible layer lines and blemishes in your print.

Once you’ve finished sanding the layer lines and blemishes, it’s time to go over the entire print again with finer grit sandpaper. It’s best to do this in circular motions, rather than sanding in one direction only. This helps make the sanding process easier and more accurate, especially with harder materials like ABS.

While sanding a 3D print is a time-consuming task, it’s essential to achieving the perfect finish for your 3D prints. A poor finish can detract from your project’s aesthetics, and it can even deter potential customers from buying your product.

In addition to removing layer lines and blemishes, sanding is an excellent technique for preparing your 3D print for painting. It can be applied to a variety of materials, including PLA and ABS, and is the most popular method for achieving a smooth finish for your 3D prints.

After sanding, it’s important to wash your sanded 3D print thoroughly to remove any dust that may have built up on the surface. Using deionized or distilled water is recommended for this step.

Once you’ve sanded the entire print, it’s time to apply paint. There are a few different types of paint available, but a good quality acrylic paint will give your 3D print a smooth and polished look.

3. Painting

Painting your 3D prints is a great way to add some color and texture. It can be done by hand or with an airbrush. It also takes a little practice to master, but it can give your models some nice effects and realism.

Before you begin painting, it is important to smooth out your model’s surface. You can use sandpaper or a piece of plastic to get rid of any physical imperfections, but this step is not essential.

The next step in preparing your model for painting is to apply a coat of primer to the surface. This will help the paint adhere better and protect it from the elements. It also makes it easier to brush on the paint in a consistent pattern.

For best results, choose a spray-on primer that is compatible with the type of plastic you’re using. You can use brush-on primers, but they’re harder to work with and less effective for fine touch-ups.

When you’re ready to start painting, use a good quality acrylic or enamel paint. These will last longer than cheaper options and are easy to clean with water if you make a mistake.

Once your model is primed and painted, you can apply a clear coat to complete the process and ensure a shiny finish. You can also add a wax finish to give your model extra protection.

This is an optional step that many model builders skip, but it can improve the final look of your 3D-printed object. It is also a great way to preserve the intricate details of your print.

You can paint your 3D prints with acrylic and enamel paints. Both of these types of paints are compatible with PLA and ABS, and they offer an easy-to-clean surface.

Whether you’re painting with a brush or an airbrush, it is important to apply multiple thin coats of paint on your model. If you paint your models too thickly, they won’t absorb the paint well and may peel off later on.

To get a perfectly smooth finish, you should apply one to five coats of primer before painting your model. It is best to wait a few hours between each coat so the project can dry completely between applications. Then, you can sand the surface to remove any roughness left by the primer.

4. Sealing

A good tip to follow is to pick a water-resistant filament that’s specifically designed for this purpose. The best options are polypropylene and ABS, which are both able to repel water and have a good amount of chemical and impact resistance.

Increasing your layer height and decreasing the flow rate are also effective ways to make a 3D print waterproof. This will reduce the amount of air space between the layers and increase the chances that your model is water-tight.

This will also help to seal any gaps and holes that are present in your model. It’s also a good idea to increase your printing temperature so that the layers stick better and prevent any leaks.

A final tip to consider is to use a spray-on silicone conformal coating such as MG Chemicals Silicone Conformal Coating. This is an aerosol that’s great for sealing 3D prints, especially PLA and ABS models. It’s also really easy to apply, just take thin coats and let them dry.


In conclusion, post-processing, painting, sanding, and polishing are all important techniques to use when creating 3D prints. Each technique will help to improve the visual appeal of the final product and make it look more realistic. With the right techniques and a little practice, anyone can produce a professional-looking 3D print!


About the Author: Julie Souza

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