Printing your dream build is just the beginning. Get some pro-tips for putting beautiful finishing touches on your 3D Idea Builder projects from Dremel 3D Maker, Balazs Nagy.
How long have you been working at Dremel and what do you do as an engineer?
My journey with Dremel started in 2011 when I moved to the US with my wife from Hungary. As an engineer at Dremel I work mostly on new projects and tools wherever I can utilize my experience in mechanical design. It's an exciting job. I really enjoy watching a project progress. It's wonderful when you can take something which is merely a concept at the start and contribute to it until it becomes a physical thing which makes people life easier.
How did you become interested in painting models? Have you always been an artist?
I've always had the interest in Making since I was very little. Around the age of 6-7 I was introduced to modelling 1:72 planes and tanks. I always enjoyed the assembly part of it, until I saw some painted ones. That's where it all started. I tried to make my models better oil based paints, acrylics—you name it. Anything I could get my hands on, really.
Soon after I stumbled across the Games Workshop miniatures and their hobby world. I began collecting their miniatures using their acrylic paints. I picked up a lot of techniques from clubs, collector events and online as well. After I started my engineering studies I had to put all that aside because I just didn’t have time anymore. After being out of the hobby for 14 years, I started up again so I would have something to do during cold winters.
When did you start painting 3D printed projects?
After we started working with the first Dremel 3D printer, the Idea Builder, people used them all over the office. They were constantly running, building models our team made or found online. One day I was thinking that I really wanted to see something other than an all blue or all green models on my shelf, so why not take the time to paint one nicely? I stumbled across some really good quality models at the office which I borrowed in order to repaint them. I went home and fired up the compressor and the airbrush and finished in a few hours. Everyone loved it, so we put it on our Maker Gallery at the office. A few days later a colleague of mine showed up with a fairly large dragon head door knocker. He asked me if I could paint it for him. The detail was incredible, so I jumped at the challenge to paint it.
Do you have any tips for painting PLA printed models?
Painting PLA is a bit more challenging then painting resin or cast miniatures. The reason why is the layers. When paints are liquid they tend to channel into the groves between the layers, and that can ruin the nice contrast when you paint. If I'd have to recommend paints, would definitely stay with acrylics.
For PLA models, an airbrush works more efficiently than a brush because the coverage is better. If the paint/thinner ratio is good, it dries on the surface before it can start wandering around through the grooves of the PLA layers. But it always depends on the painter. I switched to airbrushes roughly a year ago and I am still learning the proper technique after painting by hand for so many years.
For first timers though I'd try using a regular paintbrush. The brush techniques are much easier to master and the money you invest in your painting is a fraction of the cost of an airbrushing system. What I wouldn't skip for PLA model painting is a good primer. There are spray versions, or they could be airbrushed on the surface as well. They help the paint stick to the surface of the PLA much better because most of them contain polypropylene which creates a film on the surface of the printed model. Plus they give you your first shade of color. Imagine you want to paint a model which is light colored. Starting out with a black filament without a light primer is a lot of extra effort. Light paints typically have fewer pigments and they require multiple layers for a good coverage.
Painting is a lot of fun, but you won't become a great painter overnight.
Just remember: Be patient.
Out of all the 3D print projects you've painted, which one are you most proud of?
For now it’s Shira's dragon knocker, but I am always looking for the next challenge.