A beginner’s guide to cleaning up 3d prints for painting

One of the biggest factors in getting a decent 3d model on the table top is model preparation.

A lot of us in the hobby take model prep for granted because we’ve been scraping mold lines and plugging dodgy gaps for years. We all know how shitty a huge split down a main join looks and we’ve worked out how to fix it (or hide it) but the addition of 3d printing to the hobby has brought a lot of excited new people who haven’t spent 20 years gathering these skills.

It’s easy to get disheartened when you’ve spent weeks (sometimes longer) getting your settings JUST right only to end up with a model with holes, gaps and a serious case of b-acne where you tried to hide the support marks. So here are a few of my best model finishing techniques that I use before painting.

  • Support removal
    • You want to get that baby in some nice warmish hot water, think average shower temp not boiling. Resin is temperature sensitive but pretty resilient. You can warm it up quite a bit without affecting the end piece and the supports will begin to stretch and bend, at this point you can brush a lot of smaller supports off with your finger. Some thicker supports will still need clipping or cutting (I like to use a small sharp stone chisel myself) but you’ll find that the cases of pox scars go waaaaaay down if you do it this way.
  • Divot filling
    • Ok so you skipped the hot water and now there are divots everywhere. This is where a thin putty filler is well worth the money, most hobby suppliers have a version of this, I use Ak Interactive grey putty. It’s got the consistency of toothpaste (DON’T USE TOOTHPASTE) and will dry to a sandable finish. It’s perfect for small imperfections especially on flat areas that you can quickly sand down once dry.
  • Big fuck off holes
    • While trying to pull off a stubborn support in the coldest room in your house, you accidentally tore off a limb and lost a chunk, we’ve all been there right? Not to worry, this is where plumbers putty/epoxy putty comes in. This is a two part putty that you mix by hand and that can be used to make basic sculping shapes. It sets reasonably quickly so I wouldn’t make your whole model out of it, but it’s perfect for filling any larger gaps that need a bit of strength and structure added on. The go to favourite putty of most modellers is Milliput, it comes in a few varieties but is loved for several reasons including: it’s very workable, it has incredibly fine granules so you don’t get weird textures on your finished piece, it holds details well AND it can be thinned down with alcohol or spirits to make a liquid version for smaller gaps (like the step above).
  • Models that won’t stand up
    • I’ve been in the forums, I know that at least 50% of what’s being printed can be classed as ‘top heavy’. So when you have a model with size 2 shoes and triple D chest armor, you’re going to need to support that glorious beast. One option is to build up something around and behind them (walls, rocks, structures etc) for them to lean on. This works but it can take away from the dramatic stance of a magnificent hero. If you want them to stand alone, you are going to need to pin them. Pinning does require a few tools but is not too hard once you get the idea.
    • Essentially you want to find the thickest part of the model that contacts the ground, this is often the feet but not always, I’ve pinned many models by drilling into a cloak instead. Once you’ve picked your contact point, you drill a hole in the model and corresponding one in the base with a small drill piece. The actual size of drill varies depending on your pinning metal, I like to use unfolded paper clips so my drill piece is just the same width as whatever metal I’m using. Once I have the holes I will stick one end of my metal ‘pin’ (paperclip section) to the model, and the other end will be glued into the base. Pinning makes models VERY strong and can be used to stand even the most unbalanced of hefty warriors.

Well that’s it from me, just a few quick tips today to common issues and questions I’ve seen online. If anything’s unclear please let me know.

If you’d like to follow my work please find me on Instagram @Melbourneminis.

Cyber tech boy wearing a shark helmet model, painted by Melbourne Mini Painter