3d printing and painting a massive red dragon sculpture

This 400mm tall dragon head was printed with 2mm layers on an Artillery Sidewinder X1.

The print itself took 26 hours and the supports (of which there were many) were removed with a hammer.

Firstly, a big thanks to Dynastinae the creator of this file. Not only are they an incredibly talented animal sculptor but they have 3 of these dragon heads up for free online. The quality of these sculpts are miles ahead of what I normally find and I strongly recommend you check out their work for any animal sculpting.

The idea

I decided it would be fun to do something wildly outside of the scale I normally work in. Using the spare days between Christmas and New Years, I decided I would attempt my largest detailed single print on my Artillery Sidewinder and practice my finishing skills for something of that scale. My workshop is full of tiny pieces but nothing about 15cm and ever since I sold my 400mm tall Tiamat, I have had an absence of large dragons. When I stumbled upon Dynastinae’s work, I new I had what I needed.

Printing

I was tired of the printing problems I had encountered on my printer (extrusion issues, cable problems, other random artefacts) and decided to try something totally new by changing slicers (from Ideamaker to Prusa). This model was printed using the default Prusa settings with only minor adjustments for a .6 nozzle. The .6 nozzle was great on a piece of this size and didn’t adversely affect the detailing at all. It just meant it all printed a lot faster.

The print itself took just 26 hours, which is insanely fast print time for something this large and this detailed. A huge percentage (48%) was support material too, thanks to that massive gaping maw, so I imagine the other heads will print even faster.

Cleanup

The support removal on this was a NIGHTMARE. Dense supports where needed throughout the entire mouth, around the chin spikes, in the eye sockets and basically everywhere else. I started out with the best intentions and removed supports gently pulling them away with side cutters and finding the best angles, and finished up with a hammer, chisel and a band saw for the rest. The supports in the mouth were completely immovable, and I ended up eyeballing where the teeth ended and band sawing through the middle of the mouth to the throat in order to loosen up then columns.

Seen here, the world’s most egregious support structures, carefully melding themselves to every individual crevice.

In the end I managed to remove the support materials with the only casualties being one tooth and one jaw spike. One that was salvageable and one was sculpted in putty.

Sanding wise there wasn’t really any needed, the overall finish of this model was incredibly clean, had it not been for the supports, this would have been a very brief section.

Gap Filling

For this project I opted for the tried and tested UV resin and baby powder method. For those that haven’t used this before, you basically mix in baby powder to thicken the resin until a point that you desire, then brush or sponge it into the gaps and lines that you want filled. You need to be careful to scrape out smaller details when doing this, so that they are not lost entirely. This method is excellent for reducing the layer lines on the final piece. I just used my standard Anycubic resin and baby powder from the bathroom, nothing special needed to be bought. This technique really levelled out the layers and was pretty fast.

All I needed to do after this step was leave the model in direct sunlight for 20 minutes with a few turns, to ensure it cured solidly.

Painting

Easily the most fun part of the process (for me, no judgement to others that love support removal), finally I got to paint it. Painting something of this scale is an absolute breeze with an airbrush. Being able to cover and blend huge areas of scales is such a pleasure and you really get to play with the various transitions on a model of this size. Usually with tabletop models I’m really trying to push the contrast so that they stand out at 30mm. With a piece this large it’s much more important to be subtle and not over detail it. It would easily look cluttered or dirty if I did too much.

On this piece I really focussed on the richness of the red I wanted and made sure that the shadows really gave it depth without taking away from the main look. I LOVED the dark horns idea and though it’s hard to see in photos, the rich brown in the shadows really adds a lot in person.

The eyes and mouth were really the only parts that needed detailed brush work and I h really let myself have some fun on the teeth when applying Blood for the Blood God paint.

Getting a wooden trophy mount crafted

The next step for this piece is to create a wooden trophy mounting base for the wall. I came up with a design that I think will fit and support the head nicely, but I don’t have the tools or skills to create the plinth myself. Jim from Jim’s Bases is taking over where my lack of skills comes in and is currently handmaking a mount to fit this perfectly.