How to Do Painting for 3D Prints? What are the Best Paints? (PLA, ABS, PETG, Nylon)

3D Prints can be further beautified and enhanced to increase their uniqueness and accuracy. This can be done by Painting the 3D Prints. In this 3D painting guide, we will discuss how to paint the 3D prints made from PLA, ABS, Nylon & PETG.

We will also go through some best paints for 3D prints, tips and tricks to do the painting for 3D Printed parts in a right way.

Let’s go through the process and the techniques to paint the 3D prints and also the best paints for 3D printing that are available.

Different Types of Paints for 3D Prints

Painting of 3D Printed objects can be done using a variety of paints. Most of the below mentioned paint types are suitable for PLA, ABS, PETG and other filament printed objects. These different types of paints are as below: 

  1. Acrylic Paint 
  2. Latex paint 
  3. Oil-based Spray Paint
  4. Lacquers 
  5. Enamel paint.

How to Paint PLA, ABS, PETG & Nylon 3D Prints

In order to paint the 3D objects such as PLA, PETG and ABS, the print surface needs to be smooth. The process of smoothening the print surface is called Sanding which is done using a Primer. After smoothening, the painting can be done by any of the below processes:

  • Application of the light on the print surface 
  • Spraying the high-quality paints 
  • Dyeing in case of Nylon objects as painting wont work here. 

Painting of 3D prints will fall under post-processing. In order to achieve the best results, one needs to follow some of the post-processing steps as mentioned below:

Below are the steps involved in the painting of the 3D prints:

  • Removing the support structures and cleaning up.
  • Smoothing also called as Sanding 
  • Priming
  • Painting


Support Structure Removal & Cleaning Residues 

The first step starts with the removal of support structures used while printing the model. These can be broken easily at their roots by hand and clean the residues using a knife, blade of flush cutters.

During removal, one should be careful enough without leaving any marks on the print surface. 

It is recommended to utilize tools like X-Acto Precision Knife so that fine cuts can be made easily. This is really a charm and makes life a lot easier.

If there are still any left out marks after support removals, next step will take care of them. 

Sanding / Smoothening

Sanding is the process in which surfaces of the 3d models are smoothened using sandpaper. The process starts with low-grit sandpaper (60-200) and increase the grit gradually. At first, low grit paper is used and all the support or base marks are removed. Once done, high grit paper which is finer is used to smoothen the model.

Amazon has a set of Sandpapers with grits starting from 60 to 3000. Choose the spectrum mindfully for the best results.

Sanding should be done with gentle circular motions. This is especially important as you choose high grit paper in the range of 500-600.  Wet sanding could also be used for smooth and finer finish.

Once sanding is done, all the dust on it has to be removed by brushing it with water and wiping it with a paper towel.

Once the sanding is done, allow it to dry in a well ventilated area by hanging it using thread or cord. This orients the object in various angles for priming and painting.  

Priming with Primer

Till now, the model’s surface is smoothed with the Sanding process, now the object’s surface is ready to receive its first coating of primer. Opt for a high quality primer like Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2X Primer and start spraying on the model.

Hold the object 9-12 inches away while spraying the primer. Move the spray rapidly throughout the model, so that primer is uniformly sprayed all over the model. This prevents over accumulation in one area. 

Don’t forget to rotate the 3d object while spraying, otherwise the primer will not get distributed evenly. Also, don’t spray thick paint as it hides the minute and small detail fi


Painting of your model can be started with a spray-paint that is compatible with plastic without creating tick layers on the object surface. 

Its recommended to use a spray-paint that has good user reviews from 3D space and has shown great results in the past. 

Start the process by shaking the spray can so that paint inside will get mixed well before spraying. 

Once shaking is done, start spraying on your model by pressing the button multiple times. Keep the model rotating while you spray to ensure thin coating. 

Repeat this process until you get 2 to 3 coatings and better surface finish. Remember to give a good gap of 20 mins between each coating for best results. 

After the final spray, leave the model to dry before touching/using it. 

Take help of some Youtube videos to get detailed information on painting and drying the model to avoid confusion in post processing. 

On the other hand, painting of Nylon can also be done using acrylics and spray paints. Due to its hygroscopic nature, it is better to dye it than paint. Applying dyes is easier than painting as it absorbs more moisture by nature. 

Nylon is a synthetic fiber, use only recommended dyes for successful results. There are some dyes on Amazon designed for Nylon such as Rit All-Purpose Liquid Dye

The Rit All-Purpose Liquid Dye has 35,000 ratings priced at 7$ at the time of writing. This could be a go-to option for dyeing Nylon.

You can also watch a video by Matterhackers on dyeing Nylon models. 

How to Paint PLA and ABS?

The painting of ABS and PLA models are almost similar. Due to the difference in surfaces, extra attention is needed. The PLA model surface is porous and needs multiple coats of paint.  

Thus a good primer is essential in order to smooth out the surface by filling the print lines and pores. Do 2-3 coats of priming and then proceed for painting for multiple coats. Priming is highly essential for PLA. 

Acrylics are the best paint for PLA that will give a good finish to the 3D object requiring only 2-3 coats. 

The surface area of the ABS models is smoother than that of PLA. But, dont forget to do the sanding and smoothing before painting and eliminate blobs. Hence Priming  essential for smooth

Tips to Paint 3D Prints PLA and ABS

Below some of the useful tips below for painting the 3D print models :

  1. Do the painting in a closed environment. Strokes may get uneven due to exposure to the outside environment.
  2. While painting with a brush, ensure soft movements and avoid strokes.
  3. When painting with spray paints, apply evenly throughout the model
  4. Use a covered zone for painting the 3d model. Use a cardboard enclosure if needed.
  5. Ensure some distance between you and model while painting
  6. Do multiple coatings for a better and smooth finish and great look.
  7. Mount the model using a dowel to avoid touches and fingerprints. 
  8. Use Hand Gloves, Eyeglasses and appropriate clothing for safety.

Is it possible to paint 3D Objects without Primer (Priming)?

Yes, painting of 3D objects without primer is possible, but the paint will not stick strongly to the object surface. A primer is preferred in order to improve the adhesion of the paint without getting peeled off. One of the 2 recommended options is to prime and paint the model or use 2-in-1 primer. 

The surface properties of TPU and ABS pose some challenges if painted without priming. But many people say that the priming is not needed in case of acrylic paints. 

You can paint your 3d prints without a primer and finish the job. But the best results are possible only when you prime first and paint next. 

Usually, primers will fill up the print line gaps and stop the paint getting settled down to the deepest surface points while hardening. 

This is why priming is such an important aspect to get a high quality finish. 


Is it Possible to Use Acrylic Paints for 3D models?

Yes, Acrylic paints can be used to paint 3D models to get good surface finish. Acrylic paints are relatively cheap and a little difficult to apply them as compared to spray paints. 

There are many Pros and Cons in using the Acrylic Paints for 3D models as below:


  • The drying time for Acrylic paints is very less and are cleanable using water. 
  • Acrylic paints make the post processing much easier which is bliss for beginners. 
  • Acrylic Paints are easily available locally too near the place where you live. 


  • It is difficult to get a uniform coating of paint with Acrylics. 

There is an acrylic product on Amazon with 18 colors and bottles (2 oz each). It is named as Caliart Acrylic Paint Set and is affordable priced. 

Users who use this paint set has said 

  • 3D objects looked colorful and reported good adhesion. 
  • Multiple coatings have given a smooth and clear finish without Sanding the model. But one user has got a better finish without post print lines and dots after the Sanding and then painting. 
  • Easy to use and variegated colors available. 

Is it possible to Paint 3D Objects using Airbrush?

Yes, Airbrush can be used to paint 3D models, infact, you can get better control on color blending with more precision. Since, Airbrush involves the usage of Compressor, it is more suitable for experienced people than beginners. 

This is one of the advanced techniques as compared to spray paints and produces effective outputs.

One of the highly recommended airbrushes for beginners is the Master Airbrush G233 Pro available on Amazon. It has many features and benefits as below:

  • It is low cost and paints with high quality. 
  • Has 3 sets of Nozzles with diameters of (0.2, 0.3, 0.5mm) and gravity fluid cup of 1/3 oz for detailed sprays. 
  • Provides controlled airflow due to the built-in valve supported by disconnect coupler and plug. 
  • One user says that it becomes a cake walk to paint 3d models using this Airbrush once you get used to it. 
  • Many users rewarded it as an ideal airbrush for beginners because of its consistent performance and ability to control the paint flow accurately. 
  • With the pricing of 35$, it has a good ratings from real users on Amazon

Best Primer For Painting SLA Resin 3D Models

For priming SLA resin prints, the best primer is Tamiya Surface Primer with low cost and ideal for high-quality outputs. One doesn’t even need Sanding if the spraying is done correctly.

Tamiya Surface Primer is available on Amazon as “Amazon’s choice” because of the 5-star ratings and reviews it has received.

One user had a terrific output with Tamiya primer when used for priming his 3D model. Tamiya spreads evenly throughout the model and sticks nicely to Object due to which users get amazing results. 

For better output, use Primer and Paint of the same brand. Numerous users have used Tamiya for both and produced great outputs. 

Tamiya is abundantly available and compatible for 3d models printed with SLA Resins. 

The video below shows how Tamiya Surface primer can create a beautiful model.

Best Paint for 3D Prints

Rust Oleum Multi-purpose Spray Paint

Spray paints are a go to option considering their price point and user friendliness. One such product is Rust-Oleum Painter’s Ultra Touch Cover which looks great and offers high-end glossy finish on metal, ceramic and plastic surfaces. A single can serve upto 12 Square feet area

Rust Oleum Painter’s Touch

This is another great product by Rust Oleum. If you are looking for a multi-purpose spray paint compatible for ABS, PETG, Wood, Metal, PLA and other filaments, Rust Oleum Painter’s touch is the best product. This paint is highly durable and gives a professional look for the model.  

Smooth-On XTC-3D Print Coating

If you are looking for a glossy and natural coating finish for your 3D prints, then Smooth-On XTC is the right choice. It is ideal for beginners and suitable for ABS, Resin, PLA, Wood and other filament made models. 

TAMIYA USA Spray Lacquer

The Tamiya USA Spray Lacquer is a spray paint known for its effectiveness and economical price. Amazon has this product at an affordable price around 5$.

Priming of the model surface is essential before spraying this paint because this is not an all-in-1 solution like Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Spray Paint.

Many users said that the painting done with Tamiya Spray Lacquer dries quickly within 20 minutes. This product also has good ratings on Amazon. For more beautification, you can also use Acrylic paint coatings on Tamiya paint layers as this is not reactive to Acrylic. 

One user said that it is best suitable for ABS printed objects as finishing was amazing. However, it can also be used for other filament materials as well.

Krylon Fusion All-In-One Spray Paint

The Krylon K02732007 Fusion All-In-One Spray Paint is a well-known product in the 3D printing space. It makes the post-processing very effective and known as the best paint for PLA.

This is the all-in-one spray that can be used without sanding or priming of the objects. The superior adhesion and durability offered by this paint makes it stand out of the crowd.

Once sprayed, this paint can dry very fast within 20 mins and makes the object touchable. One user after using this paint expressed its high quality and perfect look.  

One more user shared that this paint is UV resistant and binds strongly to the plastics giving the spectacular look. 

The Krylon Fusion All-In-One Spray Paint has 11,500 reviews while writing this article. One of the reviews also mentioned that it is aquarium safe after it dries. 

This is the best spray paint option at a price of 5$.

Best Airbrush Paint for 3D Prints

U.S. Art Supply Airbrush Paints

This paint comes in many rich colors which can be used individually or mixed to boost the beauty of the model. The US Art Supply’s airbrush paint is compatible on Plastic, Wood, Paper and more surfaces. This set contains a mixing wheel, airbrush cleaner and color reducer using which you mix for different color combinations. 

Createx Colors 5803 Opaque Airbrush Paint Set – Ideal Paint for PLA 

Createx is known for producing brilliant long-lasting and durable airbrush paints endorsed by many 3d professionals. This comes as a set of 6 colors with each bottle containing 2 oz paint. They are compatible for Plastic, Wood, Metal, Fabric.etc

Gunaseelan Murugesan
Author | Website

Experienced Project Engineer with a demonstrated history of working in the field of Product Design & Development industry in Mechanical Engineering. Skilled in 3D Printing and Re engineering Technologies with CATIA V5 , Materials Science, Finite Element Analysis (FEA), Mimics, ANSYS Workbench and Casting Simulation software. Strong engineering professional with a Master’s Degree focused in Industrial Metallurgy from PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore.

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