Hand Painting 3D Models: A Beginner’s Guide

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Hand painting 3D models is a great way to add a personal touch and unique flair to your creations. Whether you’re a seasoned artist or just starting out, this guide will provide you with the basic steps to create your own hand painted 3D models. With a little bit of practice, you can create stunning models that are sure to impress.

Before you start painting, it’s important to prepare your 3D model. Make sure that it’s clean and free of any dust or debris. You may also want to prime your model with a coat of primer to help the paint adhere better. Once your model is prepped and ready, it’s time to start painting.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when hand painting 3D models is to use the right type of paint. Acrylic paints are a popular choice because they dry quickly and are easy to work with. You can also mix and blend colors to create your own unique shades. Another important tip is to use a fine brush to paint small details and a larger brush for bigger areas. With these basic tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to creating your own hand painted 3D models.

Preparing Your Model

Before you start painting your 3D model, it’s important to prepare it properly. This section will cover the two main steps in preparing your model: cleaning and priming.

Cleaning the Model

The first step in preparing your model is to clean it thoroughly. This will ensure that the paint adheres properly to the surface and that there are no bumps or imperfections that will affect the final result.

To clean your model, follow these steps:

  1. Use a soft-bristled brush to remove any loose debris or dust from the surface of the model.
  2. Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe down the entire surface of the model, removing any dirt or grime.
  3. If necessary, use a toothbrush or other small brush to clean hard-to-reach areas or crevices.

Once you’ve finished cleaning your model, make sure it’s completely dry before moving on to the next step.

Priming the Model

The next step in preparing your model is to apply a primer. This will help the paint adhere better to the surface of the model and will also provide a smooth, even base for your paint.

To prime your model, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a primer that is suitable for your model material. For example, if your model is made of PLA, choose a primer that is designed for use with PLA.
  2. Shake the primer can well before use.
  3. Hold the can about 6-8 inches away from the model and spray a light, even coat over the entire surface.
  4. Allow the primer to dry completely before painting. This can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, depending on the type of primer you’re using.

Note that some model materials may require additional preparation steps, such as sanding or filling in gaps or holes. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific model material for more information.

By properly cleaning and priming your model, you’ll be well on your way to creating a beautiful, hand-painted 3D model.

Choosing Your Paints

When it comes to painting your 3D models, choosing the right paints can make all the difference. In this section, we’ll cover the types of paints you can use and how to select the right colors for your project.

Types of Paints to Use

There are several types of paints that are compatible with common filament plastics. The most accessible would be acrylics, enamels, lacquers, or oil-based paints. Each type of paint has its own pros and cons, so it’s important to choose the right one for your project.

Acrylics are water-based and easy to clean up, making them a popular choice for beginners. They dry quickly and can be thinned with water or an acrylic medium. Enamels are oil-based and take longer to dry, but they provide a hard, glossy finish. Lacquers are fast-drying and provide a durable finish, but they require proper ventilation and safety precautions when used. Oil-based paints are versatile and provide a smooth finish, but they also require proper ventilation and take longer to dry.

Selecting the Right Colors

When selecting colors for your project, consider the overall look and feel you want to achieve. You can use a color wheel to help you choose complementary or contrasting colors. You can also use a color palette generator to find colors that work well together.

It’s important to consider the color of your 3D model as well. If your model is already a bright color, you may want to choose a more subtle color for your paint. If your model is a neutral color, you can choose a bold color for your paint to make it stand out.

When selecting your paints, make sure to choose high-quality paints that will adhere well to your 3D model. You may also want to consider using a primer to prepare your model for painting.

In summary, choosing the right paints and colors is an important part of hand painting your 3D models. Consider the type of paint you want to use and the colors that will complement your project. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can create a stunning hand painted 3D model.

Painting Techniques

When it comes to painting 3D models, there are several techniques you can use to achieve the desired effect. Here are some of the most popular techniques:

Brush Techniques

Brush painting is a traditional technique that involves using a brush to apply paint to the model. This technique is great for beginners and those who want to achieve a more hand-painted look. Here are some tips for brush painting:

  • Use a high-quality brush that is specifically designed for model painting. A good brush will have a fine point and hold its shape well.
  • Thin your paint with a small amount of water or thinner. This will help the paint flow smoothly and prevent brush strokes from showing.
  • Use thin layers of paint and let each layer dry completely before applying the next. This will help prevent the paint from becoming too thick and obscuring details.
  • Use a drybrushing technique to highlight details and add texture. This involves lightly brushing a dry brush over raised areas to pick up the texture and create highlights.

Airbrushing Techniques

Airbrushing is a more advanced technique that involves using an airbrush to spray paint onto the model. This technique is great for achieving a smooth, even finish and can be used to create a range of effects. Here are some tips for airbrushing:

  • Use a high-quality airbrush and compressor. A good airbrush will have a fine nozzle and be able to control the flow of paint.
  • Thin your paint with a suitable thinner. Different types of paint require different thinners, so make sure you use the right one for your paint.
  • Practice on a test piece before painting your model. This will help you get a feel for the airbrush and the paint flow.
  • Use a masking technique to create sharp lines and prevent overspray. This involves masking off areas of the model with tape or masking fluid before painting.

Remember, both brush painting and airbrushing require practice and patience. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new techniques to achieve the desired effect.

Adding Details

When it comes to hand painting 3D models, adding details is an important step in bringing your creation to life. There are several techniques you can use to add depth and texture to your models.

Using Washes

One technique for adding details is using washes. Washes are thin, watery layers of paint that are used to create a subtle effect. To create a wash, mix a small amount of paint with a lot of water. Apply the wash to your model with a brush, and let it dry. The wash will settle into the crevices of your model, creating shadows and depth.

Dry Brushing

Another technique for adding details is dry brushing. Dry brushing involves using a small amount of paint on a dry brush. The brush is then lightly dragged over the surface of the model, leaving behind a subtle layer of paint. This technique is great for creating highlights and adding texture to your model.

When using either of these techniques, it’s important to use a light touch. You can always add more paint, but it’s difficult to remove it once it’s applied. Start with a small amount of paint and build up the layers as needed.

Other Tips

Here are a few additional tips for adding details to your 3D models:

  • Use a magnifying glass to help you see small details.
  • Experiment with different brushes to achieve different effects.
  • Use a palette to mix your paint and keep it organized.
  • Take breaks to avoid eye strain and fatigue.

By using these techniques and tips, you can add depth and texture to your 3D models, bringing them to life.

Finishing Touches

After you have painted your 3D model, there are a few finishing touches you can add to make it look even better. In this section, we will discuss two important finishing touches – sealing the model and applying decals.

Sealing the Model

Sealing the model is an important step in protecting the paint from chipping or fading over time. There are a few different ways to seal your 3D model, but the most common method is to use a clear coat spray. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Choose a clear coat spray that is compatible with the type of paint you used.
  2. Apply the clear coat spray in a well-ventilated area, following the instructions on the can.
  3. Apply a thin, even coat of the clear coat spray to the entire model.
  4. Allow the clear coat spray to dry completely before handling the model.

Applying Decals

Decals are a great way to add extra detail and personality to your 3D model. Here are the steps to follow when applying decals:

  1. Choose a decal that is the right size and shape for your model.
  2. Cut out the decal using a pair of scissors or a craft knife.
  3. Soak the decal in water for a few seconds until it becomes pliable.
  4. Carefully place the decal onto the model, using a toothpick or a small brush to position it correctly.
  5. Use a soft cloth or a paper towel to gently press the decal onto the model and remove any air bubbles.
  6. Allow the decal to dry completely before handling the model.

By following these simple steps, you can add a professional touch to your hand-painted 3D models.


In conclusion, hand painting 3D models is a fun and creative way to add a personal touch to your digital designs. With the right tools and techniques, you can create stunning and unique textures that will make your models stand out.

Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind:

  • Practice makes perfect: Don’t be discouraged if your first attempts don’t turn out exactly as you imagined. Keep practicing and experimenting with different techniques until you find what works best for you.

  • Use reference images: When painting textures, it’s important to have reference images to guide you. Look for photos or illustrations that capture the look and feel you’re going for, and use them as a reference as you paint.

  • Experiment with different brushes: Different brushes can create vastly different textures, so don’t be afraid to try out new ones. Experiment with different brush sizes, shapes, and settings to achieve the look you want.

  • Don’t forget the details: Adding small details like scratches, dirt, and wear can make a big difference in the overall look of your model. Take your time and pay attention to the small details.

Overall, hand painting 3D models is a rewarding and enjoyable process that can help you take your digital designs to the next level. With a little practice and creativity, you can create stunning textures that will make your models truly unique.