how to prepare 3D printed models for painting

3D printing is a relatively new technology that has been increasingly entering the world of miniature wargaming for some time. It offers many amazing benefits – from the level of details, through acceleration and cheaper production process, to the possibility of editing and making versions of the model, saved after all as a graphic design and not being a sculpture.

At the same time, most players and modelers are used to metal or plastic figures and have devoted a lot of time to learning how to process and prepare them for painting. On this page you will find information on how to perform these actions when it comes to our models printed in SLA technique.

A few words therefore about the technique. SLA printers work by lighting a special resin by UV rays. Such resin is located inside the printer, in a container with a transparent bottom, under which there is an exposure LCD screen. A special platform is immersed in this container, to which the exposed resin must adhere. After exposure, which usually lasts tens of seconds for one layer, the platform rises and after some time immerses again in the container, so that the lamp illuminates another layer – attached to the previous one. Such a layer is very thin, it can be 0.02-0.05 mm, which means that the model has several hundred and sometimes even several thousand layers, and therefore its printing can take many hours. This production method also means that the model is printed upside down. It must therefore be placed on special supports. It is possible to print it directly adjacent to the platform, but the large bottom surface of the ship model will make its subsequent separation from the platform very heavy and may damage the model. What’s more – all the elements that do not have contact with the previous layers, the so-called printed in the air, they must also have such supports – otherwise they will not print, a piece of resin will simply fall into the container. Therefore, many elements in the models placed horizontally (e.g. gun barrels) have such supports attached – otherwise they would not print correctly.
How this process looks like can be seen in this video:

How a 3D print look like.

Below is a photo of the printed model – in this case Japanese transport ship Hitachi Maru. Some ships will consist of several parts (mainly battleships and the largest cruisers), while others only one (cruisers or destroyers). In the photo you can see that the brackets touch the bottom of the ship and protruding sideways, such as cannon barrels or anchor chain.

To prepare the model for painting and placing it on the base, we must therefore get rid of the supports. However, you need to know that the resin from which the ships are made has a very good level of details, but at the same time it is slightly more fragile than types of resin, which some may know from casting figurines in 28mm scale. For large parts it does not matter, but with smaller barrels it can have a meaning. The most dangerous moment in the preparation of our model is the removal of the supports that are attached to the gun barrels.

To minimize the risk, we recommend the following two methods:

  1. The figures should be put in a pot of very warm water for about a minute or longer. It cannot be boiling water, because too high temperature will bend the figures, but also not “lukewarm” water. The heated resin becomes much more flexible, thanks to which we reduce the risk of any cracking. Then it will be much easier and safer to cut off the brackets.
  2. Figures, and especially places where there are supports, should be heated with a dryer. Thanks to this, we will achieve the same effect as with hot water.

In addition, we will need modeling pliers for processing. A scalpel can also be used.

Why do we need warm water or a dryer? The heated resin becomes much more flexible, which reduces the risk of any breakage. When starting to cut off our supports, it is worth warming up the model a little.
After cutting off the supports that are attached to the gun barrels and other elements on the sides or superstructures, you can remove those that are attached to the bottom. Here we no longer have to use the dryer (except on the smallest models).

The whole process takes a maximum of 10 minutes and in this way we have a ship ready for painting.

We invite you to watch two videos that show how to remove the supports and how to apply water to our bases.

DO YOU KNOW THAT? (historical curiosity)
In the early days of creating iron ships, did their creators face a similar dilemma? It turned out that iron at low temperatures, typical for the North Sea or the Atlantic, likes to crack, especially at high stresses, which made it very troublesome to use as armor. On the other hand, the ships that operated in the warm South Seas did not have such problems – warm iron ceased to crack.

Several modeling guides appeared on the Internet, who processed the ships and prepared them for painting. One of them was written by Leszek Cyfer (it’s only in Polish, but there are photos attached):

Another, who appeared on The Node portal, was written by Maciej “Xardas” Drazkiewicz (also in Polish but again with photos):

We hope that with this text we have dispelled your questions and doubts about these types of models. Have fun painting!

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