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 battleship Mikasa. It consists of a hull and separately printed two main gun turrets. 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.

Photo by “Mikrostocznia”.

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.

For processing we will need two tools: hair dryer and modeling clippers. You can also use a scalpel, but it creates more stress and is more risky – you can only consider it when cutting supports that are under the bottom of the ship.

What do we need a dryer for? The heated resin becomes much more flexible, which reduces the risk of any breakage. When starting to cut off our brackets, it is worth warming up the model a little with a dryer (preferably one side first, cut off the supports and then repeat the process on the other side). Of course, be careful not to overdo the heat and melt the model. It’s enough that the model will be warm.
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 10-15 minutes and in this way we have a ship ready for painting.

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):

Mamy nadzieję, że tym tekstem rozwialiśmy Wasze pytania i wątpliwości, co do tego typu modeli. Miłego malowania!
(już niedługo)

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