One of my favorite hobbies is 3D printing models and painting them. I love the aspect of painting something in three dimensions, and breathing life into an otherwise static piece. However, I often find myself stalling for long periods of time trying to decide on which paints to use. So many options, and once the paint goes on it's pretty hard to take off. You might try to change colors, but you'll quickly lose finer details of the model as the layers of paint start to pile up.

So, I was pretty stoked when the idea popped into my head to use digital art software, like the free and open source Krita program, to try out different paint schemes on my models. Best of all, it's super easy to setup, and completely free!

Blank Canvas
Photo by Kelli Tungay / Unsplash

The Prerequisites

You'll need a few things before you can begin, but they're all free:

  • Some sort of digital media software, i.e. Krita, GIMP, Photoshop, etc.
  • Pictures of your model. These can usually just be taken from wherever you got the model, or snagged as screenshots from your slicer/modeling software.
  • (Optional) Drawing tablet or stylus. This isn't needed, but makes things easier.

The Process

This couldn't be more simple. Firstly, open up the photo of your model into the software of your choice. In my example, I'm using Krita and this awesome Samourai Construct sculpt by Lord of the Print.

Krita loaded with the Samourai Construct image

After getting the image into the software, you'll want to create an empty layer on top of it, and set the transparency to something low, around 30%. You'll repeat this process for each color scheme you want to try. Here, I've tried out a red and black scheme, as well as a "royal samurai" scheme.

The Kirta layers panel

And that's about it! Using the basic brush and color selection tools, you can paint on colors as you see fit. Simply create new layers for each color scheme that you want to try, and test run all your ideas until you find something you like.

The final tip I have is that it helps to have your model handy next to you, if possible. The photos are great approximations, but it's easy to get carried away. For instance, you might try to add accent or detail colors that aren't well-defined or easy to paint on the actual model. It also helps to have the model close by so that you can verify details that aren't clear from the photo - for instance, where a particular segment of the model ends or connects to another, etc.

I hope this helps someone else out, and happy painting!