How To: Multi-Colored 3D Printing

People are always interested in how they can create 3D printed objects with multiple colors. Sure, you can buy a printer with multiple extruders, but those are costly and not always reliable. Using three methods, I’m going to show you how to make some cool colorful prints!

There are three different methods: Filament Switch, Sharpie-Coloring and Spray-Painting Filament.

Filament Switch

The Filament Switch process is something I figured out a few years back. Someone asked if I could I print in multiple colors without a dual-extruder. I answered “Maybe”, because I wasn’t quite sure, and eventually I figured out an easy way! Using this method, you are able to get a look similar to this:


So all you need is at least two different colored spools of filament, and a printer of course!

I have some Hatchbox purple and orange filament


  1. Load your first color and start your print. Once you find a point where you want to change colors, pause the print.
  2. Go to the Controls and raise the Z-axis up 10mm.
  3. Then retract the current filament from the extruder and replace it with the next color.
  4. Extrude just a little bit until you see some filament seep out.
    • Do all this without moving the printer or else you’ll ruin your print!
  5. Now lower the z-axis by 10mm.
  6. Continue the print and repeat those steps as many times as you want.

This is how my print turned out using the Filament Switch method to achieving multi-colored prints.

froggy_opt(For Reference, I’m using this file on Thingiverse, a Garden Frog.)


Using this method will give you some cool vibrant multi-colored layers. All you need is few sharpies and white or clear filament.


To get started, print one of the marker holders in the picture (above).

sharpie-holder_opt (1)

So you just stick the sharpies on the side and insert the filament through the middle hole as shown in the picture (above). This technique puts you in complete control of how your print would look, which is awesome!


Here’s how my print turned out, I switched out sharpies every 15-20 minutes and it turned out pretty sweet.

Here are some pictures from a cool guy who took Sharpie-Coloring to another level, Tom Burtonwood.


(Instagram:Tom Burtonwood)


(Instagram:Tom Burtonwood)


(Instagram:Tom Burtonwood)

He created a cool little gadget using a Arduino and a servo which turns the sharpie in increments. You can check it out on Thingiverse.


Lastly is the Spray-Painting Technique, this is something I came across a few months ago. I’m pretty new to this technique so I wouldn’t highly recommend this one yet. So far, I’ve gotten pretty good results.

I did only one coat front and back. You don’t want to rush the drying process, spray paint doesn’t take that long to dry but, I sat it to out to dry for a few days to eliminate any fumes.

Spray Paint also has a flammable property, aerosol, that you shouldn’t have to worry much about, it evaporates pretty quickly. Just use it in a well-ventilated area (outside is best) and give it to time dry!

Here’s the final results:

20160425_162853 (1)_opt

File from Thingiverse: Giant Crystal

Build Your Own 3D Scanning Computer


In this post, I’m going to tell you about the hardware parts needed to build an affordable 3D scanning computer that you can use with the Xbox Kinect.

This is a follow up blog post for people really dedicated to 3D scanning. If you are just starting out with 3D scanning, you may want to check out these resources first:



Skanect is a piece of software that is available to Windows (32 and 64 bit), as well as Mac users. Skanect has a pro version that is $129, but also has a free version which allows us to create our 3D file, and export it. The free version is for non-commercial use only and limits the quality of your scans. Start with the free version and upgrade later if needed. Both versions are available here

Now, without further ado, onto the hardware!


This is what our scanning computer setup looks like at the Tech Center:


Component Price Point
Case Cooler Master HAF Stacker 915R Mini-ITX Mid Tower $64.99
Operating System Windows 7 N/A
Motherboard Z87N-WIFI mini-ITX-Mainboard $189.99
Processor Intel Core i3-4130 CPU @ 3.40 GHZ (4 CPUs), ~3.4GHz $140
Memory 4GB RAM $30
Hard-Drive 500GB Western Digital Hard Drive $42.99
Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 2GB Video Memory $89.99
Power Supply Thermaltake TR2 600W 240-Pin Power Supply TR-600 $39.99


Our estimated Total Cost: ~$597.94


Case: Cooler Master Cooler Master HAF Stacker 915R Mini-ITX Mod Tower Computer Case

  • Why this Product: Just in case you find yourself needing a tower, the Master Cooler HAF Stacker Mini-ITX is a great mid sized tower, mainly because of it’s size. It fits perfectly on our worktable, and does not get in the way.
  • Substitutes: If you choose to go with a different Motherboard, make sure you get the appropriate tower to pair.

OS: Windows 7

  • Why this Product: Windows 7 is a very popular operating system that supports a lot of the applications we run on our machine, such as Laser Cutter software.
  • Substitutes:  Mac OS X

MotherBoard: Z87N-WIFI mini-ITX-Mainboard

  • Why this Product: Brand names aside, any mini-ITX mainboard with graphics card support should suffice. mini-ITX boards generally have zero to two expansion slots, which makes them cheap. This product is great if you’re on a tight budget.
  • Substitutes: Any mini-ITX mainboard with graphics card support will work.

Processor: Intel Core i3-4130 CPU @ 3.40 GHZ (4 CPUs), ~3.4GHz

  • Why this Product: This CPU gives you a lot of bang for your buck in relation to CPU Mark in relation to the price point. has a table of over 20,000 CPUs, their updated price points, and their speeds. Looking on the site we are able to see the cpu mark of a variety of CPUs. The CPU Mark represents a processor’s peak performance relative to other CPUs.


(Taken from

  • Substitutes: Varies on your budget, Intel Core i5-2500K @3.30 and up.

Memory: 4GB RAM

  • Why this Product: With Skanect requiring a minimum of 2GB RAM, having a bit more RAM for cushion to handle all of our processes is nice.
  • Substitutes: You can never go wrong with more RAM! Just make sure if you are going with a different motherboard, that your board supports your RAM!

Power Supply: Thermaltake TR2 600W 240-Pin Power Supply TR-600

  • Why this Product: You have to power a motherboard somehow!
  • Substitutes: It all depends on the amount of power your motherboard needs.

All in all, building your own 3D scanner computer is a fun task, and will allow for you and your youth to learn more about the inner workings of computers. This computer has been our go to for 3D scanning, and has allowed us to scan all of our staff members here at DHF. We were then able to take the scanned files, export them, edit them, and print them out on our own 3D printers. You DO NOT need to build your own computer to do 3D scanning, this is simply a slightly more advanced DIY project. This process is great for illustrating how digital fabrication works, from the ground up, as well as making personalized 3D figures.


3D Printing Landscapes

3DprintedLandscape2 (1)_opt

If you’re an geography enthusiast or looking for a cool project this might be the project for you!

Github user, JThatch, created a web application that generates landscapes into 3d models. The application is called Terrain2STL; it’s pretty easy to use!

If you’d like to try this, follow these simple steps:

  1. Open up Terrain2STL in a new tab; the creator uses Google Maps to search around for landscapes.
  2. Click and drag around the map to find a selected area or you can input coordinates.
    1. *Tip*  Rocky terrains works best.
  3. Once, you find an area you like, click the ‘Center to View’ button to make the red box appear.
  4. Then, you want to increase the box size by dragging the slider towards the right and then drag the to red box to where you want it.
  5. Once you’ve done that, you can almost ready to print. I’d increase the Base Height to 2 or 4.
  6. After that click ‘Create STL File’ and then click download.


There’s also a Moon2STL if you’d like to print pieces of the Moon!

3DprintedLandscape (1)

iPhone Case Printing Tips


Having trouble 3D printing an iPhone case? Well here are a few tips to help you out!

iPhone cases are fairly easy to print on your Printrbot Simple’s Matter Control settings that you may have used in the 3D Printing for Educators workshop.

If you haven’t downloaded MatterControl, download it here.

Then, download the settings here.

Now go to MatterControl > Settings & Controls > General > Options > Import

Find ‘No Support Settings (v1.2)’ in the Downloads Folder or wherever you have your download files stored on your computer.

Under the Settings tab, you want to make sure Support Material is turned Off and Fill Density is set to 20% or 0.2.


Next, go into the Advanced settings. Then change your print Speed to 40mm.

If you are printing an iPhone 6 Plus case, you will want to lower this speed to 20mm.



So now that you have your print settings, let’s get to printing your iPhone case!

From past experience, I recommend these templates for printing iPhone cases:

Unfortunately, the iPhone 6 Plus and 6S Plus won’t fit on the Simple but if you have a Printrbot Plus or printer with a large bed you’re in business!

One more thing, you want to make sure your case prints horizontally on the platform.


To do that, you want hover over your file and then click View and then Edit.

MatterControl_1_4 (1)


The view window should pop up. Next, click the Rotate tab on the right.

You want to rotate the Z axis by 90 degrees. Enter 90 into the box and then press the Z button.


Now save it.


And now you’re already to print!


Simplify3D Review


Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 4.28.19 PM


Simplify3D is a very powerful 3d printing software that’s easy to use!  No need to hassle through multiple softwares to print objects, Simplify3D has a built-in slicer and file repair. It supports dual-extrusion and provides a new way of adding supports. Once you get a handle on it, I’m sure you’ll love it.


Navigation – Simplify3D has done a good job with the navigation throughout the whole software. All of its primary features are easily accessible from it’s main interface and it also has a list of keyboard shortcuts you can use.

Control Panel – This may seem overwhelming if you’re used to MatterControl but, is pretty much an upgrade to those who have used Cura with the Pronterface plugin but, don’t be afraid. I say this because MatterControl makes it easier to locate the control panel and looks easier to use.


MatterControl_1_4 Cura_opt (1) S3D_opt


Some Cool Features

Supports – Simplify3D provides the ability to add and remove supports where you want it. They’re not the first to do it, but they made it by far one of the easiest methods out there on the market. It’s a brilliant idea with good implementation that I take advantage of and use quite a bit

Printing Profiles – Printing Profiles are preset settings you create for a printer. Simplify3D allows you to create hundreds of printing profiles that have different settings for your printer or another printer. It saves time and eliminates the hassle of changing the printing settings for different files or filaments.

  • For Example: If I was printing with NinjaFlex, I’d create a new profile and set the settings so that the printer prints at the correct temperature and speed settings specifically for NinjaFlex.



Slicing – According to Simplify3D, it’s slicer is lightning fast and is the fastest on the market. This may be a bit of an overstatement, but it’s pretty fast!

I wanted to actually see how fast it actually was so I compared it to MatterControl equipped with Slic3r. I started by slicing a calibration cube on both software tools. Both Simplify3D and MatterControl sliced it instantly.S3D

I went up to a bigger print, this Cute Little Elephant. Simplify3D showed that it’s top dog, clocking in at .88 seconds and MatterControl coming in at roughly 6 seconds.


Multi-Part Printing – Simplify3D allows you to print separate files at once. Some software doesn’t allow for this. This is beneficial if you’re printing pieces that interlock because it can improve printing time and print quality.

You can choose to have it print layer by layer or in sequential order. You can also adjust the support, infill, and temperature for each part if needed.



I’d give Simplify3D an overall score of 8/10. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for an software that’s easy, fast, and reliable. Despite the cost of $150, it supplies a lot of features allowing you to get the most out of printer.


3D Scanning Made Easy

If you have a Kinect, you have a 3D scanner
If you have a Kinect, you have a 3D scanner

The Xbox 360 Kinect is a great tech tool that can be hacked to function as a 3D Scanner. This scanner can be used by just about any computer with a supporting graphics card. For Windows users, you may need to download the associated NVIDIA drivers.


What You Will Need




Helpful Tips:

  • I would really recommend having a Kinect handle as it makes it easier to control and hold onto the Kinect. If you have access to a 3D printer, you can print the same one we use and recommend: Kinect Handle by tart2000 on Thingiverse.
  • There are also two different versions of Skanect to choose from, a paid and non-commercial free version. The free version offers basic functionality, while the paid version allows for commercial use as well as minor updates throughout the year.


How to Take a 3D Scan

Getting Kinected 

Ensure that your drivers and software are installed and that all are up to date. Once you have done so, connect the Kinect to your Computer and fire up Skanect. Your Kinect will have to be plugged in initially before you fire up Skanect in order for the program to recognize it.

You can tell if Skanect recognizes your Kinect if the Freenect Sensor in the right hand corner is green.

GettingKinected2 GettingKinected1

Modifying Settings

When taking a 3D scan, there are a couple different things that you want to ensure are being taken into account:

  1. Set your Bounding Box and scene. Keep in mind, though, that the larger the Bounding Box, the less detail your scan will have.
    • For regular busts of individuals, my go-to settings are a Bounding Box of 2.7 x 2.7 x 2.7 meters, with the Scene set to Body. This is about 8.9 feet cubed, and allows some room for error in my start, in case I start scanning too far away from the individual.ModifyingSettings1
  2. Under Prepare – > Settings, change your Recording Feedback from ‘None’ to CPU or GPU.
    • If GPU is not crossed out (as mine is), choose GPU. This will enhance your imaging when the mesh is reconstructed after the scan, and hopefully allow you to not lose any pieces of your mesh.ModifyingSettings2
  3. Now, go back to New, and press Start. It is now time to prep our Scan!


Prepping the Scan

Prepping a scan involves setting the distance at which you’re going to start, and also where you would like your individual to be at.

At DHF, we have a designated scanning area, where individuals stand at a specific point. At this point, no other objects are near the individual as to not interfere with the scan.



Things to Keep in Mind

Aim your Kinect at a central point of the individual
For full body scans, I generally start at the waist. This ensures that I am scanning straight, and not at a tilted angle. I tend to use the FPS readout at the bottom of the screen as the measure of the middle.

Be aware of the FPS
The FPS readout at the bottom will let you know if you’re going too fast or too slow. You generally want to be in between 18-24 FPS. Anything more or less may throw your Kinect out of focus, causing you to lose the current position. Float forwards and back, up and down at a steady pace for the best results.

Green is good, red is bad, sometimes!
Green means your object has been scanned at that area, whereas red indicates that area has not been picked up on. This more than likely is a depth issue… move back!

  • Below is an example of being too close to the individual.bad
  • Below is an example of being too far away from the individual.GoodExposure
  • The following is an example of a good exposure.Good
    • Sometimes I passed over areas twice to make sure all was taken in before I finally hit the stop button. You want to find the right balance of close, but not too far away. Slowly move forward and backward until you find that right balance.


Lights, Scanners, ACTION

Once you are fully prepped and ready, hit the Record button at the top left and your 3 second default delay will kick in.

The thumbs up is given, start your scans!

If you’re like me, your first initial scan is going to go awry. This may be due to a variety of things, but more than likely it’s because you were either moving too fast while scanning, or you were too close or too far from the individual you were scanning. Simply reposition, and try it again!



Finishing your Scan

Once your scan is finished, press the Record button again. Your scan may have some holes and look rough initially. Luckily, Skanect comes with some tools to clean this up.



First, let’s perform an offline reconstruction of the model. This will take only the frames that are deemed as good from the previous scan. This way, instead of having the live reconstruction as you did before, your CPU/GPU can do all of the hard work for you and reconstruct your model as perfectly as possible. You will do this under Reconstruct tab, going to Fusion and selecting CPU or GPU (GPU preferably if it is an option available). Set your Fidelity to the ‘Medium’ by default. If you have a computer with strong processing power, set your Fidelity to ‘High’. This will maximize the quality of your print.


Now, let’s make our object watertight. To do this, we will navigate to Process, and then click ‘Watertight’. Set ‘Smoothing’ to ‘Medium’ and press Run. I chose to remove colors. To do so, find Color in the left sidebar select ‘Remove Colors’.


Now your mesh is ready to be exported.


Exporting your Mesh

To export your mesh, under Share navigate to Export Model, select your file format.


Congrats, you have finished your very first 3D Scan!


Now that you have finished your Scan, you may still need to clean up your file. To do so, we will use MeshMixer. It is a free 3D Mesh editing application. Shawn has made a video that will show you how to clean up your Designs in MeshMixer so that you can 3D print your busts.


3D scanning is a very fun, involved activity. With a little bit of tinkering, you will be able to have your very own 3D figure.


If you run into any issues, feel free to send me an email at


3D Print Dispensing Gumball Machine


A popular attraction for the youth at DHF is our 3D Print Gumball Machine. They go crazy over it everyday asking for tokens. Even some parents enjoy it, too!

Instead of dispensing gumballs, it dispenses 3D printed objects created by our staff, youth, and folks from Thingiverse. You can join in on the fun by creating your own!

We got all of our components for this project from the Gumball Machine Factory. Those components include:

  • Toy Capsule Vending Machine 20″
  • 500 tokens
  • 2” Toy capsules

You can choose the coin mechanism for the machine. In my opinion, the token coin mechanism seems like the best option. At DHF, we usually give out tokens for free, but if we wanted to sell them we could. However, If you go with the quarter mechanism, you won’t have that option.

Once you have ordered your parts, you can start 3D Printing!

This can be a fun project to get your youth involved in!. They can contribute by designing prints in Tinkercad or 123D Design, as long as their prints are no larger than 40mm x 40mm. If you choose to put items from Thingiverse in the Gumball Machine, always give attribution (see below for details on how to do this)!

Don’t shy away from files because they are too small or too big, you can always scale the prints to fit your capsules. I’m going to show a few ways to do that below.

I want to print this file, Santa’s Reindeer, for the Gumball Machine.


I’m now going to download the file and scale it (to what size) in order to fit the capsule.

There are multiple ways to scale your design, but I’m going to show you two ways that might be familiar with you using Tinkercad and MatterControl.

Scaling in Tinkercad

In Tinkercad, create a new design and import your downloaded file.

You want to click “Helpers” in the sidebar menu and drag the “Ruler” onto the workplane.


In this case, the file is too small to be printed.


Now you’re going to change both the X and Y axis to 40mm.

phpIFfziFAM (1)


Using this method doesn’t always scale correctly. Here is another way to do it in Tinkercad.


To scale hold the shift key, click any of the four corner points and drag inwards. Scale down until the largest side is 40mm or below.

resized_image (2)

Now download the .stl file and you’re ready to print.

Scaling in MatterControl

In MatterControl, import your file by clicking the “Add” icon and select the file.


Hover your mouse over the file and then click “View”.


Next, click “Edit” and then “Scale”.


You want to make sure that the Lock Ratio is unlocked. And then change both the X and Y axis to 40mm.

phpomtN45AM phpXpu83kAM

Click “Save” and you’re ready to print.

About Attribution

If you’re going to sell your capsules, be sure you are the designs you are using from Thingiverse have a Creative Commons License that allows you to sell prints. If you’re not going to sell prints you can include those that are tagged Non-Commercial.

To find the license information, go back to the file on Thingiverse and scroll down the page and look for the Creative Commons.


Now you want to give attribution to the owner of the design. Under “Give a Shout Out” click “Print Thing Tag”.



Then, print the Attribution Tag.

Place the tag and the print inside a capsule, close it up and now you have your first gumball print!



Adding Cool Patterns to 3D Prints

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to apply hydrographic film to your 3D prints.

Hydrographics and 3D Prints

Hydrographics is a process where water is used to transfer graphics onto 3 dimensional objects. Perfect for 3D prints. There are a lot of places to get hydrographic film but I got mine from: and don’t forget the spray activator.

First gather your supplies. You will need:

  • a bucket or tank wide enough and deep enough to dip your print into.
  • a mask or respirator for painting
  • at least one glove for dipping
  • scissors
  • the spray activator
  • the hydrographic film
  • your 3D print


  1. Cut your film so that it will cover your print
  2. I like to glue a small handle on the bottom of my print that I can hold onto when dipping. I just use some scraps that I have lying around.
  3. Fill your tank with water.
  4. Place the hydrographic film down on top of the water with the glossy side of the film toward the water.
  5. Wait about 2 to 3 minutes. The film will wrinkle and then stretch back out. You need this to happen before you spray the activator.
  6. Now shake the activator can really good and give the top of the film a light spray.
  7. You have about 10 seconds after you’ve sprayed the film to dip your object.
  8. Dip your object slowly to allow the graphic film to wrap around your object. I then give the object a little twist to disconnect it from the film.
  9. Remove your print and allow it to dry overnight.

3D Print Finishing with Paint


2015-09-08 15.41.29

Around here, it’s not often that 3D prints make it to the finishing stage. Often, our youth makers get their prints to a decent quality, are happy with them at that stage, and then move on to their next project. However, we are trying to encourage them to take their prints further and explore some finishing techniques. The easiest place to start is with simple painting techniques.

I spent an afternoon printing a set of prints to experiment with a variety of paint finishes and tested a wide range of paints to model some easy ways for our makers to take their prints to the next level. I selected different types of paints that I was able to easily find at the local craft store (like Michaels) and after painting my sample prints and examining the results, ranked the results based on Ease of Use, Coverage, Accessibility + Cost, and Kid-Friendliness on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is low.

A few notes about my process: I wanted this process to be as quick and accessible for youth-serving audiences as possible so I skipped some “pro” steps. No sanding, filing or priming was done before applying paint. While these actions may have improved the coverage of some paints, I chose to skip them for the sake of time.

Sharpie Markers

2015-09-01 18.48.51

Sharpie permanent markers were a nice place to start because most people have access to them and they are a quick way to add a bit of polish to a print. The one drawback to the Sharpie markers that I found on my test prints was that the ink tended to bleed into unintended areas on the piece.

  • Ease of Use: 5
  • Coverage: 3
  • Accessibility + Cost: 5
  • Kid-Friendliness: 4

Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Markers

2015-09-01 18.48.11

A logical next step was to test the Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Markers. The coverage on these was better than the permanent markers, but scored a bit lower on kid-friendliness because they have an odor, since they are basically oil paint, and can be a little tricky to work with. They are also more expensive than regular Sharpie markers. These might be a nice option for older youth in middle or high school to try as a finishing tool.

  • Ease of Use: 5
  • Coverage: 4
  • Accessibility + Cost: 3
  • Kid-Friendliness: 2
Left: Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Markers; Right: Sharpie Markers
Left: Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Markers; Right: Sharpie Markers


Craft Paint

2015-09-01 18.50.42

The craft paint was my favorite of this whole cycle because the coverage was great and craft paint is easy to use, inexpensive, and very kid-friendly. You can find this almost anywhere and may already have some in your art and craft supplies, so it is a great place to start.

  • Ease of Use: 4
  • Coverage: 5
  • Accessibility + Cost: 5
  • Kid-Friendliness: 5

Glossy Craft Paint

2015-09-01 18.51.20

While the regular craft paint was my favorite of the paints I tried, the Glossy Craft Paint was definitely my least favorite. The coverage was extremely poor, especially compared to the matte finish of the regular craft paint. The coverage may have been improved by adding a coat of primer before painting, so perhaps I will try that in a future test.

  • Ease of Use: 4
  • Coverage: 1
  • Accessibility + Cost: 4
  • Kid-Friendliness: 5
Left: Craft Paint; Right: Glossy Craft Paint
Left: Craft Paint; Right: Glossy Craft Paint


Liquitex Basics Acrylic

2015-09-01 18.49.38

Liquitex Basics acrylic paint is a slightly heavier paint than the craft paint, but works just as well to cover 3D prints. Generally, you can find these paints in various sizes and colors at craft stores in the painting / art section. These paints are pricier than craft paint.

  • Ease of Use: 4
  • Coverage: 5
  • Accessibility + Cost: 4
  • Kid-Friendliness: 4

Golden Heavy Body Acrylic

2015-09-01 18.51.54

Golden Heavy Body acrylic paint is a much heavier print than the others and is considered artist quality paint. With that in mind, this paint can be harder to find and is definitely more expensive than the previous options. Given these factors, I wouldn’t recommend this for youth prints, especially considering that you can get similar results with the much cheaper craft paint.

  • Ease of Use: 4
  • Coverage: 5
  • Accessibility + Cost: 2
  • Kid-Friendliness: 3
Left: Liquitex Basics acrylic; Right: Golden Heavy Body acrylic
Left: Liquitex Basics acrylic; Right: Golden Heavy Body acrylic


Hobby Enamel

2015-09-01 18.46.36

Similar to the glossy craft paint, the Hobby Enamel was low on my list of favorites. Typically used for painting models, you can find this in most craft or hobby shops. However, this type of paint has a strong odor, is recommended for outside use, and comes with a toxicity warning. For those reasons, I do not recommend using this with youth of any age. The coverage is also poor, so I prefer less harmful paint with better coverage.

  • Ease of Use: 4
  • Coverage: 2
  • Accessibility + Cost: 3
  • Kid-Friendliness: 1

Crayola Washable Paint

2015-09-01 18.47.12

This was an impulse addition to my test paints. I found it in the aisle with the crayons and markers on my way to the checkout and added it to my cart assuming that many educators might already have similar paints in their spaces. I was pleasantly surprised by the results of this paint for finishing prints! The coverage was way better than I expected, certainly beating out the glossy craft paint or hobby enamel.

  • Ease of Use: 4
  • Coverage: 3
  • Accessibility + Cost: 5
  • Kid-Friendliness: 5
Left: Crayola Washable Paint; Right: Hobby Enamel
Left: Crayola Washable Paint; Right: Hobby Enamel


Now that I’ve tried some of these easy techniques for adding polish and finish to 3D prints, I plan to share them with our youth makers and encourage them to try these techniques out on their own prints. I hope you will do the same!

DIY Documentation Station

One of my tasks is to help document new projects at DHF.  My typical process has been to convince Steph to help me by taking photos while I work or using a tripod and a remote.  The tripod and remote is less than ideal because I have to frame the shot, start the timer and then run back to my seat to assume my pose.  I usually end up with a lot of blurry photos of me and my face looks unfriendly in the photos because I’m stressed about setting up the shot.  I finally decided to build myself a documentation station to help me create project tutorials and to also serve as a document camera during our educator workshops.  It turned out to be incredibly easy, practical, versatile and cheap! You can use it with a DSLR, a point and shoot camera, a tablet or phone, or even a USB webcam.

DIY Documentation Station IMG_5185 IMG_5187


Build Time:

30 minutes

Skills Needed:

  • If you use a saw, the ability to use a saw
    • If you use one of the safer PVC pipe cutting tools, it’s not as dangerous
  • Ability to safely use an exacto knife or scissors for cutting foam core


  • PVC Cutter or saw
  • Exacto knife or scissors or box cutter
  • Drill with a  3/8″ or 1/4″ bit


  • 3/4″ PVC (about 10′ feet)
  • 1″ PVC (less than 1′ foot)
  • 6x 3/4” Elbow Joints
  • 6x 3/4” T Joints
  • 2x 1” T Joints
  • Foam Core (you can get this from Amazon but it would be better to get it from a local craft or office supply store)
  • 3/8″ x 1.5″ bolt OR 1/4″ x 1.5″ bolt for smaller cameras
  • Ball head mount (optional)
  • Tripod mount for iPad and tablets (only needed if you are using an iPhone or tablet)

Step-By-Step Guide:

  1. Decide which camera you would like to use with your documentation station.
    • If you are going to use an iPad, iPhone, or small point and shoot camera only:
      1. You don’t need a ball head mount but I recommend it.  It gives you more flexibility directing your camera’s shots. If you use a ball head mount, you will want the 3/8″ x 1.5″ bolt.
      2. If you don’t use a ball head mount, then you can use the 1/4″ x 1.5″ bolt and the Tripod mount for iPad and Tablets.
    • If you are going to use a DSLR:
      1. You definitely need a ball head mount and the 3/8″ x 1.5″ bolt
  2. Cut your 3/4″ PVC pipe as follows:
    • 2x 24” length of 3/4” PVC (This turned out to be a little high after some use, if I were to do it again, I would make them 18″ instead)

    • 3x 22” length of 3/4” PVC

    • 8x 10” length of 3/4” PVC

    • 2x 4” length of 3/4” PVC

    • 1x 4” length of 1” PVC

  3. Assemble your base with the 3/4″ PVC pieces as follows:
  4. Assemble the 1″ PVC pieces as follows and drill a 3/8″ hole (you can do a 1/4″ hole for point and shoot cameras or if you don’t want to use a tripod head) in the PVC:
  5. Assemble the top assembly of the station as follows (the 1″ pieces should slide freely over the 3/4″ PVC):
  6. Combine the two assemblies:
  7. Cover the bottom with foam core poster board or another rigid material.
  8. Now you can use the hole to mount a tripod head and camera for documenting:

Quick Tip: Place bulletin board paper over the foam core to add more contrast or just to cover up dirt.

Making For Educators Resource Port:

If you enjoyed this project, I have many more that we are adding to our Making for Educators Resource Port. With a subscription to our resource port, you get a constantly updated and growing collection of resources covering all that we’ve discovered about making through extensive experimentation and iteration in our youth focused makerspace program. This Resource Port includes 15 projects (and growing), guides, and supporting articles to help you setup and maintain your own youth makerspace.