21 Tips for Beginners in 3D Printing

Updated September 2019

3D Printing the Smart Way

The place to learn about 3D printing… Start here to build your 3D printing knowledge base.

3D Printing Has Exploded

When I started it seemed only a few people in the trucking and farm toy markets were experimenting. Now everyone seems to be doing some type of 3D project or at least interested in trying.

I receive a ton of questions which I gladly answer. But I began to wonder, what do artists and freelancers want from a person like me? Unfortunately I have made many mistakes that cost me tons of time and money. To help Rockin H followers keep from making the same mistake, I went out and asked artists “what can people like me do to help an artist make great 3D drawings”?

Below are 21 tips for beginners in 3D printing comprised of responses from real artists I found on the Shapeways.com forums. I’ve not commissioned work from them but I am confident in the quality of their responses. Had I asked this question when I started it would have made a huge difference in the quality of drawings, time, and money spent. Please leave your questions and comments in the comment box.

The responses I received from the artists are largely unedited. Included is the name and contact info for each artists to further the conversation.

General Tips and Advice

Dale aka Desert Rat ~ Visit Desert Rat’s Shapeways Shop

  1. My biggest problem is the client comes without thorough research. They have no idea which material to design for or never even read the material descriptions.
  2. No dimensions, just a pic to go from. Research is not the best use of my time and can really drive the price up.
  3. Clients often are very slow to answer emails through the design process. I am always waiting for someone to get back on a design question.
  4. Clients wanting to know up front what it will cost to have printed before we even start. Often I rough out a similar size shell to get a rough idea, but I never see compensation for that.
  5. People need to read and understand the Shapeways process and time-lines including shipping.
  6. People should look at the designers work and feedback AND read the descriptions.
  7. Pick a designer that draws the type of item you have in mind. There are sculptors, train, vehicle jewelry and mechanical designers. Choosing a jewelry designer to make a mechanical part and vice versa does not work.
  8. Just because it’s small does not mean it’s takes less time than drawing it for a particular scale.
  9. Don’t have a designer draw for detail, then, cheap out and try to have it printed in White material.
  10. Keep in mind the Designer and Shapeways are two separate services.
  11. RESEARCH RESEARCH and MORE RESEARCH. have material ready when approaching a designer. You will get a more accurate idea of cost entailed and address issues early on.

Marián aka Keymaker ~ Visit Keymaker’s Shapeways Shop

  1. How will it be used?
  2. What you can provide (picture, non printable 3d model, scanned model etc.)
  3. What will be the final/minimal size?
  4. In what material(s) it will be printed?
  5. Style of payment? Estimation of price for the whole job or paid by the hour (second option is only for clients that I worked for before)
  6. How and when payment will take place?

Paul aka Stop4stuffVisit Stop for Stuff’s Shapeways Shop

  1. Usually there’s a lot of terminology associated with the subject of the model. My preference is to have the terminology explained – this saves a lot of time as I don’t need to googling for answers.
  2. Clear and concise specification along with good communications for the job is good.
  3. The more information there is about the nitty grittys and the end usage of the model, the better.
  4. Help me share the same vision as the client. This enables me to recommend a suitable material or range of materials for the project.

3D printing is the wild west right now and a veritable land rush. No idea is too crazy or extreme which allows creatives like us a fine opportunity to explore whatever whimsy we can afford. Share these tips with your friends and leave your comments

Ready to see how a 3D printer actually works? The next blog post shows the process, check it out.

There was quite a learning curve involved so do subscribe to my newsletter to get the latest 1.64 scale tutorials and help guides. Please ask questions in the comment box.

See you next time!


Updated September 2019