How to Finish a PLA Printed Balcony

How to Finish A Pla printed balcony

I am making these decorative PLA printed balconies and wanted to share some tricks with you on how to finish your PLA print to achieve a lovely smooth finish. The balconies can be used for a dollhouse, room box or other crafting project and ship in the several colors, ready for assembly and display.

what is PLA

When PLA gets printed the material is heated and comes out about the thickness of a hair that then gets layered one on top of the other to create the prints, like the one of the balcony. Click here to see video

PLA printer

Before anything can get printed a design has to be created and fed to the machine. Custom sizes can sometimes be done but each design needs to be recalibrated otherwise distortion will result.

Unpainted Pla printed balcony

This is what an unpainted PLA print of the balcony looks like. You are looking at a closeup. 

Tip to remove PLA strings

Sometime tweezers also come in handy to remove those pesky strings or little blobs that the printer leaves behind.

fine grid polishing paper

Fine grid polishing paper comes in a variety of coarseness . I use Zona 37-948 3M wet?Dry Polishing Paper .You have to slightly wet it and move the object in circular motions over the paper. As you repeat this process the PLA becomes smoother and smoother. 

Brasso

Brasso is a polisher and it adds a nice sheen to the sanded piece. You only need a dab, so a bottle goes a very long way.  

detail of pla print at 2x

I magnified at 2x so you can see how smooth the PLA looks after the first sanding.

sanding pla

 

Painting is really not necessary at this point. You could do a dry fit and then use any glue suitable for plastic (I like to use superglue) to glue the sides to the main piece and then attach it to your house. A light sanding is only needed if you like to further enhance the look of the balcony with paint.

Painting Pla with Acrylic paint

Rust-Oleum is my preferred primer, but a thin coat of gesso works well too. Experiment and see which one you like best. 

Acrylic paints

I actually like to use my spray gun to apply water based paint, because it applies a super thin coat in successive layers for an ultra smooth finish. However you can use any water based paint if you first apply a coat of primer and then paint the color in thin layers. I can't stress enough how important it is to apply almost watercolor like layers and letting each layer dry before applying the next one.

Sanding PLA with Fine Grid sandpaper

Working with Pla requires a lot of sanding to get that smooth finish look. The heavier grid sandpaper is used to get thick bits and pieces off, but when you apply each layer of paint, you will need to sand between the paint applications with a 800+ grid sand paper. Your brush does not apply paint evenly and moving from 800+ up to the 1200 grid sandpaper will even out any imperfections.

Now you see why I charge more for custom painted pieces, as you can see it can be a time consuming project to get that perfect look.

You can order a balcony for your dollhouse here:

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The Artist

My name is Enzie (pronounced "NC") and I am multidisiplinary artist based out of California, USA.  

I specialize in life size commissioned portraiture of pets and people and one of a kind handmade miniatures.

While I am creating, my team is hard at work to make your shopping experience easy and smooth. 

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