by hearingearly hearingearly

Designers can use several methods to directly assign colors in a 3D model for full-color 3D printing. Your specific use case will determine what the best and most efficient technique to choose from is. In most cases, coloration can be done directly in the software you used to create your model.

Color by object, shell, or mesh:

This method is best for making your entire object one solid color—making parts specific colors can help differentiate part configurations, aid in assemblies, or for aesthetical purposes. A solid-colored object can directly print in various technologies, such as FDM 3D printing, by selecting colored material when ordering. However, if you are looking for a custom color, our full-color PolyJet capabilities are still the way to go. In your design software’s material or appearance menus, apply the desired color to your entire object.

Pro Tip: With PolyJet, we can manually assign colors to entire objects with our build software. You can upload any accepted 3D file, select the “Other” color option during quoting for PolyJet, and tell us what color you’d like us to print it in via the notes section or an attached drawing.

Color by face:

Assigning color by face means selecting a particular triangle, face, group of polygons, or feature in your design software and assigning it a specific color. Coloring by face is an excellent technique for giving embossed or engraved text contrast and giving features unique colors on the same object. The selection method may vary depending on your design software. Still, the core idea is to select specific areas instead of the entire object and assign a color or material to each.

Color by texturing / UV mapping:

Applying a texture map to an object is the best way to create highly detailed and realistic colored prints. However, it can also be one of the most challenging techniques and could require learning additional skills to utilize it to its highest potential. Texture mapping requires a 2D image or graphic applied or overlayed on top of the 3D model to alter its appearance. Textures can allow you to overlay logos and text on your parts or even mimic the look of other materials, such as wood grains, textiles, and more. The level of detail makes texturing excellent for producing miniatures, art replicas, and product prototypes that look real.

An object’s UV coordinates relate the information in the texture map to corresponding mesh coordinates, dictating how a texture is applied. Taking your object’s 3D mesh and flattening it into a 2D map is called “UV Mapping” or “Unwrapping” a model. Some design software has UV mapping capabilities built-in; otherwise, you may need to use separate software dedicated to texturing to UV unwrap and wrap a model properly. If you are new to texture mapping, we recommend searching for online resources, such as UV mapping tutorials specific to the design software you use.

Pro Tip: A good way to ensure your textures are correctly applied and will come through is to open your printing file (e.g., 3MF) in Microsoft’s 3D Viewer, a program that comes pre-installed with Windows 10 and later.

Full Color 3D Printing Best Practices