Brighten Up Your Prints With This Nail Polish Approach

Syringe with diluted nail polish used to fill into cursive "FuzzyLogic" letters extruded into a surface of a 3D-printed block of plastic, as a demonstration.

It’s not enough to 3D-print a part – there’s a myriad of things you can do from there! [FuzzyLogic] shows us his approach of adding inlay labels, icons and text to a 3D print, by extruding them into the print and filling the resulting cavity with nail polish! This makes for colorful and useful prints, as opposed to dull single-color parts we typically end up with.

The devil’s in the details, and [FuzzyLogic] has got the details down to a technique. Nail polish has to be diluted with acetone so that it flows well, and a particular combination of syringe and needle will be your friend here. Of course, don’t forget to factor surface tension in – even with well-diluted nail polish, you cannot make the grooves too thin. A bit more acetone on a q-tip helps in case of any happy little accidents, and a coat of clear acrylic spray paint seals the lettering firmly in place. The five-minute video tells you all about these things and a quite few more, like the basics of extruding text and icons in a typical CAD package, and has a bit of bonus footage to those watching until the end.

Adding markings to our prints is a lovely finishing touch! If you’re looking for more of that, here’s a custom tool-changing printer with a pen attachment making beautiful custom enclosures for the Pocket Operator.

25 thoughts on “Brighten Up Your Prints With This Nail Polish Approach

    1. if you have played with electronics, using nailpolish isn’t new ( a nice insulator to protect your pcb’s ) no need to feel awkward ( but then you don’t have to either if you want to use it conventionally, and a part from esthetics, lotsa guitarists also use it to reinforce their thumb nails to use as a pick )

    2. I’m a software, rather than a hardware, guy, but I’ve bought nail polish several times. Where I work, we’ve used it for years to “lock in” trimpot adjustments, fix small screws in position so it’s obvious when a customer has taken something apart that we didn’t want them to mess with, mark pin 1 of unkeyed connectors on prototypes and in-house test rigs, mark problems like damaged traces on boards we reject back to the assembly house, and so on.

    3. Nail polish is great for sealing up hand-trimmed resistors: Someone in the comments suggested it, and many years later, the resistors still read true.

      And a trick that I learned either from Deviant Ollam or Eric Michaud — glitter nail polish makes the perfect tamper-evident seal. Put a dab over a screw or whatever, take a photo with your phone. Verify later.

      Plus, if you apply it to your fingernails, they end up in fun colors. Can’t beat that!

      On topic: the sweet tips here are thinning it out and applying with a needle. Will do that next time.

  1. I tried to use wax crayons + sanding – results weren’t nearly as good as this I had a lot of problems with colour going into fine print structures if i didn’t spend ages on sanding.

  2. Now that I think of it, it’s strange that I have not seen any gilded 3D prints. As in: covered in gold leaf. Easy to do, surprisingly inexpensive. Gaudy gold color, but that’s the point.

      1. You might be thinking of gold plating. Gilding was (is?) applied over surfaces like wood and cast iron, it has a gaudy matt gold look because of the rough surfaces and overlapping sheets. 3D prints might actually have too even a finish- insufficiently random.

    1. A couple weeks ago I 3d printed myself an decorative orchid pot and covered it in copper leaf, and accented some edges with a chrome paint pen. It turned out quite nicely. Not quite the same as gilding with gold leaf, but still a metal leaf finish and I’m quite pleased with the result.

  3. Always with the timing. I did this a month ago with acrylic paint and a small brush. This method would be better.

    The extruded text recess was on the bottom of my part, which worked surprising well and had nice crisp edges. The text openings were less than 2mm, so the slicer didn’t use supports.

  4. Just 3D printed items? Nay Nay! this would work on CNC engraved labels as well depending on the material. Wish I had seen this before doing a sign for my wife. Would potentially have saved me a lot of paint pen work and cleanup.

  5. My mother used to make little wire butterflies out of silver wire where she would use Nail-Polish to fill the wings. Turns out It has just the right viscosity and cohesion to form a thin suspended layer that doesn’t not break even in mid-air. Plus it comes in pretty much every colour imaginable so lots of choice.

    So telling me that it is also viscose enough to make for a good alternative for filling inlays without it seeping through into the print is not surprising.

  6. Interestingly, this is very similar to how Enamel Pins are made. Obviously they do use SOMEWHAT different materials to thinned-down nail polish, it’s usually custom-mixed enamels that are more fit for purpose, but the method isn’t too different.

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