3D Painting: Layered Resin and Acrylic Paint

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Introduction: 3D Painting: Layered Resin and Acrylic Paint

About: Multimedia artist and product designer

Painting! Three-dimensionally! This is a guide to making your own layered resin painting. Disclaimer: making a three dimensional painting will also require a good chunk of the 4th dimension. This medium demands patience, but the final result makes it all worthwhile.

Pictured above is my first attempt at this technique. I posted this picture on Reddit, and tons of people were asking about my methods. Given the interest and the overwhelmingly positive reception of the piece, I was inspired to share what I have learned.

Step 1: Materials

First and foremost, let's cover safety.

It is important to take precautions when working with resin. Make sure to read and follow the warnings from the manufacturer. For the sake of brevity, I won't repeat them here. That said, when working with resin, you want to avoid getting it on your skin, and avoid breathing the fumes when mixing and curing.

My safety equipment includes:

  • Eye protection
  • Latex gloves
  • Respirator
  • A closed off room in which to leave curing resin

Ok, with safety covered, here's what you'll need:

  • Resin: Parks Super Glaze. Available at Home Depot and on Amazon
  • Graduated disposable measuring cups, 8 oz.
  • Popsicle sticks, for mixing
  • The container that will be the outside of your piece
  • Heat gun
  • Paint brushes
  • Acrylic paint

Step 2: Measuring and Mixing

If you want to be accurate about how thick your layer will be, you should first calculate how much resin you should prepare per layer.

  1. Think about how many layers you would like in your piece, and divide your container's depth by that number to get your desired thickness. I usually do around 1/8" thick layers at most.
  2. Take that desired thickness number and multiply by the area of your piece to get the total volume needed per layer. 1 fluid ounce is 1.8in^3 (~29.6 cm^3 for those of you not using Freedom Units).
  3. Divide that total number of ounces in half, and that'll be how much you measure out of both Part A and B of the resin.

Don your safety equipment. Pour an equal amount of Part A and Part B into your graduated measuring cup-- the ratio of Part A to Part B is 1:1 with this particular brand of resin. Mix for at least two minutes. Since it's pretty viscous, make sure to scrape the sides and reach all the places where unmixed resin could hide. Your solution should look fairly homogenous after mixing (there will be a lot of bubbles in it at this point). Now, you're ready to pour!

Step 3: Pouring Resin and Popping Bubbles

You'll want to do these next steps in a relatively dust and hair free environment. Dust will get in your piece, but we'll cover how to deal with that in the next step.

Pouring

Pour the resin into your container. Tilt your piece from side to side until the bottom of the surface is covered completely. You can tilt the piece so the resin coats the walls of the interior if you want-- this will make it easy to scrape any errant paint off the sides that might get there by accident, while paint would be harder to remove from uncoated wood.

Bubble Popping

Use your heat gun on the low setting and move it over your piece. Do not linger on one area too long, because you risk burning or scarring the resin. (Pro-tip: flush the dust out of your heat gun by turning it on and blowing it elsewhere before you use it on your piece.)

Most of the big bubbles will pop pretty quick (which is pretty satisfying to watch), but look out for those little guys. Shine a light over your piece and see if there bubbles casting shadows.

Step 4: Dealing With Dust

While shining a light over your piece to look for bubbles, you might notice some flecks and fibers on the surface of your piece already. Dust, hair, and fibers are SO annoying in this process, and aside from some sort of lab environment, it's pretty much impossible to keep them out of the resin entirely. However, with proper methods (and some luck) the dust will remain virtually invisible in your piece. Sidenote: It's really quite amazing how much dust and hair is everywhere. It's floating in the air, we're breathing it all the time... Working with resin will give you a renewed sense of wonder about how much is going on at the micro level all around us.

Finding Dust and Hair

While shining a light over your piece, look directly at the glare on the surface. Debris on top will be visible due to the surface tension of the resin disrupting the glare. Track back and forth over your piece to find those pesky floating buggers. Focus on the bigger ones. The super tiny ones will mostly disappear after your next layer, but make sure to get hairs and larger fibers because they will be visible.

Removal

You can use torn off pieces of paper as "lures" to fish them out. Corners of paper are particularly good because they hook onto the fibers nicely. Be careful about re-using the same lure to get out subsequent debris, because you risk putting previously fished dust/hair back into the resin.

Keeping Them Out

After your resin is sufficiently dust free, cover the whole piece with something to keep more dust from falling onto it while it cures. I often use tinfoil or place a wood board on top. Tin foil is advantageous in that you can wrap it around the edges. Dust is pretty magical in that it can sneak through the tiniest of holes...

Dealing with Sneaky Ones

Gasp! Large dust flecks, or even worse, a hair, made it into your piece after the layer already cured. Dang, you might have to adapt your piece to cover it. On multiple occasions I've had to add sections to my design to cover hair/dust. However, I usually end up really liking the additions that the initial imperfection necessitated. One of the most engaging elements of art and design is problem-solving. Don't cry over spilled milk and find a clever solution! That said, if you really want to get something out, you can sand through the resin to remove the imperfection, which is a lot of work... but we'll cover that later.

Step 5: Curing

Keep the curing piece in a place that you're not breathing in the fumes. The curing process is driven by heat, not by exposure to air and evaporation. As such, don't keep the piece anywhere cold while it's curing because this will significantly slow the process. On the flip side, you can heat the piece to speed up curing, but don't get it too hot-- refer to manufacturers' recommendations. I left a piece in the oven too hot for too long once, and it went... poorly (see picture above). The layer should take around 8 hours to cure at room temperature, at which point you can start painting on it!

Step 6: Painting

Woot! You poured a layer of resin! Now the fun part.

Painting on resin is different than painting on canvas. It's extremely smooth, so the paint doesn't grab onto the surface. This makes it difficult to paint opaque elements in one stroke, but it allows for the awesome ability to add semi-transparent elements! Pictured above is a brush stroke. Cool, transparency! If you want to make it opaque, you'll have to wait for the paint to dry and paint another coat on top.

Another great aspect of painting on resin is the ability to wipe off paint easily if it is still wet, and you can even scrape off paint that is dry. This means that you can prototype and experiment with your paintbrush, because you can always just wipe or scrape it away. If some small scratches appear while you are scraping away, for the most part, these will disappear after you pour the next layer.

Sometimes I use masking tape as illustrated in the pictures to get some nice crisp, straight edges, as shown in the second picture. The next photos show the first 4 layers.


Prepping for the next layer

After you finish painting a layer, you'll want to clean off the surface to keep the piece crystal clear. I use a damp paper towel, and finish with a microfiber cloth– use the same trick of looking at the glare on the surface to find smudges and removable gunk. Again, don't worry about tiny scratches that might show up from cleaning.

After you've cleaned the surface, return to the previous step and pour the next layer. Repeat the process of pouring and painting until your container is full!

Step 7: Fixing Large Imperfections

Bad stuff can happen to your piece, and you might need to take dramatic action. In the picture above, the top layer of resin touched the dust cover that I placed on top while it was curing, leaving a large raised imperfection in the bottom right of the piece. With an imperfection this big, I had to fix it somehow...

Sanding

If there are imperfections in the resin that you just cant live with, you can sand down the piece and re-pour the layer, ideally returning it to total clarity. Be sure to wear a respirator if you are sanding, and take measures to make sure you don't breathe the dust or expose others to it. You really don't want that particulate matter in your lungs, it's essentially very small particles of plastic.

If your imperfection is deep, you can use a dremel or rotary tool to get rid of material faster. Afterwards, start with a low grit sand paper and work your way up to 600 grit. Wet sanding helps minimize particulate matter. After you've gotten up to 600 grit, you should be able to pour the next layer and have it return to completely clear. I'm actually still in the midst of this process with the piece pictured above, but the manufacturer assured me this should work.

Step 8: Finishing Touches

To preserve your piece, put a UV protective layer in front of it to keep the resin from yellowing. Resin gets pretty heavy when it is a thick piece, so make sure the materials you use can handle the weight. I made my housing for my first piece with laser cut white acrylic, which holds a layer of UV protective plastic, but does not actually hold the weight of the piece. To hang the piece, I put some eye screws into the wooden frame that is the container, and wrapped wire between them.

Step 9: Make More!

Here's some pictures of a few more of my pieces, I hope they resinate with you... heh heh. I've started experimenting with using glass containers, which is quite neat because you can see the layers through the side. Also, the top layer reflects the inside of the piece, which looks pretty cool too-- you can see this effect in the second picture. If you're interested, you can check out more of my art on my Instagram, Facebook, or Behance.

I'm excited to see what other people can create with this method. May your bubbles all pop, and your dust be invisible! Good luck!

2 People Made This Project!

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158 Comments

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TiaD5
TiaD5

Question 1 year ago on Introduction

So incredibly awesome! Your work is beautiful. I was attempting a goldfish with the same technique and I came across a problem that destroyed him as he was almost finished. My acrylic paint had dried, and I poured my layer of resin. It looked good for at least an hour, then I left for work. When I returned, the whole layer of paint had slid over totally mangling my fish. What gives? Do you prep your resin layer before painting? I don’t understand why all the other layers worked perfectly. Have you ever had anything like that happen? Did you figure out how to fix it?
First picture is how it looked after pouring, the second is after the “slide”. Any help you could give me would be super helpful. Thank you!
Aloha!

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Will Atwood
Will Atwood

Answer 10 months ago

Whoa! Never seen any issues like that before. My guess for why it happened is that the surface of the resin is very smooth, so it doesn't have a strong 'grip' on the paint, and it slid off of its initial position due to some external force... as for what force that could be, I can guess at potential causes, but might not have enough information to provide a useful answer...

A couple questions:
1) What is the container that you're using there as the vessel of the piece? (A clam shell?)

2) Was the piece placed on a flat surface while curing? Was it moved part way through the curing process? Your pics seem to show that the problematic layer is rotated, not just purely translated... which makes me think that the container might have moved during the curing process... so one side was more cured and 'stuck' where it was than the other parts, and it 'slid' more easily at one end while remaining glued at the other end. Even if it wasn't touched or moved by you or someone else, it might have slightly tilted on its own over time, or maybe there was some crazy fluid dynamical force inside the resin while it was curing... physics be crazy! Especially fluid dynamics.

Anyways, that stinks that your piece got messed up, especially so far along in the process! By the way, cool idea putting the fish in the clam shell. Hopefully you manage to figure out the culprit of the issue, and that you manage to fix/disguise the issue without too much headache!

Let us know how it goes :)

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TiaD5
TiaD5

Reply 10 months ago

I totally figured it out. Someone convinced me to sand down through him and try again. The best I can tell is that the shell fell over while curing. I struggled through it and here he is 😁
Thank you for your reply. I’ve already started a second fish.
Aloha!

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JimG163
JimG163

4 years ago on Step 9

Love it. Have you tried removing the finished piece from the mould? You will obviously need a release agent, I have been playing around with resin and found silicon spray works quite well, even better is a layer of silicon spray, polish, then a thin layer of parafin oil. Comercial release agents are available too.

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Will Atwood
Will Atwood

Reply 10 months ago

Hey Jim, thanks for the kind words! I haven't used molds with resin yet, but I've been meaning to try it out ever since I started working with it as a medium. It sounds like something you have experience with-- do you have any useful resources you could point me towards to learn more about the process? Thanks for the tip about parafin oil.

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revitalm
revitalm

4 years ago on Step 9

Great Instructable! Clear, concise and beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

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Will Atwood
Will Atwood

Reply 10 months ago

Great comment! Flattering, concise, and appreciated! Thank you for the positive feedback!! :)

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AndrewB624
AndrewB624

3 years ago

dude that last photo with the one you had to sand and fix with the clouds, looks f**** sick! i really dig it

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Will Atwood
Will Atwood

Reply 10 months ago

Dood! Thank you for the kind words! That one is my favorite too, but I'm sad to say I still haven't finished repairing it :(

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Jandriene
Jandriene

3 years ago on Step 9

I am very happy to come across your VERY cool art upon my first investigation into working with this resin medium. I have a project that I have been collecting items for, with this idea in mind, and had no idea how to start. Thank you.
Do you think, besides a bit of painting, I would be able to install actual items of different texture/makeup into something such as this? Would they stay in place ? Thx so much.

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Will Atwood
Will Atwood

Reply 10 months ago

Thanks for the kind words! 3D resin collage can yield suuuper cool results (see the work of Dustin Yellin and Sebastian Wahl). As for keeping the items in place, I'd say the definitely need to be 'stuck' in position somehow, or else they'd move around. As for how to stick them, I could see double-stick tape or some sort of adhesive working, but I might worry about the air bubbles that could be under the object when you pour the resin that might show up later during the curing process. I don't have much experience with doing what you're describing, but I'd recommend trying to make sure you allow as little air as possible to get trapped under/in the objects that you're encapsulating in resin (unless that's an effect you're going for!)

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dyansulek71
dyansulek71

2 years ago on Introduction

Hi. love your art. I was wondering how you did the clouds in that one painting? Everything else is painted i can see but the clouds look real. Were they painted as well or did you use some kind of material.

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Will Atwood
Will Atwood

Reply 10 months ago

Thanks! Glad to hear you dig my work, and also happy you noticed the detail of the clouds. Nice eye for detail, as I did use a different process to paint those clouds than I did for all the other elements-- a technique that I learned from a mentor/friend, Nome Edonna. I used my finger as a brush! :)

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spidermandancer
spidermandancer

Question 2 years ago on Step 9

I was wondering what would be the best way to make a clear resin table top just free with no frame around it

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Will Atwood
Will Atwood

Answer 10 months ago

Hmm-- I know people use silicone to create standalone resin objects, but I'm not certain that's an option for a piece as big as a table top. Maybe look into using acrylic plastic as the container? Acrylic might present problems with contracting/expanding/cracking during the curing process though, so unfortunately I don't have an answer to give you that will guarantee success.

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Sephanie Steech
Sephanie Steech

Question 10 months ago on Step 9

I let first layer of resin fully cure before I started painting and found resources saying I needed to sand it before pouring another layer. Their recommendation suggested 80 grit so that’s what I did… but now paint is sticking into all these little crevices where I didn’t want it. Did I even need to sand it? And about this piece, how much will those little contrasting lines show up after 2nd layer? I’m only pouring 2 layers on this piece. It’s all there’s room for!

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Will Atwood
Will Atwood

Answer 10 months ago

In my experience, no need to sand! A rougher surface might grab paint a little easier than an un-sanded surface, but even for that purpose I'd say 80 grit is waaaay too rough. From previous conversations with the resin company I buy from, it needs 600 grit for the 'scratches' to be invisible upon pouring the next layer. Accordingly, I would guess that the scratches (which I think are the 'contrasting lines' you are referencing) will still be visible on your next layer... but hey, at least it only happened after one layer, instead of figuring this issue out after putting in more work! Good luck, and send pics and updates of your results :)

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dantiel
dantiel

1 year ago

thats really artsy farsy, but also a lot of work

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declanshanaghy
declanshanaghy

Tip 4 years ago

Another way to combat dust etc, is to setup an air purifier in the location where you will be pouring approx 24 hrs before starting and keep it running throughout the project.

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AndreaS214
AndreaS214

Reply 2 years ago

Great idea! Thanks!