Introduction: How to Model and Paint a 3D Printed Lotus Flower


Initially I came up with this idea of designing and printing a lotus flower back in 2016 and just totally had it in the backburner until now! Since we've been in quarantine due to Covid-19 I figured now would be a great time to look back through my old project lists and see if there were any I could finish up.

Previously I had started an initial model using Rhino in 2016 but I wasn't satisfied with the results of how it looked and at the time and it was a bit too fragile to be printed on a standard fdm 3d printer. (I'll show my initial design in the next step)

Fast forward to now it is 2020 and I switched over to SelfCAD where I do a lot of my 3d modeling. SelfCAD is easy to learn and you can make complex models with ease in the software. I looked back at the start of my initial model in Rhino and started drafting up a new and improved version of the lotus flower in SelfCAD.

For the free download of this 3D model please check out my profile on MyMiniFactory where I post all my lastest 3D models!!


3D Printer (I used my Craftbot XL)

3D Modeling Software (I used SelfCAD)

Acrylic Paint, Spray paint

Camera (I used my Sony a5000)

Lightbox (super cheap on Amazon)

Step 1: Initial Attempt in Rhino From Back in 2016

(You can skip this step it's just referencing my old design!)

As mentioned before in the previous step, I had modeled my first attempt in Rhino back in 2016 but it just wasn't exactly what I was going for. I wanted the lotus flower to look light and delicate but this one looked pointy and more like the top of a pineapple.

Step 2: Modeling in SelfCAD (Timelapse Video)

This video shows a quick screen recording of how I designed the lotus flower model. The video is sped up but you can change the playback speed in youtube or I will also show screenshots from the video in the following step that will have descriptions for each step.

Step 3: SelfCAD Step by Step

First step was to design a leaf.

I did so by drawing an ellipse in 2D and then subtracting the lower half so that I just had the rounded part up top. I then stretched and scaled this form once it was extruded in 3D to get more of the leaf shape that I wanted.

The next step was to copy that leaf and rotate it 90 degrees so that it was standing up. I did this so that I could bend the leaf down. I then copied the leaf again to bend it even further.

Now the leafs when they are bent looked too blocky so they needed to have resolution added to them and rounded so that they looked more organic.

The next step was to copy the leaf but to do so by using the "Pivot" command. The pivot command is a nice tool because you can set the number of objects you want copied around a certain point. In this case I copied 5 leaves for a total of 6 around the centerpoint.

I used the pivot command for the bent leaves as well.

Once all the leaves were copied around the centerpoint, I grouped them accordingly and rotated the semi-bent leaves so that they would create more of the flower shape.

I created an additional set of leaves in the center and made these slightly taller and skinnier.

After the model was completed I joined all the leaves together and used the magic fix command before exporting as an stl file. This step is very important as the magic fix fills any holes in the mesh and makes the model "watertight" for 3d printing.

Step 4: Slicing for 3D Printing (Craftware)

In this step I imported the stl file into Craftware so that I can generate a gcode for it to be 3d printed.

Craftware is the slicing software that allows you to adjust the settings for my Craftbot XL printer. In this case I set the layer height to .2mm and 20% infill density. This model does not require support material.

Step 5: 3D Print It!!

Here's a quick little timelapse video of the lotus flower printing on the Craftbot XL.

This model took roughly 5 hours to print.

Step 6: Prepare for Painting

The next step is to prep your model for painting. With FDM printing there can be stray bits of plastic that hang off your model and to do so you just need tweezers or small clips to snip away those pieces. It is also recommended to sand or fill any gaps that you may have. This model when it was printed looked pretty good as is so I skipped the sanding step.

Step 7: Painting

The next step is painting!

With this step I just wanted to have fun with it and there's always room for improvement. I don't pride myself on being the best painter but I was experimenting and I think it turned out quite nice.

First step is to use a primer so the paint sticks onto the plastic. (I used white spray paint with primer fill)

Next I had just started painting away with just super basic acrylic paint and brushed it on in layers with a mixture of green, purple and pink.

Once I got the base coat down I actually went back to the spray paint and did a light dusting of charcoal grey below to get more shadows and then did a light dusting of white on top to accentuate the highlights.

After the spray paint dried I had added a dragonfly glaze as a top coat. The top coat was really nice because it added a glitter and shimmering effect to the model.

Step 8: Photos!

I used a lightbox to take really nice photos and edited the images in photoshop.

What I've learned when doing shots like this is to make sure to set your camera so that it shoots in RAW format so that you have the ability to edit the images later.

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