3D Printable Art: How Do Artists Use 3D Printing?

Can 3D printers be used for art? How do artists use 3D printers?

The best 3D printers have been proven very useful in almost all industries, including the arts.

Yes, some artists also use 3D printing technology for their artworks.

If you are interested in using additive manufacturing in your arts, you are just on the right page!

I will be sharing with you how an artist uses 3D printing to take their works to the next level. You will surely be surprised to know the wonders of 3D printing, especially as your partner in your next artwork.


Can You 3d Print Artwork?

Even art adapts to the changes in technology that’s why there is 3D art.

And with that said, yes, 3D printing artwork is possible. You can use 3D printing to create artwork.

Some artists are already using this technology to channel their artistic side.

Even those renowned for their creativity and innovation. Artists can use 3D printing to further their creativity.

A 3D printing machine has the means to help artists do almost anything they have in mind. Also, 3D printing works in different sectors of art. In the next section, we will share details on how various artists use 3D printing for their craft and businesses.

How Is 3D Printing Used In Art?

How can 3D printing be used in art? In this section, I’ll show you concrete examples to answer your questions.

As mentioned, 3D printing makes an artist and a designer more creative. It allows them to explore their artistry at great lengths because 3D printers are versatile.

It allows them to design exactly what they have in mind for whatever purpose it may serve, be it for production, new equipment, or sculptures and artworks.

Here is a list of artists who use 3D printing in their field of artwork.

Visual Arts

One of the most obvious uses of 3D printing is in visual arts. In fact, you will find 3D-printed art installations and sculptures virtually anywhere.

The good thing with additive manufacturing technology is that it gives an artist more freedom to produce even the most complex structures easily and in a much lesser time. With 3D printing, you will just work on a CAD design and feed it into the 3D printer.

Here are some of the unique visual arts produced by 3D printers.

Joshua Harker

Source: Josh Harker

Josh Harker is responsible for 3D printed, sugar-like skulls.

The digital artist is also considered the father of 3D printing art due to his innovative approach to sculpture design.

He is the pioneer and visionary in 3D art and sculpture. He combines CT and 3D scans to create accurate facial and skeletal structures using plastics.

“Bolstered by the advent of organic modeling software, 3D printing technologies and material engineering, my visions are now able to be realized sculpturally in archival materials,” Harker said about using 3D printing in his work.

“Never before have forms of this organic complexity been able to be created. This boon of technology is a revolutionary time for the arts and one which will be boldly marked in history. I am honored to be considered one of the pioneers in the medium.”

Kate Blacklock

Source: Kate Blacklock

Kate Blacklock is popular in 3D printed ceramics. The Providence-based artist has an undergraduate degree from the University of California and an MFA from The Rhode Island School of Design (RSID).

She has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Rhode Island College. She also co-chaired the Ceramics Department at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

Blacklock’s studio work has moved from sculptural to functional ceramics to 3D printing, photography, and painting.

You can see the different works of art she created using a powder and binder printer on her website. The ceramics are all glazed and inspired by the Vessel Series of paintings and some of them are available for sale in her shop.

Danny van Ryswyk

Source: Danny van Ryswyk

Ryswyk is a Dutch digital painter and sculptor. He produces prints and 3D sculptures of moody and contemplative characters, often with dark themes and settings. You can find most of his works on Instagram.

He produces unique artwork by reflecting the essence of art through one’s emotional responses.

His works combine mystical fascination, extraterrestrial experience, and deep passion wrapped into a dark fantastic figure with steampunk style or Gothic atmosphere.

The nature of his artworks reflected in their names like “Close to madness,” “Deleted Souls,” “Black Flame,” and “Tender Loving Darkness,” to name a few.


3D printing has also made a way to be as useful in the world of music. Musicians have already started 3D printing instruments because the process can build more elaborate, personalized equipment without the long wait and expensive cost.

Here are some of the musicians who use additive manufacturing technology in a different level of creativity.

Gilles Azzaro

Source: Gilles Azzaro

The French artist Azzaro thought of making a sound permanent through the use of 3D printers.

He records voice recordings of sound waves and transforms them into what many thought was impossible — tangible structures!

Among his most popular works are the cries of his pal’s newborn baby and former president Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address.

Olaf Diegel

Olaf Diegel was a sound engineer and professor who switched careers to become a 3D printer guru. He took his love for music to create ODD Guitars — his line of customizable 3D printed electric guitars.

For those interested, he explains on his website how he designs and processes the customizable guitars he produces.


3D printing has a massive application in theater arts, where live performers present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience.

In theater, there are tons of props and materials needed to bring a set-up appropriate for a scene, but 3D printing makes it easy. 3D printers can even print a house. It also makes set pieces, props, customers more accessible because you can just 3D print all of them.

Here are some 3D printing applications in theaters.

Wasp used in opera

WASP was used to print the scenery of the “Fra Diavolo” play of the “Opera” Theater in Rome. The 3D printed scenography for a theater play was the first of its kind.

Initially, 3D printers have been used to create masks and furniture components but not a scenic stage before the “Fra Diavolo” play directed by Giorgio Barberio Corsetti, and conducted by Rory McDonald, on Oct. 8, 2017.

To do so, WASP mounted a Delta WASP 3MT Industrial 3D printer next to the entrance of the Roman Opera and it worked until Oct. 8.

“We are sure that what we experienced for the first time how to perform a scene in the technique of the future: 3d print,” said Carlo Fourtes. “Moreover, the story of theatrical performance has always been a story of inventions and experimentation of techniques and materials.”

“Today 3d printing is already present in all design work but also in building elements in various productive areas. Here, for the first time, thanks to WASP’s commitment and work, it is employed to build the scenery of a lyric.”

Massimo Moretti, the WASP founder, said the Opera Theater presented them a very risky challenge because 3D printing had never been applied to such a large size project. They used cheap materials and the output could easily be recycled when the scenery would no longer serve its purpose.

The University of Lynchburg uses 3D printing in production.

Christopher Otwell, an Assistant Professor of Design and Technical Director at the university uses 3D printing to help them with props and set design. 3D printing enables them to produce realistic models with little expense.

“3D printers have just revolutionized theater,” he said per Trimech. “If you have the time, you can make exactly what you want.”

ASU Theatre for Ajax Costumes. Arizona State University’s

Makerspace, located in the Hayden Library, is a space dedicated to students where they can explore new skills. The ASU students used a MakerBot Replicator+ 3D printer to create costumes for the production of Ajax.

The students needed to add teeth to their costumes to make them look real and 3D printing made it easy for them to achieve it. Otherwise, they would have had to outsource or fabricate the teeth and likely increase the cost.

“I emphasize to my students that they should use technology to solve a problem,” said Sarah Lankenau, Clinical Assistant Professor of Costume Technology at ASU. “With the maker movement and the emergence of these makerspaces, it’s become such an open and collaborative community.”


3D printing is also applicable in dancing. While it may sound absurd at first, the technology is helpful to dancers in customizing their footwear so that they will enjoy their performance from start to finish.

Several dancers struggle to perfect their routine due to uncomfortable costumes or footwear, which sometimes leave them bleeding, bruised, or worse, injured. But 3D printers can give dancers the perfect footwear to help them love each minute of their practice up to their performance day!

Hadar Neerman

Hadar Neerman is a graduate from Israel’s national school of art at the Bezalel Academy of Art and has designed personalized pointe shoes using additive manufacturing technology.

Each pointe shoe is designed exactly as the dancer’s foot contour. Whatever the shape of the ballerina’s feet is, her shoe will be designed to fit her perfectly.

“I learned about pointe shoes and the more I got into the field, the more I realized that there was a lot of potential for improving the existing shoe and improving the quality of life of the dancers.”

Neerman designs them by scanning the dancer’s foot via a phone app. She will then create a digital model of the shoe, including the personalized features. The sole can be modeled or printed using a lattice structure from an elastomeric polymer to fit an individual foot perfectly.


Aside from using 3D printing for customs, props, and sets in a theatrical play, it is also used to precisely design end products. For example, in cinemas, it is used to replace broken equipment because it is cheaper and faster.

Here are some of the applications of 3D printing in the movie industry and some of them you might have missed. So, let’s get started!

Hela Costume in Thor: Ragnarok

If you are a Marvel fan, you have probably watched Chris Hemsworth’s movie “Thor: Ragnarok.” In the film, Cate Blanchett, who played Hela, Thor’s half-sister, also popularly known a the Goddess of Death, wears a black headpiece.

The costume was actually 3D printed using SLS technology and composite powder reinforced with carbon fibers, so it is light and stable.

Also, to make it perfect for Blanchett, the manufacturer used 3d scanners to scan her head to achieve the perfect size and shape best suited for the actress. It was printed in several parts and put together as what Marvel wanted it.

Thor’s Mjölnir in Thord: The Dark World

The God of Thunder is known for his hammer called Mjölnir, which only he can support. So, where did the production get Thor’s Mjölnir? Yes, your right, they 3D printed the Mjölnir.

The prop was 3D printed using the Binder Jetting process and polymer powders on a printer from the manufacturer Voxeljet. The 3D printing process allows an incredible amount of detailing to achieve the look and feel of the hammer suited for a God.

Queen Ramonda of Wakanda’s costume in Black Panther

There is no doubt that Marvel is a fan of 3D printing technology because they use the same approach in designing the costume of Queen Ramonda of Wakanda in the 2018 superhero movie Black Panther.

Artists Julia Koerner and Ruth E. Carter were behind the design. 3D printing technology is often preferred because it allows designers to manufacture custom models in a short timeframe.

3D Natives also learned that the production is integrating Artec 3D’s 3D scanning solutions in customizing a Lexus LC 500 for Black Panther 2, scheduled for a 2022 release.

“For fashion in general, it’s the ease of wearing and aesthetics that count, while costume design must also take into account the story, the actors, the set, post-production, etc,” said Julia Körner, known for her 3D printed collections and the creation of the 3D costumes for the American blockbuster “Black Panther.”

Iron Man’s 3D printed suits

One of the most well-loved and popular superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Robert Downey’s Jr.’s Iron Man.

I’m pleased to tell you that the production also used 3D printing technology to bring to life Tony Stark’s impressive costumes.

In the movie series, Stark creates his costume. But behind cameras, special effects studio Legacy Effects designed the prosthetic makeup, animatronics, and special suits for the superheroes.

Marvel opted to use 3D printers because it saves time and cuts costs. The 3D Printed Iron-Man suits are created within the Maker community.

Filmmaker Gilles-Alexandre Deschaud, a 3D designer with more than 10 years of experience and best known for his short film “Chase Me” — in which all characters and props are 3D printed — has nothing but good things to say about 3D printing’s contribution to cinematography.

“3D printing allows two main things: a considerable time-saving in the production of elements (thus a significant financial gain) and a gain in quality. The models printed in 3D can be very precise and detailed. It is also easy to do iterations to improve the part or correct things,” he said per 3D Natives.

How Has 3D Printing Changed Art?

3D printing changed the game for artists and designers big time. Contrary to the belief that 3D printing takes artists’ work, the technology actually enables them to perfect their craft.

For that reason, many designers and artists use 3D printing technology for fashion, jewelry, and more. Many also use the technology for their prototype! So here are some examples of how technology changed art per Invaluable.

1. Building Maquettes

Source: Kevin Caron

Kevin Caron of Kevin Caron Studious in Phoenix, Arizona, uses a 3D printer to expand his techniques as a sculptor.

He also uses them to create models or little versions of his works.

“I use them as models, or maquettes, to show patrons,” he said.

“It’s something to have on their desks to show off while a sculpture is being created.”

Also, 3D printing models help him find answers to some questions before labor, money, and time are spent.

“Will a sculpture stand up? How does it look compared to what I expected?” are two of the questions that a smaller model can help him answer before working on the big or actual size.

2. Efficiency and Accuracy

Source: Cosmo Wenman

Southern California sculptor Cosmo Wenman uses 3D printing, scanning, and design to incorporate digital techniques in their traditional workflows.

He usually works on life-size sculptures in bronze, portrait sculpture, and ancient artifacts.

“In my work, 3D printing is just an intermediate step that is mixed with conventional workflows, and the final works typically show no traces of their digital origins,” Wenman said about the 3D printing.

“It may look like a traditional work, but my clients know they were made faster, more economically, and with more precision and versatility than would have been possible with conventional techniques.”

He also took pride in how the technology helped him produce a life-sized bronze cast of a gorilla, chimp, orangutan and gibbon for the National Zoo while preserving the intricate details, including fingerprints.

“This kind of detail would not have been practical without 3D scanning and printing,” he said.

3. 3D printed art is the future

Artists and designers are expected to use 3D printing in the future. The technology is expected to make things easier for them because it allows them to focus on creativity and conceptualization instead of the actual work.

“I can focus on the art rather than reproduction. It’s particularly useful in bronze casting, eliminating the steps of mold making and wax castings to create the master patterns. I’d been practicing Surrealist automatism through the 1980s and 1990s, but the associated two-dimensional work I was creating was too complex to create three-dimensionally.” said Harker, a pioneer in 3D printed art and sculpture.

“My pursuit of a process to develop these visions sculpturally culminated after nearly 20 years in a perfect storm of software development, materials engineering, and 3D printed technology advancements.” said Harker.

​​How Do You Make A 3D Sculpture?

Digital sculpting, sculp modeling, or 3D sculpting is the use of software that offers tools to push, pull, smooth, grab, pinch or manipulate a digital object as if it were made of a real-life substance such s clay. The creative process enables artists to end up with photorealistic detail.

Here’s an overview of what to do to create a 3D sculptor.

1. Sculpt a base using a sphere in ZBrush.

2. Tweak the pose to have better control and start sculpting using DynaMesh.

3. Create the mold. Mask the noisy area, extract it and use a low-poly sphere like a NanoMesh over the extracted area. And randomized the placement to create the moldy feeling.

4. Finalize the model and texture. You can use XMD brushes for the damages and old cracks.

5. Use Corona Renderer to build the material fast and work on the lookdev to achieve the result you need. Explore the setting to achieve the translucency and other attributes that you want to add to your artwork.

6. Add lights to create a dramatic scene.

7. Composition and rendering. Composition is very important because it guides the viewers’ eyes to the areas you wish to emphasize. For rendering, Corona Renderer’s default settings are already very good.

8. Polish. Once you are done with the previous steps, it’s time to re-examine your work. You can control the tones, contrast, brightness and other factors. Adjust if necessary to achieve the look you want.

You can check this out for more detailed instructions.

Wrap Up

3D printing doesn’t take away artists’ and designers’ jobs. Instead, it helps them be more creative, aesthetic, and artistic because it gives them the opportunity to focus more on conceptualization, and enables them to achieve complex designs and artworks that are close to impossible in the traditional approach.

3D printing is a huge help in the art industry. It revolutionized the process by allowing artists to be ahead of the game.

For instance, creating small models of their artwork could help them decide how to manage it before spending on the labor, time and materials for the actual thing that might fail.

Overall, 3D printing proves to be great too for artists in their crafts. If you wish to learn more about 3D printing, check our 3D printing home page.



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