how to use a 3d pen

How to Use a 3D Pen

I don't mean to scare you, but the first four 3D pens I bought broke within a very short time. Yes, all of them. 

Want to know why?
Because 3D Pens are very sensitive to overheating, wrong types of plastic filament and extruder clogging. 

Fortunately I haven't had a 3D pen break in quite some time. I have learnt a couple of tricks over the years and I'm happy to share with the best ways to use a 3D Pen.

Let's start with the introductions:
A 3D printing pen is best described as a handheld 3D printer. It uses the same kind of heating element which you would find on a standard 3-dimensional printer, but instead of being controlled by computer software and motors, you guide the pen's extrusion head with your hand.

At this point you should probably have purchased your first pen and some filament (that's the plastic material which you use with your 3D pen to paint objects) , if you have not check out our post on starter 3D pens and printer materials.

How does a 3D Pen Work?

A 3D pen works by heating a plastic filament to its melting point and forcing it through the tip of an extruder, how a glue gun works. Once the melted plastic leaves the tip it is very malleable and can be painted onto any surface or molded into any shape.

After leaving the tip the plastic begins to quickly cool down and after a few seconds, the plastic hardens and is molded into whatever shape you have created. In the video below I go over the basics of setting up your pen.

In this video I go over the basics of using a 3D pen.

Choosing the correct 3D pen and filament

Creating plastic art with a 3D pen is fortunately a very affordable hobby. It is possible to get a decent pen and a couple of colours of plastic filament for under $100. If you are able to spend a little bit more then we recommend the 3D Simo Mini, it's great for beginners and pros alike and retails for around $140.

When it comes to buying plastic filament, please check out the post Long story short is that ABS filament is slightly more expensive, but more durable and flexible, therefore for beginners I recommend  PLA filament. To be completely honest I use many kinds of plastic for my 3D projects, but PLA is the best to start with.

How to prepare your 3D Pen for painting

There are a few things to remember when preparing your 3D pen for printing. Firstly, take your 3D pen out of the box and plug it in :). Secondly, set the temperature of the 3D Pen to the temperature appropriate for the type of plastic you are using. IF you are unsure about this, please read our filament guide.

The picture below gives you the names of the various parts of a 3D pen which I will be referring to throughout this article.

3d pen instructions

Insert the plastic into the pen and wait for the temperature to get hot enough, this should take around 30-60 seconds. Once you're plastic is ready for printing, you can press the wire feeding button as shown in the picture above. The molten plastic will then come out of the pen and will harden in roughly 5 seconds.

What can you create with a 3D Pen?

These pens give you the ability to create 3D objects out of plastic. You can use it to add raised decorative designs to everyday and 3D printed objects, like I did with the vase I printed.

3D Printed Flowerpot

These pens can also be used to modify and repair other 3-dimensional printed objects. For more examples please look at my portfolio. Many of the objects in my portfolio are created by using a frame or shape as a basis and then drawing around that.

Ideas for 3D Pen Art

Creating 3D Art from 2D Sketches

By far the easiest way to create 3D "painting" is through the use of 2D sketch and then using the 3D pen to extrude a plastic painting over it. This is a simple process which does not require much explanation but if you want to watch a short tutorial you can take a look at this guide I created. The video is in Russian, but it illustrates the concept well enough.

Creating decorations with an object as your base

One of my favorite past time activities is creating decor for objects which we have in the home. 3D painting works exceptionally well for this purpose. You can simply buy some bland and boring bowl or vase from your local department store, and use it as a "mold" for your print. As usual a picture tells a thousand words, especially when it comes to 3D art, so I have included an example of decor I created for a simple bowl which I bought from interior design store. This kind of plastic decoration is surprisingly durable and will not break during handling or washing.

Create an object from a mold

This can be as little tricky as you have to have a fair amount of experience with a 3D pen to simply freehand draw an object, for example the cat-rabbit-fish hybrid creation shown at the top of this article. Something like this will typically require you to create the shape beforehand, either with paper-mache, cardboard, or whatever material you can mold into your desired shape. Thereafter you extrude the melted plastic onto the shape and once you are roughly 90% completed, you remove the inner contents and you are left with your shape. Thereafter you can add additional layers (possibly in different colors). In the beginning this technique can be quite difficult to execute but once you become more practiced at the art of 3D painting then you will find yourself to use this method more than any other 3D painting technique. Most of the items in my portfolio were created using either this technique, or simply by free-hand 3D painting.


Hopefully this post has helped you to get started with your first adventure in the world of 3-dimensional art. Just remember to keep at it.As with anything in life, becoming proficient with a 3D pen takes practice, and practice, and start today!

If you enjoyed this post please feel free to give feedback in the comment section below. We really appreciate any feedback, and if you have some experience regarding how to use a 3D pen which you would like to share I would love t

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