3D printing with Two Colors – A basic guide

So you have a dual head printer, but how do you make a two color print?

Making multi-colored prints can be a little frustrating at first, but the process itself is quite simple.

Understanding how a 3D printer uses and builds a multi-colored print will help you to troubleshoot any problems you may encounter.


Separating the different colors.

Each color of the model that you wish to print is separated into different individual STL objects and then assigned to a particular extruder.

Once each of the STL objects is set, the models are combined and sent to the 3D printer to be printed. For example, if you were printing out a gaming dice, the white square of the die would be one object and the black dots representing the numbers would be a second object. The two separate objects are printed in one pass, combining them as the print progresses.

Thankfully, many models (like the cat in our article image) can be found prepared for dual extruder 3D printers. A quick search on 3D model download site Thingiverse will provide you with plenty of dual extruder 3D models to get you printing in two colors straight away. Well, almost….

multi color 3d printing


Assigning colors.

Before you can print out a two color model, you need to tell your 3D printer which part is which color. How you choose which extruder (color) is used depends on which piece of software you use to interface with your printer. You should check the documents of your specific software before you begin, as each process will vary.

For simple ease of use, I personally like to use MakerBot’s MakerWare for all my dual color prints. Each STL model is easy to select and a few quick clicks sets which extruder to use. The key thing that I like about MakerWare over another software such as ReplicatorG is that MakerWare feels more intuitive, as you can see all the parts of your model on the virtual print bed, where as with ReplicatorG, the two models are assigned an extruder then combined.

stages of a two color 3d print


Common mistakes and misconceptions.

First thing is first, a common misconception is that using two extruders will make your models print quicker. That’s not strictly false, as using two extruders will save you time switching filaments, but it’s not really how dual extruders work. To learn more, check out our guide Dual extruder printers – What you need to know.

Aside from the model preparation and setup process outlined above, the normal problems than can occur with 3D prints will probably happen to your two color prints. It is always good to check that your build plate is preheated, that your printer is on a level and firm surface, and that your extruders are properly calibrated.

See – easy when you know how. 🙂