When it comes to resin 3D printing, one of the most important decisions to make is what type of resin to use. The two main types of resin are water-washable and normal (non-water-washable). Understanding the difference between these two resins is crucial for choosing the right material for your project.
Normal resin is best when print quality is the main concern, such as when you’re printing miniatures or other high-detail models. Additionally, if your resin prints need to be decently strong or durable, a normal, non-water-washable resin will work best.
However, if you’re new to resin 3D printing and want an easier printing experience, then water-washable resin is the better choice. Because no acetone, isopropyl alcohol, or other hard-to-name chemicals are necessary to clean prints made with water-washable resin, you save a lot of time (and money).
Want to learn more about the differences between normal and water-washable resin? Just keep reading!
Table of Contents
- What is 3D Printer Resin?
- What is Normal Resin?
- What is Water Washable Resin?
- Water Washable Resin VS Normal Resin
- Advantages & Disadvantages of Water Washable Resin
- Advantages & Disadvantages of Normal Resin
- Best Water Washable Resin
- Best Standard Resin
- Best Type of Resin for Miniatures
- Bottom Line
What is 3D Printer Resin?
Resin is a photopolymer material that’s used on most SLA, DLP, or other resin technology 3D printers. But unlike filament (the material for FDM 3D printers), resin is a viscous liquid that solidifies when exposed (AKA “cured”) to UV light.
Some overarching properties of 3D printing resin, no matter if it’s “normal” or water-washable, include a heavy odor and toxicity to the skin. Because of this, make sure you have good ventilation near your resin 3D printer and always wear gloves when dealing with the liquid, whether you’re pouring resin into your printer’s VAT or removing a printed object from the build plate.
What is Normal Resin?
Normal resin, also called standard or regular resin, is a large class of 3D printing resin materials that are not water-washable. Normal resin makes up a large majority of the resins on the market today.
The important thing to note about normal resin is that the material is soluble in only a handful of chemical substances, including acetone (nail polish remover) and isopropyl alcohol (IPA). This affects the washing process for 3D prints made with normal resin.
If you’re unfamiliar with what “washing” a 3D print is, it’s basically a process that happens after the printing process is complete (but before the UV light curing process). Washing a resin 3D print entails submerging the model in a solute substance to dissolve and remove any excess resin material that might still be on your 3D print (but shouldn’t be). In the case of normal resin, you can either use acetone, IPA, or another soluble substance to wash your prints.
It’s worth noting that failure to properly wash your normal resin 3D print will hurt the print quality of your model because small features on the model won’t come out clean and clear-cut; instead, your model will be more droopy and messy.
But besides the washing aspect, normal resin is pretty easy to work with. It’s the least expensive and most widely-available type of resin, and it tends to yield stronger, more-detailed models than water-washable resin. I’ll get more into the differences between the two classes of resins later, though.
Once the resin has been cured, it becomes a solid object that can be used for a variety of applications. Traditional resins are known for their high level of detail and smooth surface finish, making them a popular choice for intricate models or parts that need to look professional.
However, traditional resins can be messy and difficult to clean up. They also emit a strong odor during printing and can be harmful if inhaled, requiring the use of protective gear such as gloves and masks.
What is Water Washable Resin?
Water washable resin, on the other hand, is a newer type of resin (than normal resin), that’s designed to make the washing process easier. For some background, water-washable resin first came about in around 2018 but has quickly grown in popularity, especially among new users.
So what’s so special about water-washable resin? Well, as the name indicates, this type of resin can be washed in water rather than a hard-to-get chemical like acetone or IPA.
Because you can use water, the washing process for prints made with water-washable resin is super easy, way more affordable, and a lot less wasteful than the washing process for normal resin prints. On top of that, because this type of resin can be dissolved in water, it’s so much easier to clean up resin spills than with normal resin. And, if you’re like me and happen to always spill resin when pouring it into your printer’s VAT, then this feature is a huge win.
Of course, water-washable resin isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, though. First off, the resin is a bit more expensive than normal resin, typically costing $10-15 more per bottle than normal resin.
Additionally, water-washable resin has a few issues concerning the strength and detail of prints. Generally, parts made from water-washable resin are weaker and less durable than those made from regular 3D printing resin. And, prints made with water-washable resin are also more likely to have certain defects, like delamination and over-cured areas.
So, if you’re new to SLA 3D printing, water-washable resin is a great option as it makes the washing process a lot easier, and prints look and perform almost just as well as those made with normal resin.
Water Washable Resin VS Normal Resin
The difference between water-washable and normal 3D printing resin primarily surrounds the washing process.
As I mentioned, for prints made with normal resin, you’ll have to use a compatible solute substance, like acetone or isopropyl alcohol. On the other hand, with water-washable resin, you can wash prints using water; even tap water works (filtered water works best, though).
However, this difference in the washing process affects other areas of each resin’s printing performance too. Moreover, normal resin typically yields stronger, better-detailed models than water-washable resin because of differences in how each material responds to UV light.
Additionally, prints made from water-washable resin are more likely to have certain printing issues, like layer separation, cracking, and over-cured features.
As such, I suggest using normal resin if part strength or print quality is a big concern for you. However, for new users or people who just want an easier print-washing experience, water-washable resin is probably the better option. And, the difference in print quality between both resins is barely noticeable, so, at the end of the day, both are great options.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Water Washable Resin
Below, I’ve gone over the advantages and disadvantages of water-washable resin, listed as bullet points:
Advantages of Water Washable Resin
- Prints can be washed with water (no special chemical needed)
- Easy to clean resin spills
- Significantly less odor than normal resin
Disadvantages of Water Washable Resin
- Prints shouldn’t be used in a wet environment
- Printing defects, like layer separation, cracking, and over-cured sections, are more common
- Weaker and less durable 3D prints (limited functional applications)
- Yields lower-quality details
- Longer drying time
Advantages & Disadvantages of Normal Resin
Below, I’ve listed the advantages and disadvantages of using normal 3D printing resin:
Advantages of Normal Resin
- Yields more durable 3D prints
- Better for high-detail models with small features
- Smoother surface finish (looks better)
- Reduced drying time
- Lower cost (per bottle)
Disadvantages of Normal Resin
- Acetone, IPA, or another special cleaning substance is required for washing prints (more expensive than water)
- Prints have a more noticeable smell
- Resin spills are harder to clean up
Best Water Washable Resin
If you’re interested in getting some water-washable resin, don’t just get any product. Make sure the water-washable resin you’re buying comes from a high-quality brand and is compatible with your printer. I’ve provided a few great options for this type of resin in the sections below:
Elegoo is easily one of my favorite brands for resin 3D printing supplies, and they make a handful of different SLA printers and compatible resins. Elegoo Water-Washable Resin is one of my favorite water-washable resins, and my go-to option for resin when I want an easy cleaning experience without sacrificing print quality.
While I don’t want to make this description sound like an ad, Elegoo Water-Washable Resin is really a great choice. It costs a little over $10 more, per 1000-gram bottle, than their standard resin, but I feel like I make this cost up through the easier washing experience (I don’t need to buy acetone).
And, the print quality of Elegoo Water-Washable Resin is immaculate. I honestly can’t even tell the difference between my prints made with this resin and those made with standard resin. Even when I print high-detail models, this resin’s print performance is absolutely amazing!
Additionally, Elegoo Water-Washable Resin comes in a handful of colors, which is always a great thing. Options for Elegoo Water-Washable Resin include Pure Black, Clear Blue, Clear Green, Clear Red, Yellow, White, Smokey Black, and more!
eSun is another 3D printing company, and, while they specialize mainly in FDM 3D printing supplies, their water-washable resin is a great option, especially when strength is key.
Furthermore, eSun Water-Washable Resin boasts a Shore Hardness rating of 76D, which means prints made with this material should be about as sturdy as a construction worker’s hard hat. And, if you’ve ever thrown a rock at a real hard hat, then you know that’s pretty freaking strong!
On top of part strength, eSun Water-Washable Resin also handles details on 3D prints (even really small ones) pretty well. While I would still advise you to go with Elegoo’s Water-Washable Resin if you’re printing high-detail models, eSun’s option still won’t fail you.
The only two downsides about eSun Water-Washable Resin is that it’s a bit more expensive than Elegoo Water-Washable Resin, costing about $25 per 500-gram bottle, and it only comes in three colors (beige, grey, and white).
Still, it’s a great option if you’re printing high-strength parts and want an easy print-washing experience.
Best Standard Resin
Just like with water-washable resin, you should make sure that whatever standard resin you’re buying comes from a reputable manufacturer, works on your printer, and yields high-quality prints. I’ve gone over my two favorite standard resins in the sections below.
Elegoo Standard Resin is my personal favorite choice when I’m not going with a water-washable resin material. Made by the same company behind popular SLA machines like the Elegoo Mars 3 and Elegoo Neptune, this Standard Resin is both super affordable and great for printing high-detail models.
Costing under $25 for a 1-kg bottle, Elegoo Standard Resin is easily one of the cheapest options on the market. But this resin performs nothing like a cheap Chinese product. Moreover, I was able to achieve an insane level of detail on prints with this resin without even having to tune my default slicer settings in ChiTuBox.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that parts printed in this resin were also decently strong. Of course, a high-strength resin is usually best for printing functional models, but the strength of prints made with Elegoo Standard Resin was surprising considering the print quality.
And, just like Elegoo Water-Washable Resin, Elegoo’s Standard Resin comes in a handful of different colors, like Clear Blue, Clear Red, White, Purple, Maroon, and more!
So, if you’re on a budget or want a good all-around normal resin, then I highly advise getting some Elegoo Standard Resin!
Lastly, we have Sunlu Standard Resin. Sunlu is yet another big Chinese manufacturer of 3D printing supplies, and their Standard Resin is definitely something.
Sunlu Standard Resin costs slightly less than Elegoo Standard Resin, and its detail capabilities are out of this world. According to the manufacturer, Sunlu Standard Resin can print in 8K pixel resolution, which is extremely high in this day and age. As such, this resin is naturally a great option for anyone with an 8K-resolution 3D printer (e.g. Phrozen Sonic Mini 8K) or someone who wants to print high-detail 3D models, like miniatures.
Besides its detail capabilities, Sunlu Standard Resin also is known for being reliable and causing few issues on SLA 3D printers. Furthermore, issues like delamination and over-curing shouldn’t be as likely with this product as with other resins.
So, if you want a good resin for printing models with the maximum level of detail, definitely give Sunlu Standard Resin a shot!
Best Type of Resin for Miniatures
Of the two main types of resin we went over, the best option for 3D printing miniatures is normal resin. Check out our article on the best resin brands for miniatures here to learn more.
That’s because normal resin yields smoother surfaces on 3D prints compared to water-washable resin. This means your 3D prints will look a lot more professional. The specifics of why this is so is a bit out of the scope of this article, but it has something to do with how the chemicals in normal resin respond to UV light.
Additionally, normal resin is known to work better for prints that contain thin walls than water-washable resin. This is especially helpful for printing miniatures, like War Hammer figurines or D&D characters as the small details and features on these models typically are very thin.
Of course, normal resin does have its downsides, as we went over, which include a more intensive (and expensive) cleaning process for 3D prints.
However, in general, normal resin is simply the better option when printing miniatures.
Overall, both water-washable and normal resin are great options for any SLA 3D printer. Both types of resins are widely-available, decently low-cost, and can yield high-detail prints.
The main difference between water-washable and normal resin is that the former is soluble in water. As such, 3D prints made with water-washable resins can be cleaned (before being cured) with water. On the other hand, you’ll need to use a chemical like acetone or IPA to wash prints made with normal resin material, which makes the washing process more complicated and a bit more expensive.
But, the downside with water-washable resins is that prints made with this type of material are typically weaker and more prone to printing defects than those made with normal 3D printing resin. And, normal resin usually is better for printing high-detail models than water-washable resin.
So, if you’re looking for an easy resin printing experience, I suggest going with a water-washable resin, like eSun or Elegoo water-washable resin materials. That’s because water-washable resins simplify the print cleaning process and prints made with this material aren’t too much worse than those made with normal resin.
And, if print quality or part strength are important factors, then a normal resin is probably better. While cleaning prints made with normal resin is a bit more complicated, normal resin costs less and handles details and small features on 3D models better than water-washable resin.