Every guitar player knows the struggle of guitar picks—just like yellow pencils in school and the matching sock in a pair, things seem to go missing no matter how hard you try to keep track of them. While some musicians may not mind playing with their fingers, some have a particular style and thickness they prefer. For these guitarists, 3D printing a guitar pick is an ideal solution.
Here are 4 tips for 3D printing a guitar pick:
- Choose the right materials.
- Make the guitar pick the correct thickness.
- Select your preferred shape.
- Add the desired styling elements.
This article will explore some simple tips when designing and 3D printing a custom guitar pick. You may never have to waste time searching high and low for a pick again—or worse, shell out your hard-earned cash for a pack of picks you may end up disliking anyway.
1. Choose the Right Materials
Most printing material is strong enough to create effective guitar picks at varying thicknesses, although different materials will affect the flexibility of the pick.
The thinner your pick, the more likely it is to break. However, the material doesn’t have very much effect on the strength of your 3D-printed pick.
With that said, you’ll still want to think about the materials you use due to flexibility. 3D printing enthusiasts recommend these three materials for printing guitar picks:
Polylactic Acid, or PLA, is one of the most commonly used materials in 3D printing, especially for beginners. It is cheap and can print very thin guitar picks that should be strong enough to withstand regular use.
It is slightly stiffer than the following materials at lower thicknesses, although somewhat more susceptible to damage as it gets brittle over time.
Stringing can be prevented by calibrating your printer’s retraction settings, and some 3D printing software has other ways of minimizing the effects of stringing. If this becomes an issue, be sure to check the settings of your specific software.
Acrylic Styrene Acrylonitrile (ASA) is very durable and not prone to wear and tear. However, it is the most expensive and challenging to work with.
It is resistant to heat and ultraviolet light and requires higher temperature and further safety measures to manage the dangerous fumes. ASA is also occasionally prone to warping, so you’ll want to make sure the build is firmly attached to the build surface.
2. Make The Guitar Pick The Correct Thickness
One of the biggest benefits of printing your guitar picks is the ability to adjust the thickness to your liking. Of course, there are guitar picks of varying sizes and thicknesses available for purchase at your nearest music store.
They often come in sets—if you prefer to play with a pick of a specific thickness, you’ll end up with a whole collection of virtually useless picks.
You can try out several different thicknesses with some materials and time and find one you like. Then you can print out as many copies as you want.
Depending on the material of your pick, it is recommended that you don’t go below a thickness of 0.6mm for PLA picks and 0.8mm for PETG and ASA. Lower thicknesses are possible but much more prone to damage.
Pick thickness affects the sound and volume of your guitar as well. Thin picks are suitable for lighter tones from acoustic guitars. Thin picks don’t allow the guitar to reach the volume that thick picks do, so they are often used in recording studios.
Conversely, thick picks provide a louder volume and increased distortion on electric guitars, so they’re used for live performances in loud environments.
3. Select Your Preferred Shape
Guitar picks exist in a variety of shapes. The most basic ones can be printed at any thickness—although if you plan to emboss, extrude, or texturize the pick, you may need to choose a different thickness (see the style section below).
A smaller pick is versatile and allows for the easier incorporation of strumming techniques. Your preferred pick size is based on play style and preference, but an oversized pick may not be comfortable to play.
Most picks maintain the rounded triangular shape everyone is used to. A sharp triangle will pair best with a thick pick for playing an electric guitar. Acoustic players will want to look into a rounder, thinner pick.
There are also jazz picks, shaped like a rounded equilateral triangle, and the so-called “shark fin” style made famous by the Beatles. Do some research and find out what size and shape work best for you.
4. Add the Desired Styling Elements
When designing a guitar pick, fun textures and patterns are possible to add. However, you’ll want to ensure that the pick is thick enough to support the addition or subtraction of 3D material. Keep that in mind when adding styling elements.
Applying various textures, patterns, holes, and even embossments can transform an ordinary guitar pick into a unique design. You can even create designs on picks that aren’t generally found on picks purchased from a retail outlet. Get creative with grips, text, and logos—but there are some helpful things to keep in mind before doing so.
The more complex the pick, the thicker it will have to be. Thin picks will work well with embossed logos and raised text, but if you plan on cutting through your pick, you’ll want to stick with a thickness of about 0.8mm and above.
Anything lower, and you risk the integrity of the pick. It may seem logical to avoid punching holes in your pick, but using it as a keyring hole and even fitting it to one of your guitar’s tuning stubs will help you keep track of it.
Textures and grips are a little more versatile and can be applied to most thicknesses without sacrificing the pick’s strength.
Applying a monotonic infill to each layer of the pick can add tensile strength to the pick. You can pick fun patterns like an octagram spiral, a Hilbert curve, and a concentric infill for the outer texture.