3D: Painting a Dinosaur at the Meet the Experts Weekend

I’m looking forward to seeing colourful dinosaurs roaming around the museum at the Meet the Experts event on November 26 and 27. I’ll be running an activity-based workshop for children in which they can digitally paint a dinosaur in whatever design and colour they wish.

Three images of Vagaceratops irvinensis: one in an orangey brown and the others with patches of bright colours and black spots.

The original 3D model of Vagaceratops irvinensis (top) in colours chosen by a scientist, and some children’s versions. Image: Paul Bloskie © Canadian Museum of Nature

The activity involves painting a 3D model of the Vagaceratops irvinensis dinosaur using software that I use to create 3D models for the museum.

Children are able to select from a complete palette of colours and paint all sides of the 3D model. They are able to use their imagination to create designs and apply multiple colours. Because we don’t really know the Vagaceratops’s exact colour, they may even come close to what it really was.

Laptops on tables and a large projection screen in the museum.

The 3D setting for the Meet the Experts event, planned for November 26 and 27 at the museum. Image: Paul Bloskie © Canadian Museum of Nature

When the children are finished painting the dinosaur, they are able to print out their artwork and take it home with them as a souvenir of their visit to the museum.

It would be super cool to print their artwork using a 3D printer (see a video about the 3D printer), but these printers are a little expensive to use and it takes approximately one hour to print a one-inch 3D model. It would have been interesting to see hundreds of brightly coloured Vagaceratops being printed and being played with.

Last year, our first Meet the Experts weekend was a big hit. Children loved getting on a computer, and the interactivity of painting their own dinosaur was a huge thrill. I found the children often painted their dinosaur twice. Once they had finished it, they often said, “Wait. I want to change it” and then continued to add extra details and sometimes redo it all over again.

Images of 3D dinosaur models (Vagaceratops irvinensis) wildly decorated with stripes, dots and bright colours.

A collage of painted dinosaurs that were created by children at last year's event. Image: Paul Bloskie © Canadian Museum of Nature

I knew it was a great activity because several times, parents had to pry their children away from the computer in order to move on to see the rest the museum and other experts.

Children just jump right in, and with just a little instruction on which buttons to press, off they go. This gave me the opportunity to talk with the parents about my work and show them additional 3D models that were created from the museum’s collection.

A 3D model of a Styracosaurus skull.

A 3D model of a Styracosaurus skull. Image: Paul Bloskie © Canadian Museum of Nature

During this time, I had to laugh: on more than one occasion I had to intervene with the children as they were getting deeper into the software and changing settings and configurations by exploring all the options available. A couple times, I had to actually restart the software, wondering what they had done!

It’s funny to watch how the boys and girls are so different in choosing their colours. Boys used more blue, and girls most often selected red and yellow to paint their dinosaur.

In the end, each dinosaur is coloured completely differently and specially, and there are lots of smiles as they are being printed out.

This year, I’ll provide a second 3D model for painting. I’m planning on using a 3D model of a Styracosaurus skull. It will be interesting to see which one is selected more often.

Images of 3D dinosaur models (Vagaceratops irvinensis) wildly decorated with stripes, dots and bright colours.

A collage of painted dinosaurs that were created by children at last year's event. Image: Paul Bloskie © Canadian Museum of Nature

I hope to see tons of boys and girls at this year’s Meet the Experts weekend. It will be a fun outing. We will be showing our stunning 3D animations and lots of 3D models made from the museum’s collections.

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