Geek out again: You can now 3D-print color makeup

Grace Choi, a Harvard Business School graduate, has figured out how to 3D-print makeup powder of virtually any color.

"Mink" and its inventor, Grace Choi. Video screenshot: Aloysius Boh

“Mink” and its inventor, Grace Choi. Video screenshot: Aloysius Boh

Remember that blog post about how you can now 3D-print nearly a whole guitar pickup? Guess what? You can now 3D-print color makeup, too. It seems that the DIY enthusiast’s utopian future is not too far away now.

Grace Choi, a Harvard Business School graduate, has figured out how to print makeup powder of virtually any color. (Yes, you just heard the collective whoop of vain people everywhere in the world.) She has invented “Mink,” a mini 3D home printer that will allow users to print out makeup of any color using color printer ink. You read that right: Color printer ink; the stuff you use to print A4-sized posters of your favorite band or singer. This is because color printer ink is similar to the ink that makeup companies use in their products. According to Choi, “Mink” uses ink that is FDA-approved.

During her presentation at this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt — an annual conference where some technology startups launch their products and services by competing on stage in front of potential investors, media and other interested parties — Choi had some unkind words for the makeup industry:

The makeup industry makes a whole lot of money on a whole lot of (expletive). They do this by charging a huge premium on one thing that technology provides for free, and that one thing is color.

By “free,” Choi is referring to the fact that anyone with access to a computer can easily access the unlimited color palette selection that is found in image-editing software such as Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Paint. The selling point is obvious and compelling: Why shop at your average cosmetic store that only stocks popular and potentially expensive color selections when you can just stay at home and print out whatever color you fancy at no cost?

According to Choi, her technology will enable people to snap photographs of their friend’s lipstick and print it out. “Mink” can take any image and instantly transform it into a wearable color cosmetic. This means that any phone (with a camera), laptop or camera can become portable beautification devices. Needless to say, when this happens, the multimillion dollar makeup industry will collapse (well, maybe).

Like what digital artists often do, all “Mink” users have to do is discover the hex code of any color they see and use the Eyedropper tool of either Photoshop or Paint in conjunction with a hex code generator like ColorPicker.com. Then, users only need to paste the hex code into a new Photoshop or Paint document, and see the exact color they want to print appear. The last step is to simply print the color just as users would print any other document on their computer.

Grace Choi’s live demo of Mink

As you can see, 3D-printing color makeup is an easier feat and a more complete process than 3D-printing nearly an entire guitar-pickup. It requires no difficult-to-print parts such as copper and bar magnets. Choi intends to retail “Mink” at about $300 initially.

Her invention is based on an attractive yet simple idea that capitalizes on what is already easily available to the average person. In other words, Choi’s invention is the epitome of a neat innovation.

It doesn’t seem far-fetched to speculate that nail paint, color hair spray and color contact lenses will be next on the list of 3D-printable cosmetic products. That futuristic nail-painting scene in Total Recall doesn’t appear to be just sci-fi anymore, right?

Futuristic nail-painting scene from original Total Recall movie