A universal approach is described to produce welding filler materials with enhanced grain refining, for making welded objects with hot-crack resistance. Some variations provide a welding filler material comprising a functionalized metalcontaining powder, wherein the functionalized metal-containing powder comprises metal or metal alloy particles and a plurality of nanoparticles disposed on surfaces of the metal or metal alloy particles, and wherein the nanoparticles are consolidated in a three-dimensional architecture throughout the welding filler material. A welded object contains a welding filler material comprising the functionalized metalcontaining powder, enabling the welded object to be free of hot cracks. Other variations provide methods of making a welding filler material. This approach has been successfully demonstrated by incorporating zirconium-based nanoparticle grain refiners within a welding precursor material for welding aluminum alloy Al 7075, as one non-limiting example.