Tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer are great for interactive fun without a computer or gaming device. These games are, however, heavily relying on 3D miniatures.
Using a 3D printer to create miniatures is something many gamers are doing. It’s simple, fun, and an excellent way for budding creatures to express themselves.
Whether you’re a novice or experienced in the world of 3D printing, this step-by-step guide will have you creating incredible 3D printable miniatures in no time.
We’ll help you bring your visions to life by giving you all the tools and tricks of the trade, from choosing suitable tools, learning how to design digital models, mastering fundamental techniques, and everything else.
So don’t delay any longer. Get ready to be inspired!
Keynote: You may use a 3D printer to create miniatures by designing your own, downloading one from a website like Thingiverse or MyMiniFactory, importing the STL file into a slicer, adjusting your desired parameters, and then slicing the file. Next, put the file on a memory card in a 3D printer, and start printing.
The Basics of 3D Miniature Printing: What Do You Need to Get Started?
3D printing miniature requires a few essential tools and materials;
First, you’ll need to decide which type of 3D printer you want. Many types of 3D printers are on the market today, such as FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) printers, SLA (Stereolithography Apparatus) printers, and DLP printers.
Each type of printer has its pros and cons, so it’s essential to research before deciding which one is best suited for your needs.
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software
In addition to a 3D printer, you’ll also need software programs to create the desired model. There are many different types of CAD software available. With the help of CAD software like Blender, AutoCAD, Solidworks, and Sketch, anyone can create intricate designs that are perfect for 3D printing.
Just remember to take your time learning how to use the software and practice with simple models before attempting more complicated projects.
Finally, you’ll also need to purchase some 3D printing filament, such as PLA or ABS plastic, to create your miniature objects. Depending on the printer you have, different filaments may be more suitable.
Design Your Miniatures
Selecting Models for the Miniatures
The only way to get the models you need for your miniatures is to find them online. There are plenty of 3D model repositories, such as Thingiverse or YouMagine. Some also prefer using Google’s Poly platform since it has a great collection and good filtering tools.
Just search for any character or object you’re looking for, and then sort by 3D printable models. Once you find the models you want, download them as .stl files. Most 3D printers can read and work with these types of files. Make sure to double-check the model’s size in millimeters (mm).
Later, when preparing for printing, you will need to scale the model to the size you want your miniatures to be.
Determine the Scale and Size
Miniatures come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny figures used for board games to larger ones used for role-playing or re-enacting famous battles. To determine the size, you must consider how big your finished miniature should be. You will use this number when scaling the models later on.
For example, if you want the figure to be around 30mm tall, you must ensure your model is scaled correctly in all three dimensions.
How big do you want your mini? You’ll find a scale referred to as either a ratio (e.g., 1:48 or 1/48) or a height (e.g., 25 mm). Many wargaming minis are on the so-called 25 mm scale.
Create the Base in OpenSCAD
The base or stand is what you attach the figure to, and it can be as simple or complex as you want.
One of the most favored programs for creating 3D models is OpenSCAD. With the free 3D CAD modeling tool OpenSCAD, you may program your model rather than drawing it. It has a steep learning curve but allows you great control over the parts that you create.
When making the base, make sure to size it properly to the height you want your miniature to be. You can add texture, personalize it with a logo, or make a custom mount for your figure.
Render and Export the Base
When your base is finished, it’s time to render and export the model. Rendering will create a preview of what your 3D model looks like. After rendering, you can export the file as an .stl file for 3D printing.
If you plan on painting or finishing the miniature in other ways, you should also export the model as a .obj file. It will give you a better reference for detailing the miniature later on.
The type of base you decide to create for your 3D miniature is entirely up to you. Depending on the purpose and design of your miniature, you may want a simple flat surface or something more complex such as a pillar or pedestal.
You can even create bases with intricate details like engraved words, symbols, and images. If you’re feeling creative, you can make a diorama or display case for your figure.
Create a Model in Meshmixer
Meshmixer is a free 3D modeling program designed to repair and edit 3D models. It is used to add details or extra pieces to your model that are absent in the original file.
Once you’ve imported your model into Meshmixer, use the “Edit” tab to adjust the figures. You can also add extra pieces, such as weapons or shields, and then connect them to the main body of your figure.
When satisfied with the model, you can export it in a .stl file format so it can be 3D printed.
Print the Miniature Model on a 3D Printer
Once you have the completed model and base ready, it’s time to print them on a 3D printer. If you don’t own a 3D printer, plenty of online services like Shapeways or i.materialise will print the figure for you.
Before printing, make sure to scale your model and base correctly with the size you want your miniature to be. Also, adjust your 3D printer or online service settings to get the best results from your miniatures.
Before sending your model to the printer:
- Check that it’s appropriately sized.
- If necessary, use a program like Cura or Slic3r to scale and prepare the model for printing.
- When preparing your model, add supports so the parts don’t warp during printing.
Once the model is printed and ready, you can add finishing touches, like painting and detailing. With a bit of practice and patience, you’ll soon be able to create unique miniatures for all your gaming needs.
Printing Your Miniature – Tips for Getting the Best Results
To achieve the best possible results with your 3D-printed miniatures, here are some tips and tricks that you should consider:
For 3D printing miniature models, it’s best to use materials designed for high resolution and fine detail. PLA is a great option for 3D printed miniatures, as its low melting temperature helps reduce warpage and has a wide variety of colors available.
ABS or TPU can also be used depending on the desired finish of your model. It’s also essential to use a good quality filament that has been appropriately stored to get the best results. Finally, a heated bed and a raft or support material are recommended when 3D printing miniatures.
Pause and Printing Technique
If your object has large, intricate holes or designs with thin walls, it’s best to pause the print mid-print. It will prevent the printer from printing over itself and clogging up the extruder nozzle.
Printing a test piece is always recommended before beginning your final print. It will allow you to test different infill settings, rafts, and other factors affecting your print quality.
Ensure that the temperature of your printer is set correctly. Different types of materials require different temperatures to print appropriately. It’s also essential to keep the temperature consistent throughout the print.
Layer Height and Speed
When miniature printing objects, object layer height, and speed are set as low as possible to achieve higher levels of detail; it will also help reduce the time it takes to complete your print.
Rafts or Supports
Rafts or supports can help provide additional stability to the print and reduce warping. For prints with intricate details, it’s best to use a raft or support material.
Once your miniature is printed, several post-processing techniques are used to refine the object further. Sanding, priming, painting, and varnishing are all ways to improve the look of your miniature.
Painting and Finishing Your Miniature – Adding the Final Touches
Once your miniature is printed, it’s time to give it the finishing touches. Painting and finishing miniatures can be daunting, but with the suitable materials and techniques, you can achieve excellent results.
The first step in painting a miniature is priming the surface. Priming helps to create a smoother finish and allows the paint to adhere better to the miniature. It also helps prevent the paint from fading over time.
Once your miniature is primed, it’s time to start painting! When painting miniatures, use thin coats of paint and let each layer dry before applying the next. It will help you achieve a smooth, even finish and minimize brush strokes.
The final step in painting a miniature is to apply a clear coat of varnish or sealer. It will protect your paint job from wear and tear and make it last longer. It’s also essential to ensure that your miniature is completely dry before varnishing it.
FAQs on How to Make 3D Printable Miniatures
Yes, you can make money with 3D miniature printing. There are a few ways to generate income from your 3D-printed miniatures. One way is to join an online marketplace such as Shapeways or Etsy and sell your designs.
Alternatively, you could create a website and advertise your services directly to potential customers.
There are three main approaches to creating 3D models: polygon-based modeling, digital sculpting, and procedural modeling.
Polygon-based modeling is a technique used to create 3D models by adding and manipulating geometrical shapes like points, lines, and polygons (triangles). This type of model is often used for computer-generated imagery (CGI) and video game designs.
Digital sculpting is a process of digitally “sculpting” a 3D model using software tools that mimic traditional hand sculpting. This technique allows for a more organic look to the model as opposed to the precision of polygon-based models.
Lastly, procedural modeling is a technique that creates 3D models based on algorithms. This type of modeling is typically used for more complex models and can allow for greater freedom in the design process.
As a beginner, the best type of 3D model to create is one that does not require complex techniques. Start by creating simple objects like cups, chairs, or cubes.
As you get more comfortable with the software and techniques involved in 3D modeling, you can move on to more advanced projects such as characters or environments.
Tinkercad is a great 3D modeling program for beginners. It’s browser-based, so you don’t have to download any software. Tinkercad also has lots of tutorials and lessons to help you get started quickly and start creating 3D models with ease.
So there you have it, a complete guide to designing and printing your 3D printable miniatures. Making 3D-printed miniatures is a fun and rewarding process. You can create unique objects with the right tools and techniques to bring your miniature world to life.
Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s really up to your imagination what figures you can create. Just remember to keep things in proportion, consider all the design elements we discussed, and take your time when painting and finishing for the best results.
With practice, patience, and attention to detail, anyone can produce high-quality 3D-printed miniatures. Happy creating!