We all know that the miniature hobby, especially the Warhammer miniature hobby, is costly. You need expensive paints, primers, glue, and of course the miniatures themselves. But can you save money by buying a 3D printer and printing your own miniatures?
As a whole, it is worth printing miniatures most of the time. Printing miniatures is very cheap, the material for one standard 32mm or 1.1-inch big miniature will only cost around 10 cents. But printed miniatures can not be used in most official war game tournaments, for example.
I personally think it is worth printing my own miniatures. There are a lot of Patreon creators who sell their 3D printable miniatures for a monthly subscription and in private matches, you can use these to play Warhammer, for example, with your friends.
But you won´t be able to use these printed custom miniatures for official Warhammer tournaments.
But you can use a 3D printer to customize your wargame miniatures with your own 3D printed accessories. You can also print your own bases for your miniatures. There really is no end to your imagination.
Is it Worth Buying a 3D Printer for Miniatures?
3D printers have come a long time in the past 10 years and they aren´t as expensive as they used to be. You can get a good 3D resin printer for 300 $ that will work perfectly fine and will print very detailed figures easily.
It is worth buying a 3D printer for miniatures as they aren’t very expensive anymore and deliver amazingly detailed results. For miniatures, an SLA 3D printer is best. SLA printers print with UV resin and are able to print very detailed miniatures with ease.
I personally have the Mars 2 Pro from Elegoo at home that only costs around 250$ – 300$ and it prints very detailed miniatures easily.
You can read a full review of the Mars 2 Pro right here if you are interested.
It is also important to note that traditional 3D printers that print with filament might not be the best choice for painting miniatures. While it is possible to print a miniature with those printers an SLA printer that prints with UV resin will just print details, especially at a small scale way better.
I have written an article about the best kind of 3D printer for printing miniatures that you can read right here. In that article, I show examples and explain exactly why SLA printers are better for miniature printing.
In the end, it is a personal question if a 3D printer is worth it for you or not. For me personally, it absolutely was and if you think about it in miniature terms, a good SLA printer will cost about as much as two great unclean ones.
And while a bottle of UV resin for 3D printing is quite expensive at around 30 $ it will last you a long time. I was able to print almost a whole army with just one bottle.
How Difficult is it to Print Miniatures?
Another concern a lot of people have who never had anything to do with 3D printers is that it might be too difficult to properly print miniatures. So how difficult is it really to print them?
As a whole, printing miniatures is not difficult if a resin printer is used. Most 3D resin printers are quickly assembled and easily set up. The worst part about printing miniatures on a resin printer is the UV resin that needs to be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol and the resin is slightly toxic.
That is also the reason why I highly recommend wearing gloves when handling UV resin and I personally switched to a resin that can be cleaned with water to avoid working with isopropyl alcohol all the time.
So printing with an SLA resin printer is messy. And that is also the biggest downside to printing your own miniatures.
Other than that there is nothing difficult about the whole process. You simply download the miniature you want to print and put it in a slicer software like Chitubox. In the software, you orientate the model the way you like it, hit on add supports automatically, and then on “slice”.
The software will now slice the miniature accordingly ( you also have to select the printer but the software will run you through all of the steps automatically when you first open it).
Once the software is done you can save the file on a USB stick or on an SD card and all you have to do now is put the USB stick or SD card in your printer, fill the resin in the container, and press start on your printer.
This sounds like a lot but after your first print, you will know exactly what to do as it is quite intuitive. Especially the software is very easy to work with.
The Best 3D Printer for Miniatures
There are a lot of 3D printers on the market but the two main printers that are commercially sold and relevant to us are FDM and SLA printers. SLA printers print with UV resin and FDM printers print with filament.
The best 3D printers for miniatures are SLA printers because of their ability to print very highly detailed models on a small scale. SLA printers print with UV resin and their build volume is usually smaller than that of FDM printers but they are able to print without any visible layer lines.
I have written a whole article about what kind of printer to use for 3D printing miniatures that you can read right here if you want to know more.
In that article I also show some examples and tell you exactly how long it takes to print a standard 32 mm sized miniature on an SLA resin printer.
But basically, I highly recommend using SLA resin printers for printing miniatures because they are able to print much more detailed models, especially at a small scale than FDM printers can.
Hi, I am a passionate maker and professional prop maker for the entertainment industry. I use my woodworking, programming, electronics, and illustration know-how to create these interactive props. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.