[Starter Kit] Everything You Need to Start 3D Printing Your Own Miniatures

Featured Image 3D Printing Your Own Miniatures

Getting started with 3D printing your own miniatures can be both convenient for you, and a lucrative side hustle!

Whatever your tabletop gaming pleasure, be it wargaming, board games, or tabletop roleplaying, having a variety of miniatures can make or break your game. Plus, with more indie 3D sculptors (maybe that’s you too!) hitting the scene, we’re no longer stuck with the same old mass-produced minis at our local game stores.

When you lend your 3D printing capabilities to others, it can also make for a lucrative side hustle. For example, you can offer a commission 3D printing service for those who want custom minis but don’t have a printer. Or, if you’re artistic, you can sculpt and print your own miniature designs to sell online.

Just remember, while 3D mini files are plentiful online, most, if not all, are not approved for commercial use. If you’re here to make a business, consider selling your services as a printer rather than the minis themselves. Or, create and print your own sculpts instead of those you find online. We’re all about making money on the up and up. No stealing artwork here.

That being said, this guide is all about getting set up with the supplies necessary to 3D print (and, yes, sell) your own miniatures. If you’d like some more resources on how to find and actually print files, the nitty-gritty of the legal aspects, etc., I’ll include some additional resources at the bottom of the page.

First things first! Getting your 3D printing “studio” all set up and ready to go!

*Disclaimer* The recommendations below are my own but do include affiliate links to all products. Purchasing from these links sends a small portion of your purchase to support future content on the blog (at no additional cost to you)! Many thanks for your support by buying any products you see and like through these links. <3

The Printer

Let’s start with the obvious. You need a 3D printer to print your own minis. Currently, there are two main options on the market. Filament (FDM) printers and resin (SLA/DLP). While both will allow you to print miniatures, resin printers will produce the crisp, detailed results that you usually want to see in a quality miniature.

FDM/Filament printing (left) vs SLA/DLP/Resin printing (right). Source: u/DCA_Tabletop on Reddit

Now, to be fair, the above example is a bit extreme. With some tweaks to settings on FDM printers, you can get pretty clean details on any mini. However, visible layer lines and lost details are common even at optimal settings.

Thus, we recommend going straight for a resin printer.

Narrowing it down that much still leaves a lot of options, though! We consulted several guides and reviews to find our 2 best recommendations for your first resin printer. Here are the key features we looked for:

  • Affordable
  • Reasonable desktop footprint
  • High resolution for the best detail (4k, in this case)
  • Overall positive reviews and ease of use

The main decision you need to make here is the size of your build area. If you plan to print standard 28mm miniatures (for board games, D&D, etc.), the smaller Phrozen printer below will do the trick. If you plan on printing larger models, for example, vehicles and demons for wargaming or large pieces of terrain, you’ll want to spring for the ANYCUBIC, with a much larger build area.

Both of the printers boast 4k resolution, but that stretches based on the print size. You’ll get a negligible amount more detail with the smaller build area at the cost of your ability to print larger models. If you think there’s a chance you’ll want larger prints, though, don’t let that stop you. The difference isn’t significant enough for you to limit yourself to a printer that’s too small.

Smaller Builds: Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K 3D Printer

This little guy has a 5.2 x 2.9 x 5.1in build area, large enough for standard minis. Reviewers brag that it is easy to use, comes calibrated out of the box, and has impressively fast print and cure times. Plus, at 4k resolution, it has STELLAR quality prints well and above similar-sized printers out there right now. They generally top out at 2k.

At an affordable $399 (at the time of writing this), it does have some associated complaints. Heavy use of plastic pieces over metal and a flat build plate that retains some resin that you have to wait to remove once the print is finished, to name the most common. Luckily, if this is a huge bother, you can upgrade to an angled plate for an extra $50.

Check it out on Amazon: Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K 3D Printer

Larger Builds: ANYCUBIC Photon Mono X 3D Printer

ANYCUBIC Mono X 3D Printer

The ANYCUBIC printer has close to double the build area of the Phrozen, clocking in at 7.55 x 4.72 x 9.84 inches. This does come at a higher price: $729 (at the time of writing).

Of course, many of the positive reviews for this model love the larger build area. Not only can you print larger minis, but you can print more small minis on the same plate. This speeds up tasks like printing larger board game sets or wargaming units. Also, people love the quality of the prints (again, 4k resolution for the win!) and the ease of use.

Some folks appear to have trouble with set-up and mention a bit of a learning curve to get up and running, but there is a booming Facebook Group with upwards of 20,000 users happy to help newbies with anything and everything! Also, make sure if you’re going after huge prints like statues to do your research. You may require a different type of resin and adjusted settings to get a solid cure.

Check it out on Amazon: ANYCUBIC Photon Mono X 3D Resin Printer

The Resin

Some resin printers will come with some resin to get you started, but ultimately you’ll need to stock up on some to keep the habit going!

ANYCUBIC 3D Printer Resin

There are plenty of choices out there when it comes to resin, and everyone has their own preference. I’ve found that the resin from ANYCUBIC is a great middle-of-the-road option that is affordable, produces excellent detail, is easy to handle, and cures quickly. All of these add up to a solid starter resin.

They come in 500ml and 1000ml bottles. By most estimates, 500ml should print roughly 15-18 standard 28mm miniatures depending on your settings, and has a shelf-life of 12 months, so you can stock up according to how many minis you expect to print.

Check it out on Amazon: 500ml and 1000ml ANYCUBIC 3D Printer Resin

The Curing Station

Unlike filament printers, 3D printed resin models require some post-processing before they’re ready for paint or the tabletop. In short, they will need a bath in a cleaning agent, usually isopropyl alcohol, and then a tanning session under a UV light to harden the resin completely.

Related: Starting a Successful Miniature Painting Business

Full disclosure, you do NOT need a fancy tool for this. It is possible to make your own wash and cure station, but I like the compact, one-stop-shop convenience of the dedicated curing stations available. Plus, they look pretty slick and don’t require a lot of space.

ANYCUBIC Wash and Cure Machine for 3D printed resin models.

My favorite so far is the ANYCUBIC 2-in-1 wash and cure machine. I know that ANYCUBIC name sure does come up a lot, but what can I say? This isn’t even a sponsorship. They just happen to make great, well-loved products (and have a wicked dedicated community of 3D printing hobbyists).

Reviewers mention what a time and space saver this thing is, saving the hassle of organizing the many components that go into a DIY setup. This kit comes with just about everything you need, except for the isopropyl alcohol. You’ll need quite a bit of it, so make sure to pick up at least a gallon of that to get you started.

Check it out on Amazon:

The Finishing Tools

One of the first things you’ll notice when you dive into resin printing is the necessity for “supports” or extra material to stabilize prints and keep them adhered to the plate. This extra material then needs to be removed and can leave remnants on your miniatures that you want to remove.

Model Finishing Tools: X-Acto blade, clippers and files

Often supports are easy to snap off, but a set of flush clippers will help you remove support material from delicate areas or if it’s tough to break off.

If the supports leave any remnants or rough patches, shaving it down with a sharp hobby knife will get rid of it in no time. This will preserve all that crisp detail that you worked so hard for with your resin print.

And finally, if you need to smooth out any rough edges a set of model files will make sure everything is flush and even.

Check them out on Amazon:

The Protective Equipment

Let’s be real. Resin is toxic as heck. It produces a great final product, but you do NOT want that stuff on your skin or in your eyes and lungs. Please do yourself and your body a big ol’ favor and stock up on protective equipment for working with this stuff. (Also, keep it far away and safe from pets and children.)

Protective Equipment

Your printer will likely come with some gloves to get you started, but make sure you’re wearing them every time you work with resin. Getting any on your skin can be dangerous and cause major irritation, and isn’t something you want to deal with. Nitrile gloves are important here since you’ll also be working with isopropyl alcohol, which doesn’t play well with latex.

Next up, eye protection. We’re working with liquids, so splashes do happen. Keep those peepers safe! Some people just wear their normal glasses, if they have them, but make sure you have something between your eyes and all those chemicals. The ones linked here also have UV protection, which is a nice bonus since UV light is also required for resin printing.

Finally, those lungs. Now, most 3D printers (including the ones above) do a pretty great job of mitigating any terrible fumes, so you may not need a respirator at all. But if you want to be extra safe, it’s a nice addition to the arsenal. Some others say it’s sufficient to use a simple cloth mask, like those most of us have around these days. Feel free to feel out your particular resin and printer to see if this feels like a necessary step for you. Either way, make sure you have a well-ventilated space for the printer. It will help a lot!

Check them out on Amazon:

Final Thoughts and Additional Resources on Getting Started 3D Printing Your Own Miniatures

Resin printing definitely has a bit more overhead and a higher learning curve than filament printing, but the results are WELL worth the effort. The above items will get you all set up and ready to print, but for additional information on how to set everything up, hone in your settings, troubleshoot any issues, etc. Here are some of my favorite resources:

Also, if you’re looking for a full shopping list of everything you saw above, here’s all of it in one handy list!

Have questions or comments on YOUR first 3D printing setup for miniatures? Leave them in the comments! I’d love to hear.

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About the Author

Ami Defesche is a self-proclaimed geek and serial side-gigger who is eternally fascinated by the ways people make careers and side hustles with their hobbies and interests. A certified career coach, game industry veteran, and professional online community manager, her main story quest is all about helping people make their geekiest dreams come true. 

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