"I fell in love with Dungeons and Dragons, and the storytelling of it and the weird dice and the fact that it didn’t use a traditional board. It felt like I was part of something special and almost kind of like a secret club because a lot of people didn’t know what it was and didn’t understand it" - Wil Wheaton
If you’ve ever ventured into the fetid depths of a dungeon in search of glory and treasure, faced a legion of orcs on the battlefield, or stood firm with a squad of Space Marines against the forces of Chaos, you know how intoxicating and exciting role-playing games and tabletop wargaming can be.
Whether you’ve used a single figure to embody your character or commanded battalions of them while laying siege to your opponent, miniatures are a vital part of gaming and the enjoyment and value they can bring, and add, to the hobby are priceless.
And that in a nutshell is the problem with miniatures. Because they’re so much fun and such an intrinsic part of gaming, there’s always room for more miniatures on the table.
Each game is different, and you’re always looking for the perfect 28mm model that you can use to expand your armies or fill the catacombs of a dungeon.
And let’s not even start to think about the scenery and terrain that helps to bring that world of imagination to life.
As much fun as it is, it’s also an increasingly expensive, not to mention exhausting as the search for the ideal miniature never ends, way to spend your spare time.
But it doesn’t have to be. What if we told you that there was a way that you could create your own miniatures and significantly reduce the financial impact that amassing armies of tabletop warriors and dungeon dwelling denizens has on your pocketbook?
It’s true, there absolutely is a way that you can do both. All you need to do is add a 3D printer to your gaming arsenal, and you’ll be able to design and manufacture your own miniatures.
That’s why we, as lifelong gamers, made it our mission to find the best 3D printers for miniatures that we could, so that we could bring our tabletop worlds to life.
And as fellow gamers, we’re going to share everything that we learned with you so that you can do the same. The dungeon is calling and war has been declared…
OUR TOP PICK
If you told us that Anycubic’s entire design team spent every minute of their free time playing first edition Dungeons and Dragons, we wouldn’t be at all surprised.
In fact, we’d probably just nod our heads and say “Of course they do”, because the Photon S feels like it was designed, engineered, and built to do one thing, and one thing alone. Print miniatures.
The Photon is a resin printer that was fashioned to create detailed and accurate prints and thanks to having a ten-micron resolution if you can dream it, this machine can print it.
You can go as big, or as small as you want, so whether you’re printing a Gold Dragon or a horde of Kobolds, by the time it’s finished printing, your miniatures will look exactly like they did in your mind’s eye.
Best of all though, the Photon is was made to be used straight out of the box, so as soon as you’ve unpacked it and set it up, you’ll be ready to start filling the ranks of your armies and forging all sorts of strange, foul beasts to add to your adventures and campaigns.
Simplicity is a virtue that Anycubic has taken to heart and with the Photon, they’ve made 3D printing easier than it’s ever been.
- Straightforward And Simple - The Photon comes pre-assembled with everything that you need to use it, so all you have to do is set it up and you’ll be ready to start printing skeleton warriors in minutes instead of hours.
- Leveling - One of the biggest headaches with any 3D printer, is leveling the print bed and getting it right. Again, the Photon makes this easy and uses a single screw for leveling, and with a couple of turns of a screwdriver, the printing bed will be ready for you to unleash your imagination
- Facebook - Social media can be a powerful tool for good and Anycubic have a significant presence on Facebook, and as well as having an incredibly helpful customer service team, the Photon user groups are filled with modelers who are more than happy to help novices and set them on the right path to printing immortality.
- Affordability - The Photon won’t break your bank balance nor will it inflict too much pain on your pocketbook and while it might seem like a big financial step to make, the amount it’ll save you in miniature shipping costs alone means that it’ll start paying for itself in next to no time.
- Durability - Some reviews have highlighted the fact that the build quality of the Photon isn’t what they thought, and hoped it would be, and that it feels flimsy, and almost as though it was built on a budget that doesn’t reflect the price.
- Resin - While resin is ideal for printing miniatures as it’s a far more detail-friendly platform and material, it can be messy and tricky to get to grips with and learn to use safely. Be prepared to take your time and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it will take time to master the art of printing miniatures using resin.
Elegoo wants to shape the future by providing geeks with the keys to the new world, and if they’re willing to give us the keys, then we’re going to walk right through the door that they open.
And any brand that uses a miniature alongside their printer in all of the publicity shots is one that’s going to draw gamers to it, in the same inevitable way that adventurers are drawn to taverns.
It may not be the biggest printer on our list and it may not have the largest print bed, but that's two of the things that we adore about the Mars 2.
It’s small enough to sit comfortably alongside your painting station, and its bed is the perfect size for printing 28mm scale models and miniatures.
And as it prints at just over ten microns and takes two seconds to cure each layer of resin, every element of which you'll be able to control by using its intuitive software and monochrome touchscreen, it’s also fast and detailed enough to create miniatures while you’re getting ready to paint them.
The Mars 2 is also priced to suit even the smallest of gaming budgets, making it an all-inclusive hobbyist’s dream.
It won’t demand an unfair share of your hard-won treasure, and as it’s easy to use you’ll soon conquer the art of forging and creating your own miniatures and bringing you flights of fantasy and fancy and imagination to life.
- Size Doesn’t Matter - It isn’t big and it isn’t too small, it’s just the right size. If anything it’s the perfect size for printing 28mm miniatures. The bed is an ideally sized platform to print miniatures on, which leads us to believe that someone on the Elegoo design time has spent a fairly substantial chunk of the leisure time with a D20.
- Assembly - It may not arrive at your door fully assembled and ready to go, but anyone who has spent more than a couple of hours constructing Games Workshop’s Goblins and Orcs won’t find it difficult to put the Mars 2 together.
- Printing - Thanks to Elegoo’s straightforward software and intuitive touchscreen controls, and the fact that it prints at ten microns, you’ll be fashioning and forging an army of new miniatures in a remarkably short amount of time.
- Resin - Did we mention that resin is would-be miniature manufacturers’ dream printing material? We did? That’s okay then, as the Mars 2 is a resin printer.
- A Share Of Your Gold - It’ll only demand a very reasonable and extremely affordable share of your gold ad given the service that it’ll provide for the riches needed to purchase it, it is, and will always be an incredibly sound gaming investment.
- It Isn’t Terrain Friendly - Given the small size of its print bed, it isn’t the most terrain-friendly printer and you’ll have difficulty printing terrain and scenery with the Mars 2. It’ll print miniatures all day and every day, but it will struggle to print even the most rudimentary of dungeon environments.
Monoprice is a brand that continually slips under the radar of all but the most eagle-eyed of modelers, and while their name may not carry the same sort of weight as a lot of their rivals, if you ignore their range of 3D printers, you’ll do so at your own peril.
The basic open-frame design of the Select Mini couples retro Sci-Fi good looks with functionality, and as it isn’t a slave to fashion, it’ll fit right in, and feel at home in any gaming room.
Made to support and to be able to use any filament type thanks to its heated build plate and wide range of extruder temperatures, Monoprice’s 3D printer can create any design that you desire.
And as it’s been calibrated and is supplied with filament, it will happily get to work on your miniatures almost as soon as you’ve removed it from the box.
It even includes a MicroSD card that’s already been loaded with designs, which you can use to sharpen and hone your printing skills before embarking on your own projects.
Fully compatible with Cura and Repetier (both of which are open-source, free-to-use 3D printer software) and Android and Mac, the Select has been engineered to be user-friendly and to help you build your tabletop forces.
And if the straightforward functionality and oddly appealing looks of the Select Mini didn’t make your heart pound a little faster, then the fact that it’s compact enough to sit firmly in available space you may have, should be all the extra incentive that you need to find a space for it in your home.
- Ready To Go - It’ll arrive fully calibrated, set up, and ready to go and loaded with designs on a pre-installed MicroSD. So all you have to do is plug it in and you’ll be ready to start printing.
- Compatibility - It’s Cura and Repetier compatible, so you can use either freeware platform to design your miniatures, and the Select Mini will start printing them as soon as you load them.
- Affordability - It’s another pocketbook-friendly 3D printer that’ll earn you double thumbs up from your bank balance.
- Simplicity - It’s been built to fit in the smallest of spaces and is surprisingly compact given its printing power. And it’s also easy, intuitive, and simple to use and work with, so you’ll make monstrous miniatures in less time than it takes a clumsy Rogue to roll a disastrous fumble and plunge headlong into a waiting trap.
- Size Really Is Everything - The Monoprice’s incredibly apt moniker isn’t just a name, it also refers to the print bed that it uses to fashion miniatures. It’s small, so even though it’s ideal for printing miniatures, it will definitely struggle to print scenery and dungeon interiors.
Shenzhen might be half a world away, but it’s the center of the 3D printing universe, and nestled at the heart of this city driven by technology, are Creality.
During their seven-year existence, this fast-growing, soon-to-be huge, tech giant has proved that 3D printing doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive or a pursuit enjoyed solely by the idle rich and in doing so, flipped the 3D industry on its head.
And they’ve made designing and printing your own miniatures interesting and fun.
This quiet, thanks to its silent motherboard, 3D filament printer operates at less than fifty decibels and uses a high-temperature nozzle and print bed which means that you can fashion your miniatures out of just about any filament friendly material you can lay your hands on.
And if for any reason, the power goes out or you have shut the printer down, as soon as the juice goes back on it’ll pick up right where it left off and carry on printing.
We have no idea why Creality upgraded this printer or why the first version isn’t as efficient as version two, which is the version that we’re talking about right now, is, but that doesn’t really matter.
All that we, and you, care about is that this 3D printer can, and will, easily create ridiculously detailed, intricate miniatures that you can use to populate your adventures and battles with.
- It’s Quiet - Creality has built their printer around their patented, silent motherboard which enables it to run smoothly and quietly. While you’re working on the finer details of your ever-increasing army of miniatures, the Creality will silently continue to add to its number in the background and won’t disturb your concentration or focus.
- Super-Heated Elements - The nozzle runs at an incredibly high temperature as does the build plate, which means you’ll be able to use different filament-friendly materials to fashion your miniatures with.
- Resume Printing - If the printer powers down for any reason, as soon as it powers back up again, it’ll pick up where it left off and finish printing whatever it was that you wanted it to. So you’ll never be left with a half-finished or incomplete miniature.
- Print Bed Size - As the Creality has a larger print bed, it isn’t just ideal for printing miniatures it’ll also print all the scenery and terrain that you can design. It’s an all-in-one world-building 3D printer.
- Some Assembly Required - And when we say some, what we really mean is all. Unfortunately, as good as this printer is, you'll have to assemble and calibrate it when the printer arrives. Even though the instructions are clear, concise, and easy enough to follow and understand, it’s a headache that no-one needs when all you really want to do is get straight on with printing and designing your own miniatures.
The all-around, fully certified gamers weapon of choice for miniature printing, the FlashForge Creator Pro leaves its competition floundering in its wake.
And by floundering, what we really mean is that it’s slightly better than the others at what it does, as we’ve used a little poetic license and Dungeon Master approved hyperbole in an attempt to further emphasize our point - which is that the Creator Pro is a miniature printing monster.
Hold on to your D20’s, because this is where it gets good. As well as featuring a completely enclosed print bed and chamber, which provides better heat retention and printed miniatures, the FlashForge is also a dual extrusion printer.
What does that mean? It means it uses two extrusion units to print at the same time, so you can use two different color filaments to create your miniatures, which for undead fans like us, was a revelation, as it eliminated paint time and meant that we could design, print and field our chosen miniatures without having to factor in or worry about paint time.
As well as being supplied with a whole host of accessories and tools that you’ll need to fully embrace the world of 3D printing, one of the features that completely sold us on the FlashForge Creator Pro, was its illuminated build chamber.
When trying to find the time to create hideously complicated miniature builds is an issue, you can use the Creator Pro to print at night, and occasionally peek into its fully lit chamber to check on progress.
It may not sound like a lot of fun, but trust us, watching your miniatures come to life, layer by layer is spell-binding.
- Fully Enclosed Print Chamber – As the FlashForge's print chamber is fully enclosed, it retains its heat, which means that you’ll end up with a much smoother, more detailed miniature.
- Dual Extrusion Nozzles – The Creator Pro uses dual extrusion nozzles, which means that you can vary the colors of your miniatures and create much more detailed and intricate designs, and the Creator Pro will effortlessly bring them to life.
- Turning The Temperature Up – As the nozzles can reach temperatures of two hundred and ten degrees and the bed reaches a high of one hundred and twenty, the types of filament that you can use for your builds and prints are nearly endless.
- Build Plate – The build plate is fairly substantial, so as well as being able to print your miniatures, you should find it easy to design and create the scenery and terrain that you’ll need to bring their world(s) to fully realized life.
- Affordability – There's no gentle way to say this, so we’ll just come right out and say it. The Creator Pro will leave a smoking crater in your bank balance, as all of the inbuilt and miniature creation-friendly features it’s packed with come at a price. And it’s an incredibly hefty, eye-watering one.
- Software – The software that FlashForge uses isn’t what anyone would, charitably, call great. In order to make the most of the Creator Pro, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with, and use, a design package like Simplify3D.
- Bed Levelling – And, it’s a good job that it does come with a host of tools and extras as you’ll have to check, and adjust the bed level every now and then as well.
Best 3D Printer For Miniatures Buying Guide
Which 3D Printer For Miniatures Is Right For Me?
In order to answer that question, you’ll need to answer two questions of your own.
Do you want to use a resin or a filament printer to create your miniatures and how much do you want to spend on your printer?
Once you determine the answers to both, take another look at our list and you’ll probably be surprised at how quickly the answer jumps out at you.
Fire up your printer, the table is waiting, the miniatures are calling and it’s game time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Bed Size Affect The Quality Of Printed Miniatures?
That’s a great question and the short answer is no and yes. The size of the printer's bed won’t affect the detail, quality, or print of your miniatures.
In fact, small beds tend to favor miniature printing, which means that you can use a smaller 3D printer to effectively and efficiently print all of the miniatures that you’ll need, and want, too.
However, and you knew that it was coming so don’t act surprised, the bigger the bed that a 3D printer has, and uses, the bigger the print that it’ll be able to create will be.
So, if you’re interested in printing battle beasts, giants, dragons, and the scenery and terrain that you’ll need to bring your skirmishes and dungeon-bound campaigns to life as well as standard 28mm miniatures, you’re going to need a bigger bed.
And the traditional rule of miniature printing thumb is, the bigger the print bed, the better the miniature.
Filament Versus Resin – Which Is Better For Printing Miniatures?
This is where the printing water tends to get a little murky.
While both resin and filament printers can and will produce incredibly detailed 28mm scale miniatures, there are a number of factors that you’ll need to take into consideration when you’re trying to choose which one suits your miniature needs best.
Resin 3D printers are capable of creating finely detailed miniatures and the end result is generally better than their filament counterparts can print.
Having said that, because resin printers use smaller beds if you’re going to be printing a lot of scenery and terrain, then resin isn’t going to be your friend, and the only way to do it is in sections that will affect the finished look of your scenery.
The process that resin printers use is also more complicated and involves a steeper learning curve than filament printing does and will almost certainly take more time to get used to and master.
And then there’s curing, which either needs to be done with UV light (which most resin printers can, and will do) or by exposing your miniatures to direct sunlight.
Did we mention that you’ll also need to wear gloves when printing with resin? We didn’t?
Okay, well as resin is highly toxic until it’s been cleaned and cured, you’ll need to wear gloves to remove the print from your printer and cure it and clean it with pure alcohol or acetone before you can safely handle your miniatures.
We know, it seems like a lot of hassle to go through, but the finished miniatures, in terms of detail and the way they look, are completely worth it.
Filament printers, on the other hand, tend to use much bigger print beds, and as such can print all the scenery and terrain that you’ll need to make your worlds come to life.
They might not be capable of creating the same level of exacting detail in standard 28mm miniatures as resin can, but they can easily equal the level of detail that some of the mass market miniature manufacturers imbue their ranges with.
Learning to print with filament machines is also easier, and the best thing about them? There is no cleaning process. As soon as a miniature is printed, it’s ready to be painted and used in whatever setting you’ve created or game you’re playing.
How Much Does It Cost To Print A Miniature?
Generally speaking, when you’ve got your printing infrastructure in place and all the equipment that you’ll need to start printing, there isn’t really a price differential between resin and filament as far as the cost per miniature is concerned.
It costs roughly fifty cents to print a standard 28mm miniature, which is a lot less than it does to buy them directly from some of the more established manufacturers.
Obviously, the bigger the miniature you print and the more terrain and scenery you create, the more it’s going to cost, but however many miniatures you decide to create, it won’t cost you as much to print them at home as it would to order them.
What If I Can’t Design Miniatures? Can I Still Print Them?
Absolutely. We’re not all artistically or design inclined and trying to figure out how to use an .STL file (the type of file that 3D printers use) is beyond our understanding.
But the internet is rich in resources and there are plenty of sites that host free to download .STL files and photographs of the finished miniatures that they’ll create.
All you need to do to find them is a quick Google search that uses the phrase “Free printable miniatures” and you’ll have a plethora of sites, and thousands of miniatures to choose from.