Key Takeaways

  • Cost Comparison: 3D printing miniatures is cheaper than buying them, saving up to $14.80 per mini.
  • Quality Comparison: Resin printers produce high-detail and precision minis, while FDM printers are better for terrain and props.
  • Break-even Point: Depending on the printer and the mini, you can start saving money after printing 15 to 488 minis.
  • Optional Extras: You may need to consider the cost of cleaning and curing stations, primer, paint, and other supplies.

Nowadays, even $200 3D printers produce quality miniatures, an intriguing proposition for tabletop gamers and D&D fans wanting to expand their collection from the comfort of their own homes. 

But does 3D printing miniatures work out cheaper than buying them at retail?

In this article, I’ll cover the exact cost to 3D print a miniature, factoring in the price of the printer, filament or resin, and electricity to determine an average cost per model.

Then, use our calculator further down in this article to calculate how many minis you’d need to 3D print to make back the investment in a 3D printer based on the number of minis you plan to 3D print.

Then, you’ll know exactly whether 3D printing minis is cheaper for you, or whether you’re better off just buying minis at retail price.

Our findings present exact figures and cost comparisons – for those wondering whether it’s worth buying a 3D printing, FDM or resin, to print miniatures.

And if you’re looking to buy a 3D printer to print minis, we have thoroughly evaluated all of the top picks in our guide to buying a 3D printer for D&D/Warhammer miniatures and terrain.

Is It Cheaper To 3D Print Miniatures?

Yes, it is cheaper to 3D print a model of a miniature than to pay the retail price in a store.

An officially licensed, unpainted, and unassembled Warhammer, D&D, or other popular franchise mini generally costs $10 to $15. 3D printing an equivalent miniature can cost as little as $0.20.

That’s almost 100x cheaper than buying them.

You can buy off-brand bulk packs of miniatures for as low as $40 for around 70 pieces, which works out to around $0.60 per mini, but printing them yourself still comes out cheaper.

These off-brand bulk packs also tend to contain low-quality models with fewer details than if you were to 3D print them yourself at home. So you can actually improve quality by 3D printing them.


How Much Does it Cost To 3D Print a Miniature?

The average cost to 3D print a 28mm miniature is around $0.20 with FDM, and around $0.27 with resin.

We created this calculation estimate based on the cost of resin or filament, electricity cost, and factoring in a small extra charge to account for any failed prints.

Several factors can affect the cost of 3D printing minis – the size of the mini, the cost of resin/filament, the cost of electricity, and wasted resin/filament from inevitable failed prints. 

This cost estimate is based on an average-sized 28 mm mini, using mid-range filament or resin and typical 3D printing kWH electricity costs.

3D printed miniatures from Dune
3D printed miniatures from Dune. Source: Reddit

Here’s how the cost to 3D print a miniature breaks down first for an FDM printer and second for a resin printer:

Resin miniature 3D printing cost:

Materials/EnergyCost for Average 28 mm Miniature
Electricity ($0.15 per kWH)$0.02 (1 hour print with 0.15 kWh consumption)
Resin$0.20 (4 ml of resin at $25 per 500 ml bottle)
Failed Prints$0.05
Total resin miniature 3D printing cost:$0.27
Resin 3D printed miniature average cost.

FDM miniature cost:

Materials/EnergyCost for Average 28 mm Miniature
Electricity ($0.15 per kWH)$0.01 (30 minute print with 0.15 kWh consumption)
Filament – PLA$0.14 (7 grams of filament at $20 per spool)
Failed Prints$0.05
Total FDM miniature 3D printing cost:$0.20
FDM 3D printed miniature average cost.

We have also written a more in-depth article explaining the differences and benefits of resin vs FDM in 3D printing miniatures.

Optional Extra Costs

Beyond this, there are also optional extras that add to the overall cost of 3D printing minis. 

Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Clean and curing station (for example, Elegoo Mercury X): $170
  • Isopropyl alcohol 1 liter bottle: $10
  • Pack of Nitrile Gloves: $5-$10
  • Resin Funnel Kit: $6-$7
  • Miniature starter paint kit with an assortment of colors: $25-$30
  • Primer 60ml: $8-$10

A wash and cure machine saves time, though you can do this by hand with Isopropyl alcohol and natural sunlight for cheap. Also add the cost of primer and paint.

Remember: FDM 3D printing only requires the 3D printer, filament, and possibly a few tools, most of which are bundled with the printer.

optional exta cost
Optional items that can be used in 3D printing miniatures.

The mileage you get out of paint and primer depends on many factors, so it’s difficult to provide a per mini cost. Though, since most purchased miniatures ship unpainted, you’d have to spend this regardless.

So, is 3D Printing Miniatures Worth it?

3D printing miniatures is indeed worth it for the cost saving compared to buying miniatures. The per mini cost is between $0.20 to $0.27, which compared with $15 store-bought minis, only takes 15 printed miniatures to earn back the price of a $210 desktop resin printer.

Even 3D printing a 95 mm (or 3.75’’) figurine only costs around $0.70 with an FDM printer, while a resin printer pushes costs up to a slightly higher $0.90 per figurine.

For a more precise answer for whether it’s worth it for you, I’ve built you a calculator to work out your exact payback period.

Just put in your resin 3D printer cost, the approximate cost of resin, and how much the equivalent minis would be to purchase, and it’ll tell you exactly how many minis you’d need to 3D print to break even on the printer purchase price:

Miniature Cost Comparison Calculator

Miniatures to Print for Break Even: 0

There are additional costs involved in processing printed miniatures such as cleaning and curing, but over the long run the savings speak for themself.

The elephant is the room is, of course, the initial cost of the printer itself. An entry-level resin or FDM printer costs $200 to $300.

Miniature 3D Print Savings on a Resin 3D Printer

Elegoo Mars 3
Elegoo Mars 3.

Let’s calculate the payback period for a resin printer, like the budget-conscious Elegoo Mars 3, priced at $210. 

Based on an estimated $0.27 to print each miniature, it would take this many miniatures to break even on the $210 purchase price:

  • $15 official licensed mini price: 15 miniatures to break even
  • $0.60 bulk-buy non-branded mini price: 488 minis to break even

So, yes, it’s definitely worth buying a resin 3D printer if you plan to print more than 15 miniatures and typically pay the high branded price. I recommend reading our guide to the best resin 3D printers for our latest recommendations.

Another benefit of printing minis with resin printers is the high-detail, precision results, which are close to the quality you get with injection-modeled official miniatures.

A 1L bottle of resin can print around 250 28mm miniatures, so you won’t run out any time soon.

Miniature 3D Print Savings on an FDM 3D Printer

Anycubic Kobra
Anycubic Kobra.

Let’s run the same test on an FDM printer.

If you buy for example a $210 Anycubic Kobra 2, you can print a miniature for $0.20 a 28 mm piece, factoring in filament, electricity, and other variables. 

Anycubic Kobra
During my test of the Anycubic Kobra 3D printer. Copyright: 3DSourced©.

That means a saving of $14.80 per miniature, so once you print your 15th miniature, you are already saving money.

These numbers can vary, especially if you’re used to buying bulk, non-official miniatures, which can cost as little as $0.60. In that case, you’ll start saving after you’ve produced 488 miniatures.

For more information on getting the best quality miniatures with an FDM printer, I recommend you read my in-depth guide to 3D printing miniatures with an FDM 3D printer.

But…Are 3D Printed Miniatures Good Quality?

When talking about the quality of 3D printed miniatures, we have to draw a clear line between FDM and resin printers.

Resin printed miniatures have better details, better overall finish, and better quality features. Especially on the latest 8K and 12K printers like the Mars 4 range and Anycubic Photon M5 range.

Resin miniatures are competitive with injection molded official miniatures. You’d need a magnifying glass to a mini to notice any real difference between the two.

Resin vs FDM 3D printed miniatures
Resin vs FDM 3D printed miniature. Source: Reddit

As for FDM printers, there’s a drop in overall quality and precision compared to store-bought pieces. FDM printed miniatures may not suit you if you want the best quality results. 

That said, if you’re just looking to pump out batches of minis on the cheap for your weekly tabletop session, or want to give a starter set of minis to a younger sibling, the quality is decent, especially with low layer heights and lower print speeds.

However, remember: FDM printers are better than resin printers for 3D printing terrain for your miniatures and Warhammer models. The large build volumes allow you to create large backdrops, props, and such than on resin printers.

If you liked this, here’s some more miniatures articles you’ll enjoy: