The rise of video games has pushed tabletop games to the fringes, but those who enjoy these games are often die-hard fans. With custom characters and models for games becoming so pricey, many have decided that buying a 3D printer for miniatures and printing their own custom models is the way forward.
Miniatures commonly refer to games like Warhammer, Dungeons & Dragons and 28mm miniatures, but 3D printing miniatures can mean any kind of small model.
This article gives advice about the best 3D printers for miniatures for both models and terrain you can buy based on your priorities, preferences, and budget, as well as key tips for printing miniatures – and beyond the specs, the factors that actually make a difference to miniature print quality.
Anycubic Photon M3
Anycubic Mono X 6K
Creality Ender 3 V2
Why 3D Print Your Own Miniatures?
Rather than being limited by the models featured in the catalogs of miniatures companies, and having to pay in excess of $10 per model, with a 3D printer you can print whatever you want, and also save up to 90% on the purchase price!
Some designers online publish their miniature files for free online (we include the best places later on), but even premium models are extremely cheap – often just a few dollars. And when you buy these, you get to keep the STL file, so you can print the model over and over again.
Some premium files even come with their slicer profiles pre-made so that you just need to import the file, and print.
So for deciding whether to buy or 3D print your tabletop miniatures, the main two factors are choice, and price.
The Best 3D Printers for Miniatures
|Name||Printer type||Build volume (mm)||XY Resolution||Price||Where to buy for best price?|
|Elegoo Mars 2 Pro||Resin||129 x 80 x 160||50μm||$220||Elegoo here|
|Anycubic Photon M3||Resin||163 x 103 x 180||40μm||$300||Anycubic here|
|Elegoo Mars 3||Resin||143 x 90 x 175||35μm||$300||Elegoo here|
|Anycubic Mono X 6K||Resin||197 x 122 x 250||34μm||$569||Anycubic here|
|Phrozen Sonic Mini 8K||Resin||165 x 72 x 180||22μm||$699||Phrozen here|
|Creality Ender 3 V2||FDM||220 x 220 x 250||$279||Creality Store here|
|Ender 5 Plus||FDM||350 x 350 x 400||$579||Creality Store here|
How Much Does It Cost to 3D Print Miniatures?
It costs around $1 per miniature 3D print on average, though this will vary depending on the size of the model, and the type of resin used. A 1L bottle of resin will print between 30-35 miniatures of a reasonable size, with hobbyist resins costing $20-40.
Remember however that you’ll use around half the resin you use on miniatures on supports, so only around two-thirds of your resin goes into the actual models.
Why Not To Use FDM For 3D Printing Miniatures (But You Should For Terrain)
While FDM 3D printers have larger print areas, and the filament is cheaper and non-toxic, you can’t get anywhere near the same level of detail. And minuscule details are the key to amazing-looking miniatures.
You’ll see the layer lines on the model, and will need a fair amount of finishing and post-processing to reach your quality standards. To put it into perspective, if you saw an FDM-printed miniature in a shop, you probably wouldn’t buy it.
But, you can print the larger, rougher parts with an FDM printer, such as terrain, backgrounds, and accessories like towers, bridges, and other cool add-ons. Often these parts will be wider than desktop LCD printers can fit, but an FDM printer like the Ender 3 should be able to print it, and if not, a larger printer like the Ender 5 Plus surely can.
Overall, we recommend buying a resin printer for miniature models, and an FDM printer for terrain and accessories. However, if you’re a complete beginner and resin printing is intimidating, then you can still print adequate quality miniatures with an FDM printer.
The Best 3D Printers For Miniatures 2022 – Reviews
We picked both FDM and resin printers depending your preferences. The first part features the best resin printers for miniatures in every price range, and then the best FDM 3D printers for miniatures we recommend are listed.
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Best Resin 3D Printers For Miniatures
Elegoo Mars 2 Pro Mono — best low cost resin 3D printer for miniatures
- Price: $250 — Available at Elegoo store here / Also available on Amazon here
- Maximum print volume: 5.1″ x 3.1″ x 6.3″
An LCD 3D printer capable of fast speeds and very fine details despite the low price, the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro has fast become a mainstay in desktop 3D printing. When we tested it for our Elegoo Mars 2 Pro review, we were very impressed with the quality it delivered at such a low price.
For makers who have experience with 3D printing and are comfortable with the added complexities of resin printing, the Elegoo Mars could be your perfect 3D printer for miniatures and tabletop models. It can print smoother models with clearer, crisper finishes than FDM printers, and the resins used do not cost as much as they used to.
- We also recommend an Elegoo washing and curing station — Available on Amazon here
The 2K 6″ LCD screen gives the printer great precision for solidifying resins, with layer resolutions between 0.01-0.2mm available. It comes with CHITUBOX, the highly-praised resin 3D slicer which slices models quickly to save you time, and also includes useful features such as tools that hollow out models before you print to lower material costs, if you don’t mind slightly less durable parts.
Overall, the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro Mono is one of the best low cost resin printers around, and for creating miniatures, if you have the tech know-how, you may find resin printing meets your needs best.
Top value: If you’re happy with a 2K LCD, the Mars 2 Pro is your best option. If you have the money, opt for the Elegoo Mars 3 or Photon M3.
We were impressed with the details of the miniatures we printed with it.
Newer, higher-spec printers have since been released – however, most cost more.
Anycubic Photon M3
- Price: Check latest price at Anycubic here
- Build Volume: 163 x 103 x 180 mm
- XY Resolution: 40 microns
- Minimum Layer Height: 10 microns
The newly released Anycubic Photon M3 hits its stride in miniature making by bundling in better specs at the same price as its predecessors, the Photon Mono and Mono 4K.
These enhancements are most pronounced with a larger 163 x 103 x 180 mm build volume. This might not seem like much on paper, but means the Anycubic Photon M3 can produce much larger single models or batch print more copies of the same in one sitting than the Mono 4K, let alone the original Mono.
The extra z-height lends itself well to taller models, excellent if you’re working to produce large figurines for display purposes.
The Anycubic Photon M3 and Mono 4K both use a monochrome 4K LCD, but the Photon M3’s larger 7.6” screen handles the larger build volume. In numbers, this means a slight downgrade to a 40 micron XY resolution compared to the Mono 4 K’s 35 microns, but at these low numbers, the difference is indistinguishable to the naked eye, even for veteran miniature aficionados.
We still recommend the Photon M3 over the Mono 4K for the larger build volume – at this level, a 5-micron difference is not going to make a difference, even in the most precise of miniatures.
Against the standard Mono’s 2K LCD, there’s no competition: the Anycubic Photon M3 delivers far better fine details and features on even the most complex Warhammer and D&D figures. It does so fast as well, with a solid 50 mm/h print speed, which equates to roughly 30 minutes per 28 mm model.
Perfect for larger miniatures – especially taller models.
Slightly lower resolution than the Mono 4K – but this is because of the larger screen and build volume on the Photon M3.
Anycubic Mono X 6K
- Price: Check latest price at Anycubic here / Amazon here
- Build Volume: 197 x 122 x 250 mm
- XY Resolution: 34 microns
- Minimum Layer Height: 10 microns
Positioned as an upgrade to the popular budget Mono X, the Anycubic Mono X 6K doesn’t reinvent the wheel as much as building upon those solid foundations and fantastic build quality.
Leading this is a jump to a 6K display, an enhanced light matrix to improve curing uniformity, and a larger 9.25″ LCD. In practice, this means a high level of print quality and a sharper 34 micron XY resolution across a larger surface.
For miniature makers, this means a noticeable jump in quality over the Mono X, especially on finer parts such as hairs, scales, horns, armor detail, and facial features.
This applies to large and small figures or models thanks to the Anycubic Mono X 6K having a roomy 197 x 122 x 250 mm build volume for a resin printer. In other words, the Anycubic Mono X 6K is as suited to printing large Warhammer tanks, knights, and warhounds as classic space marine 28 mm miniatures.
We highly recommended the Mono X when it was the best-quality mid-range resin printer around, and the Mono X 6K builds on this wonderfully. However, if you want to save money, the Photon M3 is a great shout if you’re comfortable with 4K resolution, as the Mono X 6K costs double the price.
For amateur Warhammer players and those partial to the occasional Friday night D&D session, the Photon M3 remains the most cost-effective option. But, for next-level resolution, the Mono X 6K is the best out there.
The Mono X was already a top pick – now it’s upgraded.
6K LCD offers superb rendering of intricate details.
Even larger build volume for producing many miniatures at once.
Expensive compared to budget 3D printers for miniatures.
If you don’t need all 6K quality, opt for a Photon M3, Photon Mono 4K, or Elegoo Mars 3.
Phrozen Sonic Mini 8K
- Price: Check latest price at Phrozen here
- Build Volume: 165 x 72 x 180 mm
- XY Resolution: 22 microns
- Minimum Layer Height: 10 microns
Widely considered one of the best consumer-grade resin 3D printers on the market, the Phrozen Sonic Mini 8K is ideal for super high-quality miniatures, whether for tabletop gaming, display, or war gaming.
If you can stomach the price tag, the Phrozen Sonic Mini 8K is as premium as the best 3D printers for miniatures get – unless you go full industrial.
The Phrozen Sonic Mini 8K offers a best-in-class 22 micron XY resolution. It outperforms much-loved resin printers such as Elegoo Mars family and Anycubic Photon Mono X 6K and Mono 4K. In action, this type of resolution renders even the tiniest features in exquisite detail, even on small 28 mm miniatures.
Now, for all its ability to create superb miniatures, the Phrozen Sonic Mini 8K does have one major drawback compared to other resin printers – a smallish build volume.
It sits at 165 x 72 x 180 mm, putting it on par with much cheaper alternatives like the Anycubic Photon Mono 4K.
This is necessarily a downside if you’re printing single large figures, but it does reduce the scope for batch printing multiples simultaneously, so if you want to produce large volumes for your business or home games, consider Phrozen’s Sonic Mighty range, the Anycubic Mono X 6K, or Elegoo Saturn S.
Overall, if you’re looking for the best quality miniatures, and aren’t too worried about a slightly smaller build volume, the Phrozen Sonic Mini 8K is largely unrivaled.
Best-in-class 22 micron XY resolution.
Perfect for small 28 mm figures with precise features and details.
Small-ish build volume for the price.
Best FDM 3D printers for miniatures
Creality Ender 3 V2 — Best 3D printer for miniature terrain
- Price: Check price at Creality Official Store here / Available on Amazon here
- Size: 220 x 220 x 250 mm
- Resolution: 100 microns
Considered one of the best cheap 3D printers around, the Ender 3 is famed for its reliability and effectiveness for the price. It comes as a 3D printer kit, but takes under an hour to assemble and it’s really easy – just 20 screws.
It’s an FDM printer, so it cannot reach the same level of precision as an Elegoo or Anycubic resin printer. However, it’s one of the best FDM 3D printers for terrain for miniatures, as it prints reliably, cheaply, and has a decent print volume of 220 x 220 x 250 mm.
If you want to avoid resin printing you can use it to print miniatures, but they won’t have the same level of precision, and you’ll need to do some sanding and general post-processing to get them closer to the level you’re happy with.
But, the Ender 3 V2 is the best printer in its price range for terrain, and PLA filament is very cheap and super easy to print with. The only issue could be if you want to print large towers or terrain that doesn’t fit within the build volume.
Best low-cost FDM kit – easy to build and print with, and it’s reliable and durable.
Very upgradable: many extruder, bed, hotend, and other upgrades available.
Not well suited to miniatures – stick to terrain, and strongly consider a resin printer instead.
Ender 5 Plus – best 3D printer for miniatures terrain
- Price: Check latest price at Creality here / Amazon here
- Build Volume: 350 x 350 x 400 mm
- Printing Accuracy: 100 microns
- Layer Thickness: 100-400 microns
If you’re leaning towards a budget FDM printer like the popular Ender 3, but its build volume doesn’t quite measure up to the size of terrain you’re planning to print, the Ender 5 Plus is a great alternative.
It supersizes the build volume to a generous 350 x 350 x 400 mm, ideal for those sprawling backdrops for your tabletop and D&D adventures that simply won’t fit on a stock Ender 3.
As low-cost consumer-grade printers go, this volume size is up there and should cover all your terrain needs. It’s particularly suited to intricate ruins, battlefields, towers, rocky outcrops, dungeons, and the like – perfect for heightening that crucial sense of immersion.
Aside from the large format, Ender 5 Plus also features some handy benefits over the Ender 3. It comes with a BLTouch automatic bed leveling probe to save time and effort, so you can concentrate on bringing to life terrain.
There are also dual z-axis lead screws to improve stability and, by extension, overall print quality. Elsewhere, it boasts a filament sensor that alerts you if the filament runs out or breaks, so you won’t waste any more time than you need on a print that won’t complete.
The Ender 5 Plus is priced over double what you’d expect to pay for the Ender 3, but if you can stretch your budget, it’s a do-it-all terrain printer that’s well worth the extra money.
Massive 350 x 350 x 400 mm build volume.
Convenience features like automatic bed leveling and filament sensor.
Ideal for large backdrops and terrain models.
More than double the price of the Ender 3 and Ender 3 V2.
Important Specs & Factors To Consider Buying a 3D Printer For Miniatures
Different 3D printers have different minimum layer heights, for example the Elegoo Mars 3 has a minimum layer height of 0.01mm, or 10 microns. The Creality Ender 3 V2 has a minimum layer height of 0.1mm, or 100 microns.
The smaller the layer height you choose for your models, the better the quality, and the less visible the layer lines will be.
However, the lower the layer height, the more layers you’ll have in your model, which increases the time it takes to print, and also increases the chance of a failed print.
We advise that you don’t need to go all the way down to 0.01mm on your resin 3D printer with miniatures – 0.03-0.04mm is a good range for great quality. To put that into perspective, in a 6cm tall resin miniature print, with 0.05mm layers, that is 1200 layers to print.
Screen Quality and Precision: Do you need a 4K, 6K, or 8K Screen? And Should You Buy a Mono 3D Printer?
The most important thing is to pick a mono 3D printer. They cure and print resin layers often 3x faster, and often last up to 4x longer, too, so they’ll save you money and hassle replacing parts continuously.
We recommend you opt for a 4K resin printer if you can afford it, as they’re not too much more expensive than 2K MSLA printers now, and you will notice an improvement in precision, especially on details like hair and beards, or hands and fingers on your models. If you have the money, go for an 8K printer – but it isn’t a necessity.
However, do not look solely at the specs when determining if a printer is high quality.
A 2K screen with a printer made from high-quality parts – such as build plate bolts and resin vat locks that can handle low layer heights and retain accuracy and aren’t prone to threading – will produce better miniature models than a shoddily built 4K printer.
Focus on buying a well-made printer made by a reputable company with a high-quality screen.
High-quality brands include Anycubic, Elegoo and Phrozen in these lower price ranges, and we highly recommend these if you’re printing miniatures at home or other precise resin models.
That being said, there are noticeable differences at each resin quality level – mostly after you’ve primed the models.
Corners will look a bit sharper, and certain facial features and muscle definitions will come out better generally – but you can still create very good models on 4K or even 2K LCD screen resin printers, you just get that extra sharpness when you go up to 6K or 8K.
How Speed and Size Works with a Resin Printer
Resin printers work differently from FDM printers. Instead of printing one part at a time as an FDM printer’s extruder traces the layer, LCD printers flash an entire layer at once, so no matter how many models are being printed within the build plate, they’ll all print in the same amount of time.
So, the only factor that determines how long a resin print job will take is the height of the tallest model.
This makes the build size of a resin printer important, as the more models you can pack into the area, the more models you can print in one job – in the same amount of time. Large 3D printers can print potentially 20+ miniatures at once – though most hobbyist printers can print around 3-4 reasonably sized miniature models.
Things to Remember When 3D Printing Resin Miniatures
Resin is toxic and irritant – never touch it directly, and if you do, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Wear a mask to avoid the fumes, generally try to avoid the room when printing, and if possible put the printer near ventilation.
There is post-processing involved after printing – you’ll need to scrape the resin prints off the build plate, remove the supports (wear gloves), wash the resin off of the prints with isopropyl alcohol, dry them, and cure them in UV light. Then, optionally you can fix any imperfections, prime and paint them for your custom look. We recommend buying your brand’s wash and cure station to save you time and hassle.
You will need to replace parts – the two main culprits are FEP films, and screens, which will need to be replaced over time. This puts you out of action for a while, and costs money.
What makes a good 3D printer for miniatures
- Precision: measured in microns, this is key for how detailed even the smallest features of your models will be. The best resin 3D printers for miniatures often reach 35 microns, for great details. FDM printers can’t reach these same resolutions.
- Print area: since MSLA printers cure entire layers of resin at once, larger build areas mean you can print even more models in the same amount of time.
- Stable, metal frame: a heavy frame is less influenced by other variables such as the vibrations that can affect model quality, even slightly. High-quality parts are key to accurate miniatures, so pick up a printer by a reputed brand known for making well-built products.
Best Practices for FDM 3D Printing Miniatures
- Nozzle size: using a small nozzle makes for better precision on printers, and though they print slower, this isn’t a big problem when printing small models that do not take long anyway.
- Slow printing speed settings: if you have the fastest 3D printer around, such as a delta 3D printer, you should slow it down when printing small, precise models. You may want to reduce speed to as low as 20-30mm/s.
- Infill percentage: you may want to change this based on how strong you want your miniatures to be. If you want to save on material costs and don’t mind giving up some part strength, you can reduce infill to 10%, though some hobbyists who want solid models may go for a higher infill percentage.
- Retraction settings: optimize retraction settings to prevent oozing and stringing of filament, which can occur especially often with PLA.
- Post-processing: not directly related to your printer, but you can decide whether to paint your model, sand or polish it to enhance its finish.
Where to find files for miniature 3D prints?
Here are some sites that host free and paid files:
- Thingiverse (all free)
- Gambody (specialized in video game/comic book models)
And here are some articles where we recommend miniature-related prints:
- Dungeons and Dragons 3D print files
- Warhammer 40K 3D prints
- 3D printed figurine files
- 3D printed anime figure files
- 3D printed dice towers
- 3D printed dragon files
Post-Processing and Painting Miniature Prints
Really, a miniature isn’t truly finished without some post-processing love and attention. After all, 3D printers can only go so far when it comes to bringing out the lush detail and intricacies of a model.
First, remove any support structures by either removing them by hand or using clippers, or in the case of soluble supports, immersing them in the appropriate liquid, usually water.
Cleaning and Sanding
Next, you’ll want to clean and improve the print surface to remove blemishes, blobs, marks from the supports, and other imperfections.
We recommend ordinary sandpaper or a sand sponge – they are cheap, effective, and come with grit coarseness levels for quick sanding, smoother finish, etc.
Alternatively, you can buy a small nail grinder with different attachments suited to miniature post-processing. You can also use a hobby knife, scalpel, or precision needle files for those hard-to-reach places.
Glue Parts Together (If Multiple Parts) and Fill In Holes
After cleaning up the print, glue or attach parts of the mini using a bonding agent (you can also do this after painting if you prefer), and fill in any drainage holes, seams, gaps, and cracks using a brush and a mix of resin and baby powder.
Be sure to cure the newly-applied resin mixture afterward. You can use non-cure products like the excellent Apoxie Sculpt to fill in gaps.
Priming and Painting
Next stop, we have painting. First, we’ll need to prime the minis to create a strong first layer for successive layers of paint to adhere well.
Both spray and brush paint options are viable – any old primer from your hardware store will do. If you’re looking for a brand name, we recommend Tamiya Surface Primer.
Two light coats are a good option to be on the safe side. Allow plenty of time for the primer to dry properly.
Finally, paint your miniature. Standard miniature etiquette and techniques apply here. We recommend using regular acrylic paints found at any hobby store such as Vallejo Game Color. We recommend investing in different brush sizes to cover the painting of everything from large single-color portions to small intricate details.
From there, take your time painting, and remember, practice makes perfect. Your first minis might not look perfect, but stick with it, and they start coming out great in no time.
Is it legal to 3D print Warhammer models?
It is legal to 3D print Warhammer figures as long as you do not try to sell them or use them for any other kind of commercial use. Patent laws prevent anyone from selling any object based on someone else’s intellectual property. If you design the model yourself however, if it isn’t identical or a total imitation of another’s copyrighted work, then you aren’t infringing on their copyright or patents.
However, keep abreast to new changes in laws that affect where creators and IP holders stand legally. For example, the 2021 Appropriations Act changed the way holders of IP and perceived infringers interact. This article is also useful for a general understanding of where you stand with 3D printing and intellectual property.
We would like to conclude this article by reminding readers to be careful, as intellectual property (IP) laws prevents the creation, download or 3D printing of trademarked characters. You can get into trouble if you print a trademarked character such as a Pokémon, with some large companies becoming increasingly studious in pursuing people breaking these laws.