3D printing is enabling everyone to create their own miniatures, rather than buying mass-produced ones. This leads to a problem with scale, when all of these miniatures are on the tabletop.

Andrew Loomis “Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth”

Like most artists, I learned proportions using “heads” as a unit of measure, and the human figure as the reference.

Most of the Ral Partha, TSR miniatures that I have in my collection are 25mm scale–which for traditional wargaming, means that the figure is sculpted so that it is 25mm from the bottom of the feet to the eyeline. The actual height of the miniature might be 28-30mm depending on the headgear….

Games Workshop and others started making what is called “Heroic Scale“, and others have started use the term, but it is not consistent between companies, and with the dozens of artists creating 3D printable miniatures, the scale and proportions seem more confusing than ever….

Hero Forge Scale

This is a sample model from Hero Forge, A company that lets you configure a miniature and then order a print or download the .stl file to print it yourself.

Though this is a nominally a “28mm” figure, you can see that it is 32mm tall (28mm being the distance to the eyeline). I have heard some people give the advice to a new sculptor (wanting to make miniatures), to just base it off a 32mm figure, But that is not enough direction…look at the proportion of the figure based on HEADS–it is only 5-1/2 heads tall!

Normal human proportions, compared to “heroic scale”

When you look at a normal human figure at 32mm tall, the head is much smaller compared to the “Heroic Scale”. It is only 4mm, compared to 6mm. So even though the figures are the same height, the normal human figures look tiny….

This is true, even when you put this same figure on the table next to the old 25mm metal miniatures. The average size of the head on those old minis is 5mm.

5mm HEAD height

At 5mm head height, a normal proportioned human would stand 40mm tall (if standing upright), and the Hero Forge model would be a dwarf (as far as proportions go), but at least they would look right on the tabletop.

Since I am beginning to make miniatures myself, I needed to figure this all out and create a template for my figures that will work for my miniatures and look good even next to someone else’s miniatures…

5mm Head, 7 heads tall

A 7-HEADS figure with a 5mm head, is 35mm tall (standing upright). But when posed in an action pose, will stand a little shorter (28-32mm). This is the template that I came up with, after trying variations in proportions, that I believe will look good on the tabletop, even when mixing between traditional miniatures and 3D printed ones from different artists.

If sculpting smaller races, such as Dwarves, Gnomes and Halflings I will alter the proportions (4-HEADS) appropriately, so that they are shorter on the tabletop, but keep the heads 5mm.

It may be a non-issue, since whenever you are 3D printing, you can scale a model however you like… Whatever proportions or style of miniature that you prefer, if you are mixing and matching sculpts from different artists or companies, if you keep the skull sizes the same, they will look better on the tabletop.

4 Comments

  1. Depending upon printer capabilities, having a larger head with details is favorable to perfect scale. I see tremendous swing already in scale on larger beasts and Giants and gave wondered if this isn’t a matter of making older figs obsolete. My Real Partha figs look diminutive. Sad, those beautiful paint jobs don’t make it to the table anymore.

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    1. Sure—and because those old minis will become harder to find, and the hobby is moving to 3D printing, it is the players choice what scale to use.
      But even if you mix and match different artists, and print larger than 28mm scale, it will help your minis look good together if you use a consistent head size, or scale them to have a consistent skull size (if humanoid)…

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      1. The figures are like the barbie doll, they are caricatures. Diform, on their scale, they are the image that people expect to see their features. Then, the proportions lose their meaning when we have to represent exceptions, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, an elf, a troll or any other mythical creature …

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  2. The big deal is that from a Tabletop distance, a realistically scaled figure will have unintelligible hands and heads, and if they are scaled up to be readable, the feet look tiny. In addition, painting a “realistically” proportioned figure at 28mm scale is far more difficult, especially the face. In addition, the ankles and wrists become remarkably fragile, and even almost impossible to print on an FDM printer (and very difficult on a resin printer).

    The same visibility issue is why early RTS games like the original Warcraft have similar (or even more exaggeated) proportions to tabletop miniatures. I should also mention GW only gave a NAME to that scale and set of proportions – that size figure started getting popular years before GW gave it a name, and by more companies than just them.

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