I had this idea that I thought would look pretty cool: Gnomes for D&D, bust sculpted in the style of Garden Gnomes! Where they typically have a pointed cap, I would keep that shape, but make it a pointed helmet. This was a series of sketches that I made the next morning when I woke up with the idea…
After I sculpted a few, I decided to make a “Garden-Sized” version for the yard! The mini is printed on my SparkmakerFHD and the big version on my Ender3.
I am sculpting some more for my Patreon for next month, but if you would like to get these you can buy on Cults3D:
One of the most intimidating things for new users about 3Dprinting resin miniatures is adding supports. But actually it is pretty simple!
There has been a few requests on Facebook groups that artist should provide the models pre-supported, but I will try to explain why that is not a good idea and demystify the process….
When you are 3Dprinting in resin, the model is printed upside down. The build platform dips into a vat of UV light sensitive resin, and the layers are exposed from underneath.
So the trick with supports is to keep them small enough that they are easy to remove (usually with tweezers), but strong enough that they don’t break during the lifting process between layers.
If the supports don’t hold, you may find the build plate with only supports, while your miniature is just a silhouette at the bottom of the vat of resin!
The first thing that you may think is that the supports are too thin, and that you should use medium or heavy supports, but that is not the problem…
The reason that the support failed is the exposure setting!
The default exposure for this printer is 8 seconds/layer. But on the bottom layers on the build plate it is much higher–that is why the support raft is successfully printed, while the model was dropped. The resin was not cured enough to pull the next layer off of the FEP film (at the bottom of the vat).
Not all printers and not all resins have the same exposure settings. In this case I was using Anycubic Grey resin with a SparkmakerFHD. The default settings for exposure are calibrated to the resins that are formulated for it.
I found a table online for Anycubic resins with the proper exposure settings, and changed that setting in the Chitubox slicer.
In this example, the supports are the same. But the successful print on the right had two more seconds of exposure per layer. That made the supports strong enough to hold on to the model.
Editing “Auto Supports”
Adding supports is as easy as one-click! But after Chitubox generates supports, you need to look at the result to see if you like it. There could be areas that still require support or there may be supports that are not needed.
Though I have set this to Light Supports, I have modified the diameter of the supports to be even smaller… The default diameter is .8mm with .3mm contacts. This is still too heavy for 28mm miniatures, so I have been experimenting with .6 (or .5) diameter with .2 contacts!
There are some heavy pillars running between the arms in this example. for some reason, there is no taper, and they are going to be difficult to remove without damaging the miniature… So, I have selected the removesupport button and selected them–clicking the button again removes them.
After deleting the supports that I didn’t like, I used the Add button to create some new ones. If you only click the same spot, it will give you the same result as Auto… Instead, Add the new support to an existing support pillar–then use Edit support to drag it to a new spot, adjust the height, and drag the tip to a new target!
With this delicate balance between resins, support diameters and exposure settings, calibrating your printer requires a few experiments to get it “just right”. But once you have figured it out, supporting a model is very simple.
Here is an example of a miniature printed at different scales. One size is for tabletop play, and the other is for display. If the model were pre-supported, the supports would be much thicker and heavier when scaled up! In my opinion, it is better to scale the model and support it in your slicer. It also gives you the freedom to print with FDM or SLA style printers.
This is a new mini that I sculpted last month for my Patreon. I had done the illustration as an “art test” for Wyrd Miniatures, and later decided that I would sculpt it too, as it would make an awesome mini for D&D–especially with Descent into Avernus campaign setting.
The name “Porkus” was a little nod to the Demon-Prince “Orcus” which was a big villian in AD&D when I was a teenager… I started with a ZSphere armature in ZBrush2020 and sculpted the model, giving him a meat cleaver as a weapon.
After finishing the model, I 3Dprinted it on a SparkmakerFHD resin printer. Which is a type of printer that I talked about in an earlier post.
The model is available to all patrons, but if you would like to print it for your campaign, the .STL file is available for $5 on Cults3D
I have been pushing my STL files on Patreon, trying to get enough supporters to sculpt minis full time. If you have a 3D printer, you can get access to my back catalog of 3Dprintable miniatures for only $9.95!
A couple of users have asked me for a guide to laying out their PuzzleLock Sewers to match the example in the product video. I can see how it could be a little confusing until you have enough tiles printed out to be able to play with it and see how you can configure it.
In the video, you can’t really see all of the puzzlelock connections. This is a good thing–unless you are having to freeze frame to figure it out… So here are some call outs for the pieces you need to configure the large area that I show leading to a large arch inspired by the “Cloaca Maxima” of the sewers of ancient Rome.
The normal passageway through the sewers is 6″ across. The “wall” sections (3 types) have a 1″ wide ledge that would be the walkway when the sewers are full of water. Between the walls is a 2″ square tile. There are bridge tiles that can cross the entire span, and “end” tiles that can cap off a passage:
The Sewer_Column_A and Sewer_Column_B should be places symmetrically across from each other on a passageway to create the impression of an arch across the passage (though the height of all pieces is cut off at 70mm).
I hope this is helpful! If you have not purchased the .STL files they are available here for only $19.95
SparkmakerFHD was a Kickstarter that I backed last year, for a low cost resin printer. Though I had vowed never to pledge on another 3d printer kickstarter again, I couldn’t resist… I worried when it didn’t ship when anticipated, but eventually it arrived!
I had never used a resin printer before, so I was a little intimidated. I read through the manual a couple of times before I began. I bought nitrile gloves and lots of isopropyl alcohol, and watched some YouTube videos. Eventually, I overcame my fear and turned it on!
For my first print, I loaded up some of the miniatures that I had sculpted for my Patreon into Chitubox (the slicing software), used “Auto supports” and clicked SLICE.
I assumed that I would get some failures, and that I would use that experience to learn how to improve my prints. But when I came back and checked on it a couple of hours later, it was done printing and everything came out perfectly!
When I had first shown these designs on Facebook, someone said that the weapons would be too thin, and these same models uploaded to Shapeways got flagged as unprintable, because the blades and crossbow strings violate their minimum feature sizes…
I have had some experience with Shapeways, because I was one of their Designers-For-Hire and had done some contract modeling for them as part of their Design with Shapeways service… Their minimums are put there to make sure they they never have a problem (and have to reprint or refund), so they are meant to play it safe (for Shapeways)…
But as you can see, the blades and crossbow strings printed just fine.
My next print was to see how big I could go, so I scaled up Conan the Cimmerian to 120mm and let it print overnight. I added some more resin to the tank before I went to bed (I was paranoid that it would run out).
I was totally impressed with how this turned out! This is on a resin printer that was only $250 on Kickstarter (it is $349 on their website)
Now that I’ve got this printer, I am thinking that I can use it to produce physical miniatures for sale. The level of detail that can be achieved is far superior to what can be done with injection-molding. There is no tooling cost, and no inventory, everything is print-on-demand.
I’m weighing this idea vs just selling .STL files, since even though it is pretty simple to do, there are many more gamers and painters who would rather just buy a mini, rather than printing it themselves.
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.
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….
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!
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.
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…
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.