I finally sat down and painted a group of my Gnome miniatures. One of the things that I was pleasantly surprised about, was how well the micro details showed up even at 28mm scale. I put in a level of detail that enables you to print my designs at different scales and have them still look good, whether as a tabletop miniature or as a figurine.
I am not a professional miniature painter, but I was very happy with how they turned out. I used craft acrylics and a wash to bring out the details (as described in a previous post about painting Guardin’ Gnomes). The wash brought out details that I couldn’t even see when holding the miniatures! Similar sized miniatures that are injection molded cannot hold the same level of detail… These are printed on a SparkmakerFHD which is pretty low resolution compared to newer printers, so I can’t wait to see what they will look like on a 4K printer!
If you would like to print your own, they are available individually on Cults3D or you can get access to ALL of my models when you join my Patreon!
My newest theme for my 3Dprintable miniatures is Trolls. I’ve been researching a lot of artists and Scandinavian folk and fairy tales for inspiration. I think the biggest influence that I have is the fairy tale artwork of John Bauer.
I see them as big and shaggy, somewhat beastly in form… As I read some of the stories, I thought about our cousins the Neanderthals, and how they were displaced by our ancestors. The trolls seem to have retreated from the noisy humans and younger races in the same way, and I wondered if that might be a possible origin of their stories, (as well as yetis and jotun and even bigfoot!)
I started with a drawing in Procreate, and then a ZSphere armature in ZBrush for the basic form.
After sculpting the basic Troll body, I brought in some other 28mm scale objects as a reference, so that I could be sure my finished miniature would look good on the table after printing.
Using my drawing as a reference, I detailed the fur and the Trolls accessories. The John Bauer troll illustrations were influenced by the dress of the Sami people of Norway. So I decided that I would also draw from that, as well as relics from bronze age Scandinavia, such as the Troll’s sword:
I really liked Bauer’s big noses, so I decided to use that in my interpretation. Another artist that I love, Paul Bonner, also gives his trolls big noses and cites John Bauer as an influence!
This is the finished model, rendered in ZBrush. I exported this as an .STL file for 3Dprinting for my Patreon.
I was very happy with how these Troll turned out, so I am planning to sculpt a few more trolls for my Patreon. If you like it, and would like to print your own, they are available exclusively at www.patreon.com/Zandoria
I had a few comments about my paint job on these gnomes, so I thought I would post some step by step pictures of the process, in case that would be helpful to you as you paint your own…
If you have any printing errors, the first thing you will do is fix them if you can. Sometimes you might have partial print failure (if a support gets knocked over) and it could leave you with a missing portion of your model. If you have something like a layer shift while printing, you can separate with the putty knife and glue it back together. I have even used a wood-burning tool to weld PLA pieces together or smooth out a rough print!
Sometimes rather than fix it, it might work even with the print failure–This Gnome had a support fail, which left a portion of the shield missing. Rather than try to fix it, I thought that it looked like it could be battle damage, and decided to just go with it!
The first step that I did with these gnomes was to apply a surface primer. I don’t know if it is really necessary, but since my silver metals will be drybrushed over it, I decided to use a black primer.
The chainmail texture printed very cleanly! All It needs is a little metalic paint drybrushed across the links. The goal here is to not have much paint on your brush so that it will only hit the raised areas, and leave the black showing in the crevices. This paint is Folk Art metallics–the other colors that I will use are Apple Barrel and Deco Art–It is about 50 cents for a 2 oz bottle at Walmart.
I will go section by section and paint a solid color for each item. Often I will go over an area with two coats to try and get an even coverage.
After the base colors are dry, I mix up a wash of black and brown thinned with Acrylic thinner. I think that using acrylic thinner gives a better result than just thinning with water. After the wash was dry, I painted the dark parts of the eyes with a tiny brush.
The next coat of paint is done with the same colors as the first coat. You can also add a couple of drops of glaze medium into your color to thin it, if you want to build up the color. In this step, I want to bring the color and saturation of the original color out, while leaving the recesses dark. Don’t paint over all of the wash that you’ve done, but let your bright color blend into it. You can use wet blending to soften the transition into your recesses. Even the armor and other metallic areas will get a second drybrush coat.
When I’ve finished the second pass of colors, I will go into the details like the eyes, and add the iris color and specular highlights.
The last step is to add a gloss varnish to the eyes and lips. And maybe a satin varnish to other shiny areas.
After Painting, your Gnomes are ready for the Garden!
If you would like to 3dprint and paint your own set, you can get the STL files at Cults3D
Sometimes you will wait all day for your 3D Print to finish, only to find that some areas of the geometry where parts are long and thin are weak and liable to break… In this example of my Guardin’ Gnome, the first print, though it looked great, was fragile at the sword blade. The the layer cross-section of the blade is weak because the bonds between layers are not as strong as the perimeter. [This was printed on a Creality Ender3, an FDM style printer]
The second time that I printed this model, I oriented the blade so that it was horizontal to the build plate. As the layers are build up, the extruder lays down a perimeter of plastic that outlines the entire blade. This will make the sword very strong and not prone to breaking.
The second print turned out much stronger for the sword. Though, because the back side had to be supported, there is a lot more cleanup and sanding required. On both versions, there were some details that failed, (due to partial support failure) that I will have to fix with a little Green Stuff (modeling putty)….
Below are some other Gnomes (The little ones (28mm scale) are printed in resin on a SparkmakerFHD).
I hope that this tip will be useful for you, if you have a long thin part that you are worried will break.
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.
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!
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.