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
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!
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.
One of the strengths of 3D printing is the ability to create shapes that cannot be manufactured with traditional methods like injection-molding. I want to try and create miniatures that take advantage of this, rather than cut up the model as if it were going to be molded.
Since my last project was 3D printable Caves for tabletop gaming, I decided to create some miniatures to populate those caverns, and to design them for small SLA printers like Anycubic Photon and Sparkmaker to take advantage of the amazing level of detail that they can reproduce.
The “Drider” is a creature familiar to players of Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. It is part dark elf and part spider. Driders are often portrayed as a “spider centaur” with the upper body very human (or elf), but I decided that my cave driders were especially cursed–even their faces transformed into a spider!
I have 3 different weapon poses, and also a Dead Drider option–so that the Dungeon Master can switch out miniatures rather than tipping over the dead monsters.
This Bundle of STL files is available for only $10 at Cults3D
Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author’s expression in literary, artistic, or musical form.
This is the opening paragraph of FL-108, from the US Copyright Office… There is some confusion that I have run into on online forums regarding 3D printed miniatures for games, where there was a concern about being sued for violating the Intellectual Property rights of companies such as Games Workshop or Wizards of the Coast by creating miniatures for their games without a license.
IP rights are Copyrights, Trademarks, or Patents. There isn’t any other type. You can’t copyright a game–only the art or text within it. Ideas are not protected by copyright, only their artistic expression in fixed form. Some people think that the rules (game mechanics) are protected since they are within the copyrighted rule book, but that aspect of the work is specifically not protected by copyrights:
In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work
This is from a ruling on a cloned tabletop game, where the judge ruled summarily that there was no infringement. The artwork and story can be protected by copyright–The rules cannot.
This issue came up in 2011 when an artist created 3D printable versions of pieces for the game Settlers of Catan and made them available on Thingiverse. The 3D printed tiles are not based on the printed tiles from the game (which could make them derivative work), so are perfectly legal in regards to copyright.
Trademarks are a different type of intellectual property, that identifies the source of a product or Service. Games Workshop has a trademark on the term “Space Marine” as the name of a product:
The Trademark (word mark) identifies “Space Marine” as a product of Games Workshop. This trademark identifies the source of the product–specifically the tabletop wargame. It does NOT mean that Games Workshop owns the word, except as the name of a game.
The actual miniatures and illustrations from the many Warhammer Codexes are protected by copyrights. To create your own version of these pieces, if based on them, would be to make a derivative work–a violation of copyright.
However, there is nothing preventing an artist from creating miniatures intended to be used as space marines, which is why you see miniatures from 3rd parties such as Scibor Miniatures:
As long as your sculpture is original and not based on a copyrighted drawing or painting, it is not a violation of anyone’s intellectual property. As stated above, games are not protected under copyright.
There is an “Open Gaming” movement, which I have an issue with–The copyright holder granting you a “license” to use their rules to make your own content! Wizards of the Coast started this with their D20 System, to encourage 3rd parties to create content that was compatible with their game.
But game rules are not protected by copyrights, there is no need for permissions at all. The OGL license does not grant the right to use any of Wizards of the Coast’s copyrighted artwork, so it is essentially granting a license where none is required. Maybe this is a way to relieve 3rd party creators concerns that they could be sued, and to encourage them, but it also creates an illusion of “IP Rights” that don’t exist….
In this new era of 3D printed tabletop games, an artist could not only create a line of miniatures for 3D printing, but also publish stats (warscrolls) for playing them in Warhammer 40K, Hordes, Warmachines, D&D or Pathfinder!
Another possibility is to create standardized tabletop rules, where players can bring in their armies that they have bought, built or printed and play them against any army–regardless of the setting they were originally created for–A Multiversal Wargame™
When I first played Dungeons & Dragons as a teenager, the first adventure was the Keep on the Borderlands. The monsters were in an area of the map called The Caves of Chaos! I have a lot of great memories of those years, so when I started thinking about designing some 3D printable terrain for table-top gaming I naturally started think of those caves….
There are a number of kickstarted companies that are selling .STL files for 3D printing. I realized when I started checking them out, that the gaming community has eagerly adopted this technology, and there might be an opportunity for me in this area.
Before 3D printing, a company called Dwarven Forge was already making a very high-quality hand-sculpted and hand-cast resin terrain for gaming, but it is very expensive. What I noticed right away about the designs from these newer companies is that they were basically copying the designs of Dwarven Forge– The tiles were all 2″ squares, about a half inch thick, in all sorts of configurations to help you layout your dungeon.
However 3D printed PLA plastic is a lot lighter than Dwarvenite resin… So the 3D printed pieces have to be clipped or glued together so they don’t get scattered all over the table. I felt that the designers had failed to approach the problem from scratch with the strengths of 3D printing in mind. On top of that, the Caverns and caves were all rectangular and ugly….
I decided that I would start from scratch. One of the strengths of 3D printing is the ability to create complicated shapes that would be difficult or impossible to create through traditional manufacturing. I wanted to build complete pieces that were ready to paint and play, with no assembly. Instead of squares, I started with a hexagon and began to calculate the number of possible passageways that could come in and out of a 6-sided tile.
The biggest tile that I can print on my Printrbot is 6″, though that is pretty small compared to a lot of FDM printers, which would be big enough to not get knocked over during play. Since it doesn’t have to attach to the other tiles for stability, That gives you the freedom to rotate the tiles and quickly reconfigure the game map. Because the 3D print is starting from the ground, and there is no need for the additional structure to clip tiles together, I decided to make the floor 1/8″ thick–thick enough to be sturdy, but not wasting plastic.
I kept the 2″ standard for the openings of the passages, and the 2″ overall height (taller than that interferes with visibility of the miniatures).
My wife and I visited Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville Tennessee, which is the largest cave complex in our state, for some inspiration.
Once I was back home in the studio, I opened ZBrush and created a template for the tiles, ensuring that I could make all of the tiles mate up perfectly when printed.
I ended up creating 22 Hex tiles, which could create and endless cavern across the tabletop. The tiles print with no support, and require no assembly.
Here is just a quick sample of the types of cavern layouts you can create:
Once I had the pieces sculpted, I decimated the models to create a high-resolution polygon mesh, and exported the .STL files.
Edit: I have gone back an added some Cave Entrances as well as Hex rings with OpenLOCK and Magnetic connection (because people kept asking for it), and an OpenLOCK compatible dungeon entrance so that you can connect these Caves to the rest of your dungeon:
If you are a gamer, and would like to print your own endless caverns and caves, you can get the set of .STL files here: