The rise of video games has pushed tabletop games to the fringes, but those who enjoy these games are often die-hard fans. With many custom characters and models for some 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 refers to games like Warhammer, Dungeons & Dragons and 23mm miniatures, but 3D printing miniatures can mean any kind of small models.
This article therefore gives advice about the best 3D printers for miniatures you can buy based on your priorities, preferences and budget, as well as key best practices for printing miniatures and factors that make a big difference to small model print quality.
The Best 3D Printers for Miniatures
|3D printer for miniatures name||Printer type||Build volume (mm)||Price||Where to buy for best price?||Other purchase option:|
|Elegoo Mars||Resin||115 x 65 x 150||$240||Gearbest here||Amazon here|
|Creality Ender 3||FDM||220 x 220 x 250||$250||Amazon here||3DJake UK & Europe here|
|Monoprice Voxel||FDM||150 x 150 x 150||$399||Amazon here|
|Anycubic Photon S||Resin||115 x 65 x 165||$449||Amazon here||3DJake UK & Europe here|
|Qidi Tech X-Pro||FDM||230 x 150 x 150||$699||Amazon here||Gearbest here|
|Formlabs Form 3||Resin||145 x 145 x 185||$3,499||Dynamism Store here|
|Ultimaker 3||FDM||197 x 215 x 200||$3,499||Dynamism Store here|
3D printers are great for those who want a custom, one-of-a-kind set they designed themselves, especially for mini D&D sets as well as cosplay designs. Some people also love printing mini 3D printed cars or WW2-era planes, model trains, or anything else they loved during their childhood.
There are thousands of free 3D models you can download on sites like Thingiverse, as well as 3D printing services and marketplaces where you can purchase premium designs by professional 3D designers and have the model sent to your door. You can also design your own 3D printable miniatures on a variety of free 3D modeling software tools or 3D CAD software.
Advantages of 3D printing miniatures
- Customizable: with 3D software modeling programs you can create extremely customized, one-of-a-kind models for yourself and your friends to play with.
- Low price: if you are designing your own models, you only need to pay for filament once you have the 3D printer. For small models this can be under a dollar per print, especially if you use lower cost filaments such as PLA.
- Easy post-processing: you can easily paint models with acrylic paints, as well as sand or polish models based on the appearance you want.
FDM vs Resin 3D printers for miniatures
FDM 3D printer materials are cheaper than LCD 3D printer resin, and models are easier to finish by painting and other methods. FDM printers also have larger build volumes, which while not important if you want to print single, small models, is an advantage if you want to print many small models simultaneously.
LCD 3D printers are capable of noticeably better quality prints, with far smoother surface finish and less obvious layers. Though the printer prices have recently fallen to the same level as cheap FDM 3D printers, the resins still cost more than filaments.
Overall, when choosing between the two types, here’s our advice: beginners should stick to FDM printers, and experts who can handle the complexity and safety and who want clearer models may prefer a resin printer.
7 Great 3D Printers For Miniatures:
We picked a mix of resin and FDM printers to recommend for our best 3D printer for miniatures ranking. They are arranged in price order, with links to trusted stores where they can be bought at the lowest price.
Disclaimer: to keep 3DSourced independent, we include affiliate links in articles such as these. If you purchase anything through our links, we receive a small fee.
1. Elegoo Mars
- Price: $240 — Best price on Gearbest here / Also available on Amazon here / 3DJake UK & Europe here
- Maximum print volume: 115 x 65 x 150 mm
An LCD 3D printer capable of fast speeds and very fine details despite the low price, the Elegoo Mars has fast become a mainstay in desktop 3D printing.
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.
The 3.5-inch touchscreen makes it easy to operate, and the 2K LCD screen gives the printer great precision for solidifying resins. 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 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.
2. Creality Ender 3
Considered one of the best cheap 3D printers around, the Ender 3 is famed for its reliability and effectiveness despite costing under $300.
It comes as a 3D printer kit, though do not fret, it takes just 10 minutes to assemble and only involves placing around 20 screws. Though if you are looking for a 3D printer for complete beginners, you may want to buy a desktop 3D printer that comes assembled.
Those looking for a 3D printer for miniatures that is affordably priced, is simple to use, and prints filaments like ABS or PLA cheaply and consistently, should look no further than the Ender 3. There is a reason it is so popular – it prints, and prints well. As a result of its popularity, if you do ever have a problem, there are thousands of members of various Ender 3 owners’ groups that will assist you, as well as customer service teams at Creality.
You sacrifice a small amount of quality by choosing the Ender 3 instead of an LCD printer, but save the hassle and complexity, reduce health and safety risks, and FDM plastic parts are more durable than resin prints. If simplicity and reliability are traits you prefer and you want to spend less than $500, absolutely go for the Ender 3.
3. Monoprice Voxel
- Price: $399 — Available on Amazon here
- Maximum print size: 150 x 150 x 150 mm
Monoprice are an American electronics company who make some great entry-level printers, including the Monoprice Mini Delta, a fantastic cheap delta 3D printer, and the Maker Select V2. The printer we recommend for miniatures, however, is the Monoprice Voxel, a small, compact printer with an enclosed build chamber.
The enclosed build chamber accomplishes several things. Firstly, it adds to safety by keeping hot parts away — making it a great 3D printer for kids — and also keeps the printing temperature more consistent to create high quality miniature models that warp less. The filament run out detector also saves prints from being ruined if you run out of filament halfway through an important print.
It’s easy to use, easy to change the nozzle, and is one of the lowest cost printers with an enclosed build chamber, helping print accurate miniatures without any imperfections. The only drawback is the small size, though this only becomes a problem if you intend to print many miniature models at once.
4. Anycubic Photon S
- Price: $449 — Available on Amazon here / 3DJake UK & Europe here
- Maximum print volume: 115 x 65 x 165 mm
The Anycubic Photon S is the top-range Anycubic LCD printer model, and the premium version of the Anycubic Photon Zero.
It’s able to print slightly taller parts than the original Photon, a great advantage for tall and thin models like video game characters or tabletop war soldiers. The Photon S has also been upgraded with a more stable dual rail so less vibration occurs during printing, resulting in smoother parts with crisper surface finish.
It functions extremely well as a more expensive upgrade to the Elegoo Mars, which we recommend earlier in this article. It is capable of printing any kind of accurate miniature models you could wish for, and is almost perfectly designed as a 3D printer for miniatures. The precision, great surface area and good speed make it one of the best 3D printers for miniatures you can buy for under $500.
5. Qidi Tech X-Pro
- Price: $600 — Available on Amazon here / Best price on Gearbest here / 3DJake UK & Europe here
- Maximum print volume: 230 x 150 x 150 mm
Slightly more expensive than the previous printers we recommended, the Qidi Tech X-Pro is a dual extruder 3D printer, offering a number of advantages in 3D printing miniatures.
Firstly, for those reluctant to paint and modify their models after printing, 3D printing miniatures with a dual extruder means you can print two colors at once, offering a more varied and colorful model without any finish. For two-colored miniature prints, such as 3D printed poker chips with white or black details, this can make all the difference. You can also print single-colored parts and use the second extruder to print the supports in a soluble filament such as PVA; then when the supports have been dissolved you will have a smoother surface finish with no sign the supports were ever there.
In addition, the large 4.3-inch touchscreen makes 3D printing easy, and for remote printing you can connect to this 3D printer for miniatures via WiFi, as well as with a USB stick. The specially designed curved build plate makes removing finished models easier as well as reducing the chance of damaging your models while removing them, and the enclosed build chamber is a great addition for more consistent printing.
Overall, if you want high quality and reliable printer with a dual extruder for under $1,000, this is the ideal 3D printer for you.
6. Formlabs Form 3
- Price: $3,499 — Available on Dynamism Store here
- Maximum print volume: 145 x 145 x 185 mm
If you’re a make-your-own-miniatures superfan and money is no limitation, then absolutely go for either the Form 3 for resin miniatures, or the Ultimaker 3 or S3 for FDM miniature model printing.
Formlabs’ high quality SLA 3D printers made the company a unicorn – a billion dollar privately held startup – and are used extensively in dental implants, hearing aids and 3D printed jewelry molds. The Formlabs Form 3 can handle small details on miniatures without any problems.
This is an industrial 3D printer, an extremely powerful machine that can create astonishing details. For any miniatures you plan to 3D print, such as game characters, intricate shapes, or even lost wax casts for creating custom jewelry, the Form 3 will have no problem delivering perfect models.
Obviously, this comes at a cost. Very few makers have $3,500 to spare to print higher quality models for their hobby, but we still felt we should include recommendations for every price range.
7. Ultimaker 3
- Price: $3,499 — Available on Dynamism Store here
- Maximum print volume: 197 x 215 x 200 mm
Similar to the Form 3, the Ultimaker 3 offers some of the most absurd precision of any FDM 3D printer in its category, up to an astonishing 20 microns. For any hobbyist looking to print extremely precise miniatures and who both has the money and wants to avoid resin printing, the Ultimaker 3 is perfect.
It has dual extruders for printing two different materials or colors, and works seamlessly with Ultimaker’s Cura 3D slicer. It also features a built-in camera for monitoring print progress on your laptop over WiFi, and you can easily connect to your Ultimaker 3 to print via WiFi, USB, or SD card.
More technical hobbyists may also enjoy the fact that the Ultimaker 3 is an open source 3D printer, with Ultimaker having uploaded the source files which can be downloaded from their GitHub. Overall, it’s an extremely accurate FDM 3D printer for miniatures that can print robust models that look great.
3D printing miniatures cost
Beyond the initial cost of purchasing a 3D printer for miniatures, your only sizable cost is the filament material used to print your mini models.
1kg of PLA or ABS starts at around $20, and miniatures are…well, miniature, so they don’t cost a huge amount to print. You can expect most miniatures to cost less than a dollar in materials. For resin 3D printers, the resin can be more expensive, but in return you get better surface finish and precision.
What makes a good 3D printer for miniatures
- Precision: the most important aspect for printing miniature prints, especially for characters where a recognizable face can make or break the piece. Print the smallest layer height you can — which ideally is under 100 microns — for excellent quality on an FDM 3D printer.
- Cooling: a good cooling fan that cools from all angles can drastically reduce deforming on small prints. This is because on smaller prints your 3D printer will finish each layer quicker, so each layer may not have enough time to cool before the next layer is printed.
- Build size: less important for miniatures, but for those who want to print many small models at once, having a large build area can be beneficial.
- Stable, metal frame: a heavy frame is less influenced by other variables such as the vibrations that can affect model quality, even slightly.
- Dual extruder: a dual extruder 3D printer can print supports in water-soluble materials such as PVA, resulting in better surface finish once supports have been removed. Additionally, for mini models with two colors, dual extruders are the way to go.
Best Practices for 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.
To conclude: Intellectual Property Laws on printing branded miniatures
We would like to conclude this article by reminding readers to be careful, as intellectual property (IP) laws often prevent the download or 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.