Welcome to my best 3D printer for miniatures review.
3D printing models for your favorite games is actually way easier than you think it is.
I’ve spent over 20 hours testing a handful of different 3D printers and evaluating them based on price, usability, detail, and speed.
I swear I have real friends, though.
In this guide, I’ll share my top 6 so you can get one that creates beautiful miniatures at a price that doesn’t break the bank.
And, don’t worry about timing because I update my testing and this article regularly to ensure that my recommendations are always up-to-date.
Table of Contents
- Top 6 3D Printers For Miniatures & Model Making At A Glance
- Specs to Consider for Your 3D Printer
- 3D Printing Miniature Models 54mm And Larger
- 3D Printing Small Detailed Models
- FDM Or SLA/Resin Printers?
- Where To Download Miniatures To 3D Print?
- How Much Does It Cost To 3D Print A Miniature?
- Best Filament For Miniatures & Terrain
Top 6 3D Printers For Miniatures & Model Making At A Glance
3D Printer Type: LCD | Layer Resolution: 22 microns | Materials: 405 nm resin | Build Volume: 165 x 72 x 180 mm | Printer Size / Weight: 290 x 290 x 420 mm / 13 kg
Behold, the conqueror of all resin printers: the Phrozen Sonic Mini 8K!
I’m serious guys! The Sonic Mini 8K is the single best printer for anyone looking to print miniature models. Whether it’s a 10-mm Warhammer model or a 50-mm D&D dice, this printer packs more detail than any other printer I’ve seen.
The insane level of detail that the Sonic Mini is able to achieve is possible due to the innovative 8K resolution LCD screen on the printer. It’s really difficult to describe just how detailed 8K resolution is, but you can achieve prints more detailed than a grain of sand. The 0.022-mm dimensional accuracy of the printer is also noticeably improved than the Sonic Mini 8K’s predecessors.
However, the 8K screen is hardly the only feature on the Sonic Mini 8K.
Despite being able to achieve an uncanny level of detail, the printer also offers a large build volume of approximately 165 x 72 x 180 mm. Now, if you’re using the Sonic Mini 8K to print miniatures, you won’t need this much space. But you will always have it available if you want to print larger models or print multiple detailed miniatures at once.
The printer is also super easy to use, something you don’t usually expect on a printer that prints super detailed. Moreover, the graphical user interface on the Sonic Mini’s touchscreen’s display is super user-friendly and easy to navigate. I didn’t even need to look at the tutorial video to start my first print or clean the VAT.
And, one of the best parts of it all, the Sonic Mini 8K isn’t even that expensive. When I saw my first 8K resolution print, I immediately was like “there’s no way this thing costs under $1000”. But it does!
However, it is worth pointing out that you’ll need to buy special 8K-rated resin to print true 8K resolution miniatures. Personally, though, I think it’s a worthy expense in the name of detail.
3D Printer Type: LCD | Layer Resolution: 35 microns | Materials: 405 nm resins | Build Volume: 143 x 90 x 175 mm | Printer Size / Weight: 227 x 227 x 440 mm / 5.2 kg
When thinking of budget resin printers, it’s impossible to not think of Elegoo, a leading manufacturer of low-cost resin 3D printers. The original Elegoo Mars was what really started it for Elegoo, but I think the Elegoo Mars 3 is a much better choice overall for printing miniatures.
While it’s a little more expensive than the original Mars, it features a more detailed 4K screen. This is perfect for miniatures measuring 28 mm or more!
Of course, a 4K screen doesn’t yield nearly as much detail as an 8K screen. But, unless you’re super hardcore into printing miniatures, a 4K screen will still put out impressive detail on models and have any passer-byers saying “woah, you 3D printed that?”.
In other areas, the printer is pretty mediocre, with only one Z-axis motor and a plastic frame. Additionally, while the printer has a touchscreen interface, it’s a little small and, if you have chubby soft fingers like me, clicking a button can be a little annoying.
But, I’d say these cut-backs are okay because they were done to keep the price low. On this note, the Mars 3 costs under $400. And any 4K resolution printer under $400 is a steal by any measure, which is why I firmly believe the Mars 3 is the best value printer suited for miniatures.
Despite being super low cost, most Elegoo Mars 3s come with a 1-year license to ChiTuBox Pro, the slicer software for SLA printers. Now this is by no means a deal-maker, but it definitely makes the Mars 3 stand out from other budget 4K resin printers.
3D Printer Type: LCD | Layer Resolution: 10+ microns | Materials: 405 nm resins | Build Volume: 135 x 75 x 130 mm | Printer Size / Weight: 248 x 248 x 327 mm / 5 kg
Another option from Phrozen is the Sonic Mini 4K, the predecessor to the Sonic Mini 8K that we reviewed first.
The printer, as indicated by its name, has a 4K screen, which produces less detail than an 8K screen. However, the difference between 4K and 8K resolution isn’t really all that noticeable unless you’re printing sub-20-mm models and have a magnifying glass on hand. Additionally, you’ll save a few hundred bucks with the Sonic Mini 4K than if you bought the Sonic Mini 8K.
Compared to other affordable resin 3D printers like the Anycubic Photon series and Elegoo Mars series, we found the printing quality superior in the Mini 4K. The XY layer resolution of the Mini 4K is 35 microns vs the 50 microns of those two printers.
The power of a 4K screen (right)
The Sonic Mini 4K also prints faster than most other 4K screen machines. Moreover, this machine is capable of consistently printing one layer every 2 seconds, which is half a second faster than machines like the Mars 3. While this doesn’t sound like a big difference, note that thousands of layers can be in a single model, so the time adds up quickly.
It’s also easy to use. Just plug-in, level, and start printing. The default settings in ChiTuBox work without any adjustments although you’ll have to tweak it for certain designs.
In terms of printer noise, the Sonic Mini 4K is a bit noisier than the original the Sonic Mini. The noise mainly comes from Mini’s Z-axis stepper motor during the changing of layers, but it can be quieter if you choose to lower the print speed.
Overall, the Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K is a great option for those who want detailed miniatures but would rather save a few hundred bucks than get every 0.000001 mm of detail possible. It’s also an excellent resin printer for beginners who want to print miniatures as it’s a quick setup and easy to use.
3D Printer Type: LCD | Layer Resolution: 10+ microns | Materials: 405 nm resins | Build Volume: 129 × 80 × 160 mm | Printer Size / Weight: 200 x 200 x 400 mm / 6.2 kg
We’ve reviewed the Elegoo Mars 3 already, but the Mars 2 Pro is another Mars-series printer worth mentioning. The printer doesn’t have nearly as much detail capabilities as the other machines on this list, with only a 2K resolution LCD screen. However, it’s easily the least expensive printer, costing under $300.
So just how “bad” is a 2K screen on a resin printer? Is it even suitable for resin prints?
Although differences in screen resolution on resin printers are a heavily marketed point, it’s not actually that different. While you’ll notice the difference between a print with 2K resolution and one with 4K or 8K resolution, it’s not that bad. Moreover, I’m still confident you and anyone else who sees a 2K resolution miniature print will be impressed that it was 3D printed.
But I didn’t just include the Mars 2 Pro on my list if it was just cheap as there are plenty of low-quality sub-$300 printers out there. The reason the Mars 2 Pro made it here is its speed, which is around 3 times faster than other resin printers on the market. At between 1 and 2 seconds per layer, you’ll be able to pump out a typical miniature print in under 3 hours, no question.
Additionally, the Mars 2 Pro is super reliable. If you thought the Elegoo Mars 3 was a thoroughbred, then you can consider the Mars 2 Pro a workhorse. It’s just that reliable.
You can put it to its paces running it 12-16 hours a day and it’ll consistently churn out prints day after day. So, if you’re thinking of selling your prints on Etsy or other marketplaces, spend a thought or two on purchasing the Mars 2 Pro.
The build volume on the Mars 2 Pro measures 130 x 82 x 160 mm, which is pretty average for a resin printer of this cost. But, it’s more than enough to print at least 4 or 5 miniatures!
This 3D printer is a resin-fanboy favorite and is ideal for anyone looking to print miniatures often and fast!
3D Printer Type: LCD | Layer Resolution: 35 microns | Materials: 405 nm resins | Build Volume: 132 x 80 x 165 mm | Printer Size / Weight: 383 x 227 x 222 mm / 4.3 kg
Behold, the old conqueror of all resin printers. The Anycubic Photon Mono 4K was one of the first and one of the best 4K resolution resin printers to hit the market. The printer has since been surpassed in print quality by 8K resolution printers, but it’s still a worthy machine for printing miniatures.
Developed by Anycubic, a popular manufacturer of FDM and resin 3D printers, the Photon Mono 4K features a 4K resolution screen. The screen can produce prints with an accuracy as low as 35 microns (0.035 mm), which is perfect for 28-30-mm miniatures.
It’s just as good as a model from Hero Forge, except it’s right in your home and you don’t have wait ages for the figures to ship (or risk damage).
The Mono 4K improves upon the previous models (Photon and Photon S) with a slightly larger build volume and a 29% larger LCD screen (6.23″ to be exact). The new screen means 2.5 times faster print speeds than its predecessors. It only takes 2.5 hrs to print a 120-mm model where before it would take 6 hours.
More minis (or faster ones) for the win!
Additionally, with the extra space on the Mono 4K, you can easily print up to six 25-mm miniatures in one go. But, if you really want to start mass-producing miniatures, I’d suggest using a resin printer with a larger build volume, like the Photon Mono X, as you can fit a lot more miniature models in its 192 x 120 x 245 mm print space.
The Photon Mono 4K comes ready to print right out of the box, with no assembly required. Anycubic obviously had ease-of-use in mind when they put together this printer, and the touchscreen user interface is easy to navigate too.
But my favorite part about the printer is its value. Costing under $200, the Photon Mono 4K is an insane bang for your buck. It might not be the absolute best in terms of quality or frame, but it performs better than printers twice its price.
I’d recommend the Mono 4K to anyone looking for the most value for their dollar. Its 4K screen will give you amazing detail on prints and its build volume is large enough where you’re not restricted to just printing miniatures.
3D Printer Type: FDM | Layer Resolution: 50-100 microns | Materials: PLA, TPU, PETG & ABS | Build Volume: 220 x 220 x 270 mm | Printer Size / Weight: 487 x 453 x 622 mm / 9.1 kg
All of the printers on this list so far have been resin (SLA) machines as this technology typically yields more detailed models than FDM printers. However, the Creality Ender 3 S1 is one of those rare FDM printers that can handle a decent level of detail, suitable for printing miniatures.
You’ve probably heard of the Creality Ender 3 before, and the S1 is the latest version of the popular open-source machine. Since I got one of these bad boys in April, the Ender 3 S1 has been my favorite FDM machine to work with, largely because it’s so reliable. I’ve yet to have a failed print on this machine.
The S1 has a direct drive extruder that’s able to print flexible materials, like TPU, with a high level of print quality and minimal stringing. However, the reason I love the direct drive approach of the S1 is because it’s a lot more accurate than the Bowden-drive extruder configurations on other FDM printers.
Additionally, the smooth PEI sheet used for the build plate on the S1 means that all prints have a glossy and glass-like smooth bottom surface. And, if you use a small nozzle diameter, like a 0.1-mm diameter one, you can get some really detailed prints that look terrific.
If I’m being honest, I don’t really use my S1 a whole lot for miniatures because resin printers just do it better. However, the S1’s build volume of 220 x 220 x 250 makes it perfect for printing terrain models and boards to put your miniatures on.
At the end of the day, the Ender 3 S1 is the only FDM printer I’d trust to print a miniature model. But, I think it’s best suited for printing models that accompany miniatures, such as terrains, landscapes, or play boards. Additionally, the S1 is a great choice if you want to print some miniatures as well as regular parts that don’t need to be super detailed.
If you want the option to 3D print things other than miniatures then this is the 3D printer for you.
Specs to Consider for Your 3D Printer
Last time I bought a 3D printer, I didn’t check all of the details before buying.
Guess what happened?
Yep, a long time on the phone and fighting to get my money back. When you get into the minutia of the technical pieces in a 3D printer, it gets really complex. So here are the main specs to focus on before buying to make sure you get the best printer possible (and avoid the return lines).
The first and, in my opinion, most important factor of any 3D printer is the print quality it’s capable of. As most printers for miniatures are resin (SLA) machines, the print quality is directly related to the resolution of the LCD screen on the printer. As we’ve already explained, the higher the resolution (e.g. 8K vs 4K), the more detail can be included in a print.
Personally, I barely notice a difference between prints made on a 4K screen versus an 8K screen. However, some people have a more keen eye than I do, so that’s up to you. But, I would say that 4K screens are the new industry standard for miniatures.
The print volume is the second most important factor I consider when looking for a printer to handle your miniatures. The more space you have, the more miniatures you can print at once or the larger (less miniatures) models you can make.
While there’s no “minimum”, anything smaller than 100 x 100 mm in the area is probably too small. Not that your miniatures won’t be smaller than 100 mm (most are under 50 mm), but not being able to print at least 4 miniatures at once is a red flag.
Quality of the Machine
My final consideration when looking at a printer for miniatures is the overall build quality of the machine. This is a bit vague, but what I mean by this is that I want to see that thought was put into the design and assembly of the product.
For example, if the Z-axis motor is too weak or the linear rail is a bit tilted, I don’t want it! The little details matter on a machine just like they do on a miniature 3D print.
The quality of the machine usually is determined by the manufacturer of the printer. Popular and well-liked 3D printer manufacturers like Elegoo and Anycubic produce printers that have much more thought-out features which result in better prints and improved reliability.
Can You Print Props And Terrain?
The only thing that makes your game night better is having terrain to help your party better immerse themselves. 3D printers can print out maps with terrains, small props for your models, and tools to help the quest develop.
The best 3D printers for miniatures are not necessarily the best for terrain. A FDM 3D printer (3D printing with filament) is what you need for large terrain because it saves you on cost of materials and offers a larger build volume than resin printers (typically).
3D Printing Miniature Models 54mm And Larger
A 54mm figurine is no problem for most printers. The bigger you get, the more details you can add and the more recognizable the figure becomes. The only limitation is your print volume and your imagination.
3D Printing Small Detailed Models
When you start talking between the 28mm and 54mm size for a 3D printer, you need to be more careful. If you don’t have the best 3D printer for miniatures in this size, your small features will all meld together and become indiscernible. I tried printing my Einstein bust at a smaller scale on my printer and it looked more like Sloth from the Goonies.
There are certain 3D printers specifically for high-detail, high-resolution prints. You want to go after resin 3D printers (Anycubic, ELEGOO, Phrozen, Peopoly, etc.) as they provide more detail than 3D printers that print filament such as ABS, PLA, PETG. Most printers will do a decent job but depending on the print they might fall short.
FDM Or SLA/Resin Printers?
This is a HUGE decision to make, so don’t make it lightly or you won’t get the results your after.
If you’re looking to 3D print detailed tabletop gaming miniatures or jewelry with lots of detail then resin is the way to go.
If you’re looking to 3D print large terrain and tools then FDM is the answer.
You can do both on either but resin terrain will be limited by the size of the build plate, be more expensive and take an age to print. And FDM technology just isn’t good enough to attain the necessary detail for a good miniature print.
That’s because FDM 3D printers, like the Ender 3, use motors to move an extruder head across a build platform, laying out melted plastic to form the desired model layer-by-layer. This method is a lot less precise than resin technology, which uses UV light and a laser projector screen to solidify layers from liquid resin.
FDM minis will be of low quality with really obvious print layers. But, they’re a bit easier to use and repair. Additionally, they usually have larger build volumes than resin printers, as a byproduct of the technology being cheaper to make.
Resin (SLA) Printers are a lot more accurate, precise, and detailed than FDM machines. But, they have smaller build platforms and are harder to fix.
Where To Download Miniatures To 3D Print?
There are many online repositories you can go to if you’re looking for miniature designs to 3D print. Thingiverse is the most popular for 3D models and is my go-to option. They even have D&D minis and a fantasy mini set ready to go!
But I also make sure to check out Printables (AKA PrusaPrinters), Cults, and MyMiniFactory too. All of these platforms contain may free models!
The last option is to find your favorite maker and sign up to their Patreon (usually or another membership platform). You can support them directly and the prints will be unique to your tastes
How Much Does It Cost To 3D Print A Miniature?
The cost to 3D print a miniature, whether you’re using a resin printer or an FDM machine (with filament), is pretty low, ranging between 50 cents and 2 dollars for a sub-50-mm model. Of course the true cost depends on the cost of the material (resin or filament) you’re using. But, the $0.5-2 range is still lower than any 3D printed model you’ll find online with shipping.
Resin for Miniatures
The average cost of standard SLA resins is approximately $50 per liter. With one liter you can print around 120 to 140 tabletop figurines or minis with each model having a height of around 1 inch. That comes to around $2-3 per miniature. If you 3D print cubes with a 1 x 1cm dimensions, then you can print 500 cubes of that size. Larger models can require 100ml+ of resin in one go.
Check out our article on the best resin for miniatures here.
For the filament, you can easily find 1KG of economy PLA filament for less than $25. That works out to 2.5 cents per gram. Since 3D printing is an additive process, the total weight of the miniature will just about be the total amount of filament you use. For a 20g miniature, it’ll cost 50 cents. A rule of thumb is a 2 x 2 x 2 cm cube of PLA will weigh 10 grams.
Best Filament For Miniatures & Terrain
Because resin is not a filament, PLA plastic is the best filament for 3D printing miniatures. It’s a lightweight, low-strength, run-of-the-mill material. It’s really easy to print with and almost any 3D printer can achieve the temp you need to print it (around 185-205 degrees C). PLA is the best filament for miniatures & terrain and should be used for any 3D printable FDM miniatures!
There are, of course, many different brands and blends of PLA filament to choose from. But, the regular PLA filament options from Overture, Hatchbox, and Sunlu all work great!
When it comes to tabletop games, you can’t go wrong with the Elegoo Mars 3, Anycubic Photon Mono 4K, Elegoo Mars 2 Pro, or Phrozen Sonic Mini 8K. In the end, it comes down to personal preference.
If you want the most incredible detail and precision on your miniature prints, then the Phrozen Sonic Mini 8K is for you. Its cutting-edge 8K LCD screen outperforms almost any other printer on the market in detail.
But, if you’ve got a lower budget or just want the most bang for your buck, the Elegoo Mars 3 and Anycubic Photon Mono 4K are some solid bets. These printers are like the Ender 3 of miniature printing: great value, very reliable, and still capable of high-quality prints.
For the fastest miniatures possible, consider the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro. This printer not only costs very little for a resin machine but it can also put out high-quality models in exceptional time.
Lastly, if you’re new to 3D printing, the technilaties and technology of resin printing may seem a little complicated. You want a multi-purpose machine that can print a wider variety of materials, the Ender 3 S1 is an excellent choice and my go-to machine for terrain prints.
Beyond that, if you want the versatility of FDM filament and a larger space for prints, the Ender 3 S1 is an amazing option. While it can’t achieve the detail of most resin printers, the Ender 3 S1 is still surprisingly precise (and reliable) being an FDM printer. Additionally, its large build volume makes it perfect for printing terrain pieces for your miniatures or non-miniatures prints (e.g. door hinge).
But no matter what printer you choose, the quality of your miniature models depends on more than just the machine. So make sure you tune your slicer settings, level that build platform, and perform the other necessary calibrations to ensure a decent print.