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 12 hours testing 10 different models and evaluating them based on price, usability, detail, and assembly. 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.
Table of Contents
- Top 6 3D Printers For Miniatures & Model Making At A Glance
- Specs to Consider for Your 3D Printer
Top 6 3D Printers For Miniatures & Model Making At A Glance
3D Printer Type: MSLA | Layer Resolution: 10 microns | Materials: 405um resin | Build Volume: 115 x 65 x 165 mm | Printer Size / Weight: 220 x 200 x 400mm / 6.6 kg
Behold, the conqueror of all resin printers. The 6kg Goliath who hath destroyed any and all in his path.
Actually, the Anycubic Photon S is just hands down the best 3D printer for 28-30mm miniatures. It’s just as good as 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 resolution is 10 microns, so the details are so precise it’s insane. And unlike pretty much every other FDM printer out there, you can go way smaller without losing details. For you, that means you can have pretty much the exact size and level of detail you want, without needing to buy a second printer.
What do we like most about it?
Based on my testing, this printer is easily the best value for money. It might not be the absolute best, but it is very reasonably priced, and performs better than printers twice its price.
The secret to all of these benefits is that it uses SLA technology, not FDM.
Basically, SLA means this printer is specifically designed for making models aka 3D printed miniatures. FDM forms layers by depositing lines of molten material. But SLA uses highly precise lasers to cure liquid resin.
Precise detail down to the ugly nose on your character.
The Photon comes ready to print right out of the box, with no assembly required. The creators had ease-of-use in mind when they put together this printer. Lastly, leveling the bed is a breeze so you won’t waste time setting up your printer.
The Photon S still takes the crown for the best 3D printer for miniatures.
3D Printer Type: LCD | Layer Resolution: 10+ microns | Materials: 405 nm resins | Build Volume: 120 x 68 x 155 mm | Printer Size / Weight: 195 x 195 x 405 mm / 6.8 kg
When you’re talking about budget resin 3D printers, it’s impossible not to think of the ELEGOO Mars. It’s got everything you’d expect in a high-end printer – 10+ microns resolution, easy usability, excellent build volume – except it costs up to 50% less.
To be honest, unless you’re using your 3D printer for business or want lifelike detail, you don’t need an expensive printer. This one will do just fine. In fact, I’m STILL using the D&D miniatures I printed with it to this day.
This Little Engine That Could is better than most $1,000 models out there.
Here’s what you need to know
The ELEGOO Mars uses a 2560×1440 2K HD masking LCD, and a CHITUBOX Slicing software. That means it slices super fast and produces high-def quality miniatures.
The only drawbacks are that it’s not fully assembled and the touch screen is a bit outdated.
Other than that, you’ll love it. It is used by beginners and intermediate printers alike. The ELEGOO Mars is by far the best budget 3D printer for miniatures out there.
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
If you want the best print quality hands-down then the new and improved Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K is for you.
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.
It’s all possible thanks to the 4K LCD screen with the Mini 4K. You’ll get a better print resolution. In all fairness, the differences between prints from the three printers weren’t pronounced. But in detail-packed miniatures, you’ll notice the power of the 4K LCD.
The quality comes with a price, however, it’s only $100 more give or take depending on discounts. That said, the Sonic Mini 4K also prints faster – one layer in 2 seconds fast (although the newer models of the Photon and Mars are keeping up).
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.
If you want a beginner-friendly resin 3D printer for miniatures, then the Mini 4K is for you. It excels where print details is a must.
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 / 16.2 kg
The Elegoo Mars is a 3D printing beast. But you know what’s even better? The Elegoo Mars 2 Pro.
As I mentioned before, the Elegoo Mars has a fantastic print resolution. You can print all sorts of cool miniatures with it. The Mars 2 Pro, though, prints these same miniatures much faster. Perhaps the biggest difference is the curing speed. The Mars 2 Pro prints like Flash, whereas the Mars like Batman.
If you’re thinking of selling your prints on Etsy or other marketplaces, spend a thought or two on purchasing the Mars 2 Pro. If the original Mars was a workhorse, then the Mars 2 Pro is a thoroughbred. It’s 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.
If you were planning on getting the Mars, don’t worry. In terms of print resolution, both the Mars 2 Pro and Mars are the same.
That may surprise you; wouldn’t the Mars 2 Pro have better quality with its 2K resolution? Ideally it would, but the larger than average build volume means that the 2K resolution has to cater to a larger area, hence the print quality on par with that of the Mars.
Of course, with this bigger build volume, you can print bigger prints with the Mars 2 Pro.
This 3D printer is a resin-fanboy favorite and is definitely worth the extra price tag. Especially for beginners to resin 3D printers and those looking to sell their own prints where speed is a must.
3D Printer Type: FDM | Layer Resolution: 100 microns | Materials: PLA/ABS/WOOD/ COPPER/GRADIENT | Build Volume: 220 x 220 x 300 mm | Printer Size / Weight: 440 x 410 x 465 mm / 11.8 kg
This is one of those rare finds that doesn’t seem to make sense. It has such a low price but delivers insane results.
My coworker 3D printed a few large terrain pieces on his Ender 5 and compared it to my Lulzbot and I really couldn’t tell the difference.
This unit is extremely affordable because it has to be assembled by you. It also has an enormous build volume, a decent nozzle temp, and a very useful print bed. The print bed might have some pr
oblems with adhesion. It’s a flexible plate and sometimes the first layer has trouble adhering. But that’s nothing a glue stick can’t fix!
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).
Overall Build Volume
The build envelope, or build volume, describes the cubic dimensions you can print in. How wide, tall, and long of a piece can you print? The bigger the build envelope, the bigger the 3D printer.
You might not think you’d care about the build volume, you’re just making miniatures after all.
But picture this; instead of making 10 miniatures overnight, you make 100.
Keep in mind that 3D printing isn’t the fastest process, and you’ll probably find yourself setting up a print and having it print overnight. The bigger a build volume you have, the more miniatures you can line up on the print bed at a time!
Quality Of Craftsmanship
Types Of Miniatures You Can 3D Print
The quick and easy answer is – anything that can fit inside your build envelope, you can print.
Depending on the unit, 3D printers can knock out complex geometries, tiny pieces, highly detailed pieces, and multi-colored pieces.
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 in plastic) is what you need for large terrain because it saves you on cost of materials.
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 envelope 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, EPAX, Peopoly, etc.) as they provide more detail than 3D printers that print filament such as ABS, PLA, PET. 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 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. FDM minis will be of low quality with really obvious print layers.
FDM 3D printers make plastic really hot then lay down the material layer after layer. They’re easier to use and a lot less expensive to purchase and operate. On top of that, FDM printers typically also have larger build volumes. The downside is they are less accurate and produce a lower quality print.
SLA 3D printers use light to cure liquid resin into a solid 3D printed part. This tech makes SLA printers more expensive to buy and operate than FDM printers. The trade-off is that SLA printers are more accurate and allow you to achieve much better detail, especially on smaller pieces. This is great news for people who want to 3D print miniatures or jewelry with lots of detail.
Where To Download Miniatures To 3D Print?
This is the million-dollar question.
3D printers use .STL files which can be generated from a CAD software. So if you know how to do 3D modeling, your favorite 3D CAD program will be able to export to an .STL file and you can design your own. If you have a 3D scanner and access to a model you want to 3D print yourself, it’s the same story.
The main problem arises for those who don’t have 3D CAD experience, a 3D scanner, or a reference model.
Luckily, there are others like you out there! That’s why we have all of these online repositories that are full of all types of files, all optimized for 3D printing. These sites might also give you a CAD file that you can manipulate, but all the uploaded files are available as a 3D printable .STL file.
The platform I spend the most time on is Thingiverse. It’s a community-fueled repository of 3D printable files. There seems to be more available parts, and there’s an option for the community to “remix” someone’s submitted part to optimize it in one way or another. They even have D&D minis and a fantasy mini set ready to go!
Another platform I use is Cults3D. They usually have a better selection of anime and hero designs. The only con is that you have to pay for most of these files.
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?
This is where the 3D printer starts to shine. For one-off or custom pieces, nothing beats a 3D printer. There is no fuel supply, just house power in and resin/filament. So your only cost is electricity and the resin/filament. You won’t even notice a change in your electric bill since these units are so low energy, so it’s really just filament cost.
- 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.
- For 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!
For when it comes to tabletop games, you can’t go wrong with the Anycubic Photon S, Elegoo Mars 2 Pro, or Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K. In the end it comes down to personal preference.
If you want the incredible detail and precision with your miniatures, then the Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K is for you. If you want the Ender 3 of the resin 3D printing world (great value, reliable, and high-quality prints consistently) then go with the Mars 2 Pro for the benefits of SLA 3D printers without the high price tag. Last but not least, the Photon S is when community support and ease of use are your top factors.
Beyond that, if you want the versatility of FDM filament and 3D printing terrain the Ender 5 is an amazing option when it comes to keeping costs low. It’s unbelievably affordable and has a large build volume, it just takes some time, in the beginning, to set it up. The Ender 5 is the perfect 3D printers for miniatures for someone starting out. It gives them intimate knowledge of how a 3D printer works and will teach them a lot of lessons on troubleshooting. Then you can graduate into one of the resin 3D printers above.