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 For 2020
- 1. Anycubic Photon S (Best Overall Resin 3D Printer for miniatures)
- 2. ELEGOO Mars (Best Budget Resin 3D Printer for miniatures)
- 3. LulzBot Mini 2 (Best All-Around FDM 3D Printer for terrain)
- 4. Flashforge Creator Pro (Best Value FDM 3D Printer for Miniatures & terrain)
- 5. Creality Ender 5 (Best Budget 3D Printer for Miniatures & terrain)
- 6. Ultimaker S3 3D Printer (Our High-End FDM 3D Printer Pick)
- Specs to Consider for Your 3D Printer
- Nozzle Temperatures For Different Materials
- Overall Build Volume
- Bed Material And Adhesion
- Types Of Miniatures You Can 3D Print
- Can You Print Props And Terrain?
- 3D Printing Miniature Models 54mm And Larger
- 3D Printing Small Detailed Models
- FDM Or SLA/Resin Printers?
- Where To Download Miniatures To 3D Print?
- Will A “Home 3D Printer” Get The Job Done?
- Best Filament For Miniatures
Top 6 3D Printers For Miniatures For 2020
1. Anycubic Photon S (Best 3D Printer for 28mm Miniatures)
2. ELEGOO Mars (Best Value 3D Printer for Miniatures)
3. LulzBot Mini 2 (Best All-Around 3D Printer for Terrain)
4. Flashforge Creator Pro (Best Value 3D Printer for Terrain)
5. Creality Ender 5 (Best Budget FDM for Terrain)
6. Ultimaker S3 3D Printer (Best High-End FDM for Terrain)
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 figurines making aka 3D printed miniatures. FDM forms layers by depositing lines of molten material. But SLA uses highly precise lasers to cure liquid resin. The result? 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.
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 / 15 lbs
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: FFF | Layer Resolution: 0.05mm-0.4mm | Materials: PLA, TPU, ABS, PETG, nGen, INOVA-1800, HIPS, HT | Build Volume: 160mm x 160mm x 180mm | Printer Size / Weight: 58.4cm x 45.7cm x 53.3cm / 26.5lbs
The LulzBot Mini 2 is a fast, reliable printer that produced a ton of great figures for me quickly and easily. I highly recommend this one for small businesses that need large terrain pieces or for clubs that want to churn out dozens or even hundreds of models.
If you’re familiar with the original Mini, then you’ll love this one. It’s a huge upgrade in speed, detail, build volume, and usability.
If I had to choose, then I’d say this is one of the most beginner-friendly 3d printer for miniatures out there.
Auto leveling, an intuitive interface, capable of handling advanced materials like TPU, Exotic PLA, and ABS there’s not much to dislike.
However, it is quite pricey, that’s why I don’t recommend it for individuals. That, and I had some trouble changing the filament from time to time.
3D Printer Type: FDM | Layer Resolution: 100 microns | Materials: ABS, PETG, PLA, PVA | Build Volume: 227 × 148 × 150 mm | Printer Size / Weight: 480 x 338 x 385 mm / 19 kg
This unit lands near the top in almost any category. It’s one of the strongest performers in the space, and it’s a super reliable 3D printer. It comes with a lot of accessories – including filament.
It’s fully enclosed which acts as insulation and better holds temperature in the chamber for smoother prints. I don’t love printing ABS on an open printer, so this is great for that. It also has an illuminated build chamber so if you have it in your garage, shed, or table you can quickly peek in and check on the print in the night.
The downside is the build envelope is a little smaller than other units at this price. It measures at 225 x 145 x 150 mm which is great if you want to print tools and landscapes.
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. If you want the option to 3d print things other than miniatures then this is the 3d printer for you.
3D Printer Type: FFF | Layer Resolution: 20 microns | Materials: PLA, ABS, Nylon, CPE, PC, PP, TPU, PVA | Build Volume: 230 x 190 mm | Printer Size / Weight: 394 x 489 x 637 mm / 45.4 pounds
If you’ve talked with a 3D printer enthusiast in the past, there are a few names they might mention. Ultimaker is always one of those names.
The brand is one of the first to come to the scene with a quality printer. They also make spectacular filament which, in my opinion, is the best filament for miniatures.
This unit is more expensive than others but it delivers exceptional quality, a self-leveling head, and an optional upgrade of an enclosure to boost performance.
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)
Nozzle Temperatures For Different Materials
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
Bed Material And Adhesion
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 is 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 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 Dd 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 CADD 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.
In the past I’ve used GrabCAD because they also have a 3D printer monitoring software, and they give you the CAD files you can play with. The tech is technically optimized for professional-grade Stratasys 3D printers, but hobbyists can use the software too.
A slightly better platform to use is Pinshape. A community of tinkerers and DIYers upload their own 3D printable files and you can quickly download it and throw it right to the printer. It has more unique prints, and in my opinion the variety of prints is amazing.
The last platform is Thingiverse, this is the platform I spent the most time on. It’s another 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!
Will A “Home 3D Printer” Get The Job Done?
Absolutely. The modern-day home printer is akin to the top-of-the-line printer 5 years ago. These desktop units will hit tight tolerances, have great finish quality, and require very little upfront effort to start. 3D printing tabletop gaming miniatures from home? Yes, please.
There’s no learning curve at all– you’ll only hit obstacles once you try optimizing the print. In fact, for my brother’s D&D night I made some 3D print D&D minis for us all. Admittedly, I also designed a loaded D20 and used my home printer to pop out a few prototypes to get the upper hand (sorry, bro).
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 filament. So your only cost is electricity and the 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.
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
PLA plastic is the best filament for 3D printing miniatures in most cases. 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 and should be used for any 3D printable miniatures!
For when it comes to tabletop games, the best 3D printer for miniatures is the Anycubic Photon S (click here for Special). It’s the 3D printer for people who want incredible detail and precision with their miniatures. The printer comes fully-assembled and ready to print out of the box. It’s an SLA printer and it’s put together really well. The framework is robust and the machine looks really professional. This is for people who want to make professional-grade miniatures.
The best 3d printers for terrain is the Ultimaker S3 3D Printer. Its extruder gets super-hot which means you can print any material. The build volume is very generous, and it boasts a dual extruder to allow for multi-color prints and prints with high resolution. The add-on to enclose the cabin leads to better overall prints. It’s easy to set up, easy to use, and has no reliability issues at all. The glass auto-leveling bed helps a ton. The UM3 is a printer for people who go beyond printing miniatures, they are tinkerers and high-octane DIYers.
Beyond that, Ultimaker makes the brand of PLA that is simply the best filament for miniatures. This brand is a titan in the 3D printing space, and it’s my personal go-to. Try it out and see what I mean!
Ender 5 is an amazing option when it comes to keeping costs low. It’s unbelievably affordable, it just takes some time, in the beginning, to set it up. It has a dual nozzle extruder which has some reliability issues, but otherwise, it’s a powerful machine. A generous build volume and high nozzle and bed temperatures allow for a wide range of materials. Ender 5 is the perfect machine 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. I couldn’t recommend it more for first-timers to 3D printing. This is the best 3d printer for miniatures & terrain for those on a budget.
FlashForge’s Creator Pro is a jack-of-all-trades type of 3D printer. No one category truly shines, but it excels in every category. The price is fair, the temperatures are quite good, the build volume is a little on the small side, but it looks incredibly professional. This is good for a DIYer who’s a little more serious about their hobby.
The LulzBot Mini 2 is a small 3D printer that can hit some really high temperatures. The price isn’t high, but it isn’t low either. Its open concept makes it look raw and unfinished, but the quality of the prints is super high. This is for someone who prints for the beauty of the process and love of the game, it’s a DIYer or tinkerer who loves to share his hobby with others
Last but not least is Elegoo Mars. This is the best 3D printer for miniatures for those on a budget. It’s the go-to 3D printer for people who want the benefits of SLA printers without the high price tag. It’s a budget-friendly option that still achieves incredible detail and precision. It’s a great option for DIY-ers and hobbyists who want to make very detailed pieces.