3D Printing – The Process Part 1

In my last post, I covered the basic setup of my devices. In my next few posts, we’re going to take a look at the process of actually printing the model. The first will cover all the stuff that happens before we start getting messy.

Getting Models

The first stage of 3D printing (after the initial setup) is of course, getting something to print. There are a few different ways to get hold of STLs (the file format most commonly used by slicing programs).

Make your Own!

Errrr… okay this is WAY too much for a single blog post. 3D modelling is a whole career into itself, with a selection of tools and methods to get into. Its something I’m interested in (I have some things I’d like to make such as conversion parts for my Sisters of Battle still in the box) but we don’t have time in this post.

Download them for Free!

There are lots of STL files available for free online. Google is a good starting point, although it will quickly lead you into STL search engines such as Yeggi or STLFinder. You’ll also find free STLs on other sites such as the classic Thingiverse.

But here is the thing – you really do get what you pay for. There may be some incredible work given away for free (often due to them being fan-work of copyrighted content) but a lot of the time you’ll find 3d files made by amateurs and uploaded for fun. Also don’t expect them to be pre-supported so some extra work will be needed to get them ready.

Purchase them!

If you’re willing to spend the money, you can also go and buy STLs. There are several sites for it (such as MyMiniFactory) as well as people using Gumroad to create their own stores. I’m a keen fan of SkullForge Studios, who make a great set of figures who are… inspired by Disney properties.

Prices are massively variable. Some people go bargain basement on the models, while several will charge a lot more per figure than other companies that will produce the physical object. An important thing to remember when considering price is to remember that when buying an STL, there is no limitation on how many copies you can print.

Another option for single purchase is keeping an eye on Kickstarter. Many 3D moidel sellers will start off with a Kickstarter run, often with a few extra goodies that won’t be available later. These Kickstarters are also often cheaper than they would be at retail, so if you want the entire thing, they can be great value for money. However, like with all Kickstarters, make sure you trust the people running it. A few STL files (including hopefully a free test one if you’re lucky) and some example prints are the bare minimum to look for.

Purchase them every Month!

The other way of buying STLs is to delve into the world of Patreon. For a monthly fee, you get a pack of models. Patreons usually have different levels, usually ranging from a single figure or taster pack at about £4 a month (+VAT), the complete release at around £7 – £8.50 a month (+VAT) and occasionally a premium package at £11.50 (+vat). All of these usually include a welcome pack, a few figures to whet the appetite for what you’re actually paying for.

Patreons vary in their contents – in some case it’s a different theme every month (Anvil Industries is the master of this, while still making them all work together thanks to their regiments system that came over from their resin range) while others slowly build up full ranges (Last Sword is slowly creating an alternative fantasy army range, including some glorious Elves while Turn Base is adding small packs of ultramodern figures).

I have… mixed feelings on Patreon bundles. In nearly every case, you are getting models for a steal (which can be seen when the models are re-sold in the store – Anvil charges £40 for bundles that are £11.50). However, this can play a little bit on fear of missing out, the worry about missing a good deal. You may also end up with a lot of crap you’ll never use if you don’t carefully keep an eye on what the Patreon is signed up for. But this can work both ways – maybe that random pack of Space Western parts might come in handy?

Preparing Models

So, you now have your file. What’s next?

Before you can start printing, you need to slice your STL files. Slicing is assembling the instructions that the 3D printer will use to actually set the resin and eventually produce the final product. However, there are a few other little elements to creating the slicing instructions.

But first of all, we need to talk about the program you’ll use. There are several options, but the most common is CHITUBOX. Much like anything, people will argue over the different variants, but CHITBOX is the one that Elegoo provides with the printer. It’s quite barebones and to the point – it’s whole aim is to get things working


Some models are advertised as “Pre-Supported”. This usually means that the 3D file’s creator has deemed it should be able to be printed without any extra work from the user. Simply drag in, hit the slice button and save the file out.

Simple right?


This works like 10% of the time. It is one of my pet hates about 3D printing at the moment – people who see “pre-supported” “ready to print” or whatever and assume that no extra work is needed on their end. That haven’t realised that pre-supported assumes your printer has the correct settings.

Pre-supported varies from rock solid with barely any problems to a wing and prayer design to tick boxes. I find it best to assume pre-supported models are more of a… guideline. A starting point. A few people have managed to almost crack it, but there are plenty of other things to setup before it will just work.


If you have just a raw model file with no supports or optimisation then it’s time to get dirty. The first step is how best to arrange files on the print bed (the area shown as the rectangle above). It’s not just the actual positioning – it’s also the file rotation. The surface parallel with the print bed will be a little less detailed than the rest. A rough guide is to print figures at 30-45 degree rotation, although honestly there are plenty of people who print models standing up straight (as you can see above).

All3DP has an article talking about the how best to arrange items on the print bed. Although not 100% for printing miniatures, it’s a reasonable intro to all the concerns.


Assuming your model wasn’t pre-supported by the file creator, you’ll need to assemble the supports. These are elements used to help print overhangs in the model, reduce islands (unsupported areas to be printed) and generally giving more material to help keep items stable and strong. You can also create a “raft”, a large chunk of material that makes it easier to remove the finished model from the build plate without damaging it.

CHITUBOX has a very easy setup for adding supports, letting you auto-generate supports or add additional ones with a button press. As you can see above, the auto generate is not 100% perfect. But it does a reasonable job to begin with.

All3DP also has have a very interesting article explaining about supports, giving some advice on how best to use them.


No matter if your models are pre-supported or a random obj file pulled off the internet, once they are all setup you now have to choose the settings for your 3D printer. And this is the biggest pain in the ass of the whole thing.

You can get settings for different printers and resin combinations from most printer makers, even easier if you use the same brand for both. These settings are a good starting point but there are little things to tweak and look out for. Exposure times, lift speed, layer height and more – all of these variables will affect the end result.

I’m going to take a look at these in the next post (as well as some common flaws you might find based on these items being mis-set). But this screen will potentially be a familiar friend (or hated foe) when you need to get everything setup.


Once your settings are sorted, it’s time to get slicing. Slicing turns a 3D model into layers of points. Each point is a location in space that is either inside the model or outside of it. This can then be used to create effectively a collection of images equal to each layer of the model. In the next post, we’ll talk again about how the process actually works and how these images are used.

This stage lets you preview those images (using the bar to see how the print progresses and do any final checks for islands that will automatically fail the print. Handily, it will also tell your a rough estimate of how much the print will cost in material as well as how long it will take. This time estimate is often incorrect but it’s a good rough idea, letting you see just how much using super tiny layers will affect how long it takes to get your model. Hitting spits out a ctb file, which can then be accessed by the printer and used to actually make the final thing.

At this stage, you’re all good to move your sliced file to your memory stick, put it in the printer and begin the process. Next time, we’ll cover what happens between the printing start and the final product hitting the table.

3D Printing – First Steps

I have been interested in 3D printing for quite a while. The concept of being able to make your own models has always interested me, but the traditional options (such as hand sculpting or resin casting) has always been out of reach, either through a lack of time to practise or from living in rented accommodation without space. However, with the rise of affordable resin printers and actually moving to a property that has multiple rooms, I decided that maybe now was the time to play around with something.

It has now been several months of playing around. Here are my thoughts and comments.

FDM vs Resin

The first step was picking the style of printer I was wanting to use. When most people think “3d printer” it’s the filament models that spring to mind. These things work from the floor up, depositing a layer of heated plastic before moving up and then applying another layer. The alternative is Resin. Instead of building right way up, resin printing works upside down, dipping the build plate into a tank of resin, using a UV lamp and LCD screen to set specific points before pulling it off the floor of the resin tank and advancing. Nerdtonic does a very good video showing the differences and I found it very helpful in understanding how the two systems work.

After doing some reading up, the way to go for miniatures printing (the stuff I’d focus on) is Resin. Layers are much harder to distinguish giving a smoother finish and giving you a better level of detail, ideal for printing figures for painting. Filament printers are not without their uses for wargamers though – they are much fast and can handle much larger models with fewer issues, so perfect for printing terrain without having to reassemble afterwards.

My Machines

So what did I get? In the end I went for the Elegoo Mars Pro resin printer and the Mercury Plus cleaning/curing station. These two devices are designed to work together, letting you easily transfer finished prints from the printer straight into the cleaning process with limited handling of the uncured resin.

The other reason for going for these devices were some of the features of the Mars Pro. It’s in a reasonable price range, the built-in airflow filter reduces the smell of resin fumes (vital for a rented property) and it’s not the most recent product so spare parts are available and experiences gained by the community. The newer Mars 2 Pro and Mars 2 swap the LCD panel used to cure the resin for a monochrome variant, increasing the speed of curing and extending its life span. There is also the Saturn which is the same basic device but bigger and with a few additional features (like networking). If I had waited a little bit, then maybe a monochrome device might have been a better option. However, I’m not needing such rapid production speeds that a mono provides – 3+ hours for a bed full of models isn’t too bad at the moment. If I was moving to small scale production (such as buying a merchant license) then I’d either need a mono or upgrade to multiple printers.

The Overall Experience So Far

I’m going to be a longer post going through things step by step (from sourcing models to painting up the finished product). But for now, this is my overall experience of 3D printing.

The biggest thing – 3D printing is exciting as hell and a great addition to the hobby, giving you access to more models and conversion pieces. But, it is a hobby all in itself. These devices are not quite consumer grade. There is a lot of fucking around to do with printers, dialling in settings to match your resin, printer and environmental settings all while trying to maximise quality and minimise wasted material.

I also think that, as part of this, support for these devices is mostly community driven. There are lots of Facebook groups filled with people offering advice and support to newcomers (as well as lots of newcomers who haven’t used a search tool before). If something then goes wrong, you don’t have a fix with 24 hours like you might have with other consumer electronics (unless you’re boxing the printer back up to return to the place you bought it from). With Elegoo and other 3D printer makers being based in China and Taiwan, any replacement parts above and beyond the usual bits (like LCD screens) will require air freighting in from across the world. I’ve found it to be incredibly frustrating when the devices go wrong.

I also think that we haven’t reached a point when models are 100% download and print with no issues. Even where models are listed as “Pre-supported” or “Ready to print”, what this means varies from company to company, with some needing you to adjust your resin settings (especially when using unusual supports). There is also a massive amount of variation in quality. Just because you can produce a 3D model that can be printed doesn’t make it a good model. I have lots of issues with models that have been posed in ways that are obvious that gravity hasn’t played a part in how the model actually looks. This isn’t an issue with 3d printing specifically (there are lots of CAD miniatures with the same flaws) but is definitely more common among the 101 patreons offering 3d models.

I appreciate this is a lot of doom and gloom but to roll back to first point. 3D Printing is exciting as hell. Custom parts up until recently required either extensive kitbashing/green stuff or hoping that someone else would make them. With a 3D printer, you can easily get your hands on STLs (the most common file format used to transmit models around) and print them off at a fraction of the cost of hunting down the exact bit. In addition, there is no concern about ruining an expensive part. Worst case, you spend a few pennies and reprint it. You can even do tweaks to it that would be much harder with real parts, such as flipping parts or merging STL files together

It’s also unlocked a greater variety of models and manufacturers. As someone who likes ultramodern wargaming, we’re never going to get the same level of support as Fantasy, Sci-fi or WW2. However, you can easily support a fringe genre of wargaming through 3D printing as the manufacturers doesn’t have to spend production money, other than making sure the models they have made actually print.

The final point is that you can get some really impressive models out of the resin printers now. A lot of people still think about the filament printers if you say the words “3D Printing” but after my first successful print I was blown away with what I managed to get from the Skull Forge models you see above. The quality does really depend on the model and getting the settings, and you’ll never match something like Games Workshop produces with an enthusiast grade 3D printer but you can get damn close especially if your painting style is like mine and doesn’t rely too heavily on the tiny surface details.

This is really a jumping off point for 3D printing. I’ll be doing more posts as I go along, especially looking

June 2021 Project Update

Jesus Christ, last month was one from hell. Sleep pattern gone to heck, generally feeling worn out and tired most of the time and all this in spite of having a week off at the start of it.

On the plus side, I got stabbed in the arm by some Pfizer so I’m hopefully on the way to actually playing games with people (as well as other hobbies outside). So swings and roundabouts.

Project 365

So you may notice that the graphs for this month has changed. As I mentioned in last month’s project Database, I’m now tracking terrain purchases and painting. This required some back end tweaks in the sheet I use to make the graphs and such, which meant I had to rebuild the graphs. On the plus side, terrain now counts when I’m working out my numbers.

Speaking of, lets see how I did last month.

Painted: 32

Chaos Godsworn HuntGW6
Darkoath WarqueenGW1
Darkoath ChieftainGW1
Kosgari Nightguard (Cursed City)GW2
Deadwalker Zombies (Cursed City)GW10
Ulfenwatch (Cursed City)GW10
Watch Captain Halgrim (Cursed City)GW1
Imperial DwarfLast Sword1

Purchased: 31

Escher GangersGW10
Escher Death MaidenGW2
Escher Wyld RunnersGW4
Escher PhelynxGW4
Escher ChampionGW1
Dome RunnerGW1
Ylthari’s GuardiansGW4
Stormsire’s CursebreakersGW3
Imperial DwarfLast Sword1

We’ll get into the purchases below, but I’m really happy I managed to hit my goal of 31 models painted this month. Overall, I’m doing okay I think, keeping up with the target without the purchases going too far out of control.

Battered Brush 2021

Something that comes from having a whole bunch of wargaming friends in a different city means that I get dragged into some strange arrangements. In this point? Battered Brush 2021.

As the image above shows – 100 models, in 100 days. This is something similar to project 365 but just a little bit more focused in terms of days and model makers. I’ve been using this to get to work on all the GW figures I’ve been picking up, especially with the Cursed City box. I’m planning to keep working through GW stuff with one of two other items sneaked in (such as the Imperial Dwarf I painted this month).

At time of writing I am 29 days in with 30 models painted.

Project Database

Adding terrain to the database is still an ongoing process. I have a lot of more than I expected.

Another new element to the database I’ve added is a list of games. Partially so I can keep track of how often I actually use my models, but also a fun way of logging my hobby time. This required some database shenanigans (turns out storing lists of values in a database entry is a big no-no, in comparison to my more programmatic approach). Instead, there is a few more tricks to make the various tables link together. This is probably the final aspect of tracking the three parts of the hobby – Miniatures, Terrain and Games.

Project Fantasy

First up for Fantasy – Conversion work! When Cursed City had just been released (and I was unsure if I would get my copy) I picked up some bits from it (Namely the Human Captain and trio of Bloodborn Vampires). When I actually got my copy of Cursed City, that left me with some duplicates to assemble.

I still haven’t decided on that I’m doing with the Vampires, but after the arrival of the pair of Witch Hunters, I got inspiration. I decided to assemble the elder Van Denst as a dual pistol gunslinger which left me a pair of gloved hands with torch and sword. Combined with how the female captain goes together, the gloved hands would fit perfect with the style of the model. Combined with a head from the Stormcast head (complete with warrior braid) and some chopping/greenstuff work, I’ve managed to assemble a human captain I’m pretty excited about in a very commanding pose. The next step is to get her painted up, which I think I’ll do around the same time as the Van Densts and the Witch Hunter from Cursed City.

In terms of completed projects, we start first with the Chaos Barbarians. Made out of the Darkoath champions, Godsworn Hunt and the Ogroid Myrmidon I finished off last month, I’m mostly pretty damn happy with hwo they turned out. It’s a very different project for me – lots of exposed skin and naturalistic materials (leather and fur) rather than more processed materials.

I’ll go into more detail on them in a post, but the feature I think really worked was making sure each model had the clan colour (Red) and the Leader colour (Purple) so that they looked like a family clan that has joined with my other Chaos warriors.

However, my favourite project to finish this month was the skeletons from Cursed City.

I think I really like painting skeletons.

Blog post coming soon.

Not quite finished in time for this wrap up but I have also been working on the zombies from Cursed City. These guys were a complete 180 from the skeletons, with lots of a details to pick out and lots of colours to work through. I couldn’t batch paint them anywhere nearly as quickly as I usually manage but by the end managed to work out some techniques that I might be able to use going forward.

Big fantasy news for this month (even though it counts for July) was getting the Age of Sigmar Dominion box. Now, I’m not keeping it all – I’ve split it into three with two fellow hobbyists and will just be keeping my hands on the new Stormcast figures. I’m honestly surprised how excited I have been for the new Stormcast models. I will raise my hand and include myself among those people who found the original Liberators kind of… dumb. But, with the addition of the robes and armour design, they have become a much more dynamic and overall better looking version of the fantasy knight archetype. I also adore how GW has used the Stormcast to push a great diversity of characters and people. There are some fantastic heads in the new releases, perfect for letting you show a real mix of glorious warriors, rather than just more angry shouting bald men.

Yet somehow, despite not getting in Age of Sigmar (all these figures are going into Open Combat duels), you’re also going to see more Stormcast! After I’ve done cursed city, I’ll be working through my collection of armoured warriors and maybe even adding some of the upcoming releases such as the Vigilors and Vanquishers that were announced during the launch stream.

Project Necromunda

Funny thing about Dominion – it’s also kicked off another project.

During the run up to it’s release, my local wargames shop Leodis had several deals to sell off stock to make room for the new releases. One of these was the Hive War box for Necromunda. A few moments after I shared this news, one of my former uni-housemates appeared with a cunning temptation to split the box.

A few purchases later, and I’m building an Escher gang. Much like with the enforcers I made last year, I decided to go all in, getting as many options as possible so I can mix and match from the start. I’m still working on the theme for them, but I think a focus will be to make it colourful – I find myself often just focusing the effects of washes and dark colours, so making a group more vibrant.

Project 3D Printing

Remember this? Yeah, it’s been a little quiet. I still need to write up my blog detailing my initial thoughts on 3D printing – I’ve been pushing it back again and again until I was really in the mood to write it. Hopefully, that should be done soon with the bonus of six months of printing and playing around.

My first 3D printed Kickstarter has delivered – Dogs of War offered a good set of Imperial Mercenaries, perfect for any number of fantasy skirmish shenanigans. By which I mean Mordhiem style things. Overall, I’m really happy with the quality of these models, they definitely show off what the printer can do. On the other hand, less happy with how much fucking around there was to get them fully printed – there were about four batches of prints with a few minor issues on several models each time.

With the grumbling over however, I can now focus on other things. Like painting them.

And speaking of painting, here is the first 3d Printed model I have actually painted. This Imperial Dwarf is from Last Sword, a Spanish miniatures company currently working on units that strongly evoke Warhammer Fantasy’s Lizardmen, Chaos, Empire and High Elves (with elven vampires and other more unique units on the way). I’ve got a lot of thoughts on these patreons, which I’ll get into at some point but I think this one is definitely one that works for me personally.

This guy sits among the Welcome pack, a great model to get into their style. As someone needs some adventurers for upcoming campaign missions, this guy seemed pretty perfect. Printing was easy (unlike other Last Sword STLs which have some risky supports), painting even easier. I added some Frostgrave rope (rather than his shield) and a treasure chest from another Last Sword figure (an elven bard that mis-printed) but I’m happy with the final effect.

As well as joining the Patreon, I also went deep into their back catalogue and picked up most of their STLs. Among them were a really cool set of Golems. I had to do some repair work in Windows 3D Builder to get a good print, as well as adding supports. But the look of this guy gave me some really good ideas. I actually used the arm from a different golem, as well as a base I had prepared for another 3D printed model. This is definitely a model that I looked at and got really excited about, so keep your eyes open for when I actually finish this guy.

That’s it for this month’s update, I’ll see you in a month!