How to 3D Print Action Figures

Some call them custom 3D figures, others call them action figures or just dolls. The world of dolls has always been attributed to children, but the truth is that adults tend to collect figures of their favorite popular characters in movies or television series.

It does not necessarily have to be movies or a series of drawings, but our favorite character can be a real character. Whatever that toy is for, it will have its purpose: to make someone happy.

If we talk about the little ones, they not only have fun with the figures but also immerse themselves in their favorite and imaginary worlds. As adults, they pour all their love into their collectible figures. But what if we could have our favorite characters embodied in custom 3D figures?

With a 3D printer, we can achieve great results. With a simple scanned image of the character that we want to customize or a downloaded model, we can get our customized 3D figure. Nothing is impossible.

How to Choose a 3D printer for Action Figurines

All the theory and the delusional thoughts of creating 3D figures can leave you overwhelmed when you ask yourself: how can I create my 3D action figures? Well, you should know that there are different types of 3D printers. If you are thinking of giving 3D printing a try, it could be profitable to buy a 3D printer.

As you imagined, there are different price ranges in the world of 3D printing and with different finishes. If you want, you can settle for an affordable and basic 3D printer for miniatures to high-end printers with sky-high prices, aimed at large companies.

Therefore, you must ask yourself whether you prefer to make your custom dolls, or if otherwise, you prefer to have an external company do it for you. To help you in your determination, how about we tell you a little about the classes of 3D customized figurine printers on the market?

The Printer Type

Do you have a goal? Find a suitable printer to answer it. The vast majority of desktop 3D printers are single extrusion FDM (fused deposition modeling) machines. In other words, they extrude printable material through a single nozzle. Versatile and applicable to a large number of uses thanks to their good material compatibility, they are somewhat of the default choice for beginners. But if you know you need to print objects with complex shapes or with semi-closed volumes, chances are a dual extrusion printer will make your job much easier. The same is true if you need to print objects made of multiple materials. If detail and precision are your priority, opt for a resin 3D printer instead.

Printers for Beginners

Many printers come with this description, whether they are “for beginners” or “for children”. However, the more experience you gain, the more you discover that they are limiting in many aspects. If you don’t already have your sights set on a specific beginner’s 3D printer that has features that meet one of your specific needs, we recommend going with a low-budget machine instead. You’ll spend less, and you’ll learn a lot more! And if you have a problem, you will have no trouble finding an answer or help from the many forums that exist for each printer.

Low-budget Printers

Are you opting for a low budget? Follow the movement! While the quality of low-budget 3D printers has increased dramatically in recent years, these machines aren’t foolproof either. But manufacturers already enjoying a good reputation among users.

Creality and Anycubic, for example, are adapting to better satisfy their new fans, in particular by offering better customer service. Low-budget 3D printer owners themselves are stepping up by adding to the huge knowledge base available online.

Be Aware of the Costs

Have you just bought a 3D printer? Know that you are not done paying the costs! In addition to the regular purchase of material for printing your objects, be aware that you will also need to plan for some general maintenance costs, for example, nozzles for your FDM printer, or FEP film for your MSLA machine.

Of course, other parts can also wear out or even break. It will therefore also be necessary to take into account the costs associated with replacements. It will be easier to find spare parts if you have a RepRap type printer with an open-source design. They are designed with components that are freely available on the market. Closed machines intended for beginners may be easier to use.

Why Do You Want the 3D Printer?

If it’s just to try out a new hobby, the excitement of the first few tries will pass you by quickly. The 3D printer is, after all, the “home” version of very complex manufacturing technology. So sooner or later you should expect to run into small problems and big problems with your machine. But when you have a goal in mind, you will have the motivation to find solutions to the various obstacles that your printer will throw in your path. If you print just because it looks cool, you’ll quickly lose interest, or even give up in frustration in front of the mountain of junk and misprints.

Your Environment

Depending on the technology and the materials used, you may suffer some splashes or other releases. Although they vary greatly in size, FDM 3D printers do not spray much around them, but emissions from filament melting can quickly make the air unbreathable. It is therefore not recommended to stay too long in the vicinity.

With 3D resin printing, we advise you to think carefully about it before investing in this type of machine. Let’s say it right away, the resin gives off an unpleasant odor, sometimes downright harmful. It is very toxic to the environment and dangerous in case of prolonged contact on the skin. Resin 3D printers also require dedicated post-processing modules and protective equipment for the user. Part of the solution to dissolving uncured resin that remains on surfaces is 95% (or greater) isopropyl alcohol.

Generally speaking, all 3D printers should be used in well-ventilated areas, but this is even more true for resin 3D printing.

Making the 3D Figures

Now that you’ve chosen a 3D printer for miniatures or figurines, it’s time to start modeling your characters. Here’s a quick guide for starters!

Where Do the Models Come From?

Before you can print anything, you need a 3D model! You can get printable models all over the internet, however, some are very specific. You can create original models or source from external repositories.

Creating Your Models

You can create your models by starting from a 2D image and, with the use of tools such as SolidWorks, Meshmixer, ZBrush, among others, you can transform it into a 3D model ready to go to a printer.

What Are External Repositories?

Another good way to get 3D models for printing is by visiting external repositories. In these repositories, you can find thousands of models and designs of 3D figures. Some of these models can be downloaded for free, while others are paid for.

The Next Step: Printing!

When it comes to printing a model, there are a few things you should always keep in mind.

  • Some parts need supports (extra material) to print well, so the print itself goes beyond the final result.
  • Depending on the final function of the 3D figure, you can achieve a more or less costly printing, since the density of the filling and the necessary finish will depend on this.
  • 3D printers have a limited printing area, so some models need to be printed in two or more parts.

The Final Touches: Post-processing

After the 3D printing is complete, the figure will most likely need some work to get the visual quality that customers are looking for.

First of all, proceed to remove any print support.

If there are pieces that must be embedded, adjust them by sanding and gluing to the model as appropriate.

If you have to paint the figure, first, you have to sand the pieces and apply a base coat of acrylic background.

To give a better finish and avoid scratches in the future, apply a coat of clear spray varnish.

How Detailed Can 3D Printed Figures Be?

While 3D printing offers many possibilities, the details of certain prints will depend not only on 3D modeling but also on other factors such as the printer, designer, painting skill, tools, and materials used, among many others.

The best way to know how detailed a print will be is by visiting the professional maker’s portfolio. There you can have a look at the capabilities and skills, both in design and in printing and painting.

Conclusion

Action figures and other collectibles are popular with kids and even adults. The main downsides include printing time and energy consumption. A printer can take hours to create a part, which is more energy-consuming. In addition, in the case of having to create a customized 3D figure from scratch, you will have to know how to use 3D modeling programs. However, 3D printing enables the design and printing of more complex action figure designs than traditional manufacturing processes.

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