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How To Design and 3D Print Miniature Bases

If you love making miniatures, knowing how to create a base for your model can make it look more finished. Creating your own through 3D prints allows you to design the bases and make them unique to each model. Without a doubt, it’s worth learning how to do it!

Here’s how to design and 3D print miniature bases in five easy steps:

  1. Design the base in your 3D software.
  2. Add all the small details.
  3. Determine the scale and size.
  4. Print the base.
  5. Paint and attach the model.

That said, there’s a lot more to making bases for your prints. This article has everything you need to know about 3D printing bases, so make sure to continue reading! You can use it as a guide to creating bases for all of your miniatures—no matter their size.

1. Design the Base in 3D Software

You should start by designing the base in your 3D modeling software. There are plenty of free options online. However, you’ll usually have an easier time using a paid service that comes with more features.

If you’re just making a base, something simple will be enough. Start by creating a flat surface—a simple square or circle works best. Then work on its shape as you go.

Once you have your base set up, you may want to add more detail. It’s easier to get the basic shapes set in place before using smaller tools to create texture. 

Consider Online Bases

If you’re new to 3D modeling, designing your own bases from scratch might be overwhelming. You can find plenty of bases online for free, although they may not be the exact design or size that you want.

Many people start by downloading these free assets and then make their own as they gain more experience. You can also download a pre-made asset and then make small modifications to it so that it better fits your miniature.

Whatever you choose to do, designing your own base is pretty easy. It’s a great place to start with 3D modeling!

2. Add All the Details

Many people enjoy modeling the base so that it looks like real terrain. The key to achieving this is building up texture until the surface looks like ground. You can also create flat sci-fi panels or anything you imagine—you have total creative freedom over the space!

This YouTube video has plenty of information on adding small details to your base:

After you create a pattern, “break it up” so that it looks more realistic. Don’t worry: you don’t need to use a lot of detail on your first few bases. You’ll probably feel more comfortable after printing a few simpler ones.

When adding in your detail, consider how the model will stand on it. You want the surface to be flat enough to easily attach your miniature and stay stable. 

Always Go From Simple to Detailed

When working with 3D models, it’s best to start out with a simple design. If you try to make the base as detailed as possible right off the bat, you might end up with an overcomplicated mess. Instead, create the basic shapes you want for your terrain and adjust them as you go. 

After you realize that your model won’t look perfect right away, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable designing it. Bases are a great first-time learning experience: they’re simple but help you learn your way around a modeling program.

Use References for Your Terrain

It’s a good practice to use many references while creating your terrain. You can use them as a guide, after which you can model your work. You don’t need to follow these references strictly, but they will help you move forward if you feel stuck.

There are plenty of places where you can find terrain references. These include:

  • Movies
  • Video games
  • Promotional posters
  • Magazines
  • Comic books
  • Photography 

You can also sketch out your own terrain ideas in a notebook before translating them into your 3D software. Many professionals create their 3D prints by getting their ideas down on paper as sketches.

Overall, there are many sources of ideas for making terrain. Any time you see something you like, take the time to save it for later on.

3. Determine the Scale and Size

Next, you’ll want to know how to determine the scale of your miniature base. Calipers are great tools made exactly for this purpose.

If you don’t have one, I recommend using the MOOCK Digital Micrometer Measuring Tool, available from Amazon.com. It has a durable stainless steel design and is very easy to use. You can set it to the size you want your base to be, helping you visualize it against the model.

For better accuracy, try drawing the base size you need with the model on it. Then, measure the base you drew with the tool.

You’ll get a number in millimeters or inches (the MOOCK measuring tool can read both), which you’ll then use to create the base in your 3D modeling software. Keep in mind that nothing about the base is permanent until you print it. You can adjust the size and resolution as needed until it’s finished. 

Many 3D modeling programs will have a feature that allows you to scale the model. Usually, you’ll have to either select the model and then right-click it or use a scale tool. Enter the measurements you want in the box that pops up to change the size of the base.

Different programs will have different tools. You may need to search online for your specific software and the easiest method to scale a 3D model on it. Before you print it, make sure that everything is at the proper size.

After adding all the detail to your terrain, you’re ready to export the object to your slicer software. 

4. Print the Base

You should export the 3D model as an STL or OBJ file to your slicer software. Once you have it there, you can send the file to your 3D printer using its g-code. You can also print by wirelessly sending the code to your printer or by using an SD card. 

From there, you can print the base. Depending on the settings, detail, and size you used for the base, it should take around an hour or two. Make sure you give the base enough time to set and cool before handling it!

Can I 3D Print Multiple Bases at Once?

You can print multiple bases at once, as long as you make sure they fit on the build plate. Doing so makes the process less time-consuming, especially if you need to print many bases. However, 3D model bases are small and simple, making the process relatively easy.

If you have large bases, it’s better to print them one at a time. This will help you avoid mistakes on the part of the printer. However, you can print multiple small bases at once without any issue. 

Make sure your bases are at the same resolution before printing. Then, orient them so they all fit in your slicer program. You don’t want them to be too close to each other. After printing is over, you may need to remove some strands connecting the bases.

In short, you can always print multiple small bases at one time. It saves you a lot of time, making it an excellent method for printing bases for all of your figures.

5. Paint and Attach the Model

You’re finally ready to paint the base! Use a combination of spray paints and small brushes to get the look you’re after. If you want to make it more realistic, fill in as much detail as possible with color.

Start by priming the surface and adding the base coat, like you would if you were painting the entire figure. The base coat prevents the color of your 3D material from showing through and gives you a blank space where you can add and mix colors.

After priming and adding the base coat, you can move on to using the colors you want in your base. You’ll want to work in thin, even coats of paint. Using too much can take longer to dry, and it won’t look as nice.

You should paint the entire base—even the areas you know will go underneath the model. That way, you won’t have to worry about it not lining up exactly when you attach the figure. This way, you’ll also gain some extra experience with painting models.

Give the base plenty of time to dry. You’ll want to wait several hours after painting and sealing before touching it. Otherwise, you might smear and ruin your hard work!

After the paint has dried, you’ll be ready to connect the figure. You can use any strong adhesive that you already have at home. Again, make sure to give the figure plenty of time to dry before touching it. Moving it too early could weaken the bond between the figure and the base. Many hobbyists use superglue, but it will depend on what material you used to print.

Benefits of 3D Printing Miniature Bases

There are plenty of benefits to printing your own 3D bases.

  • You can make any terrain you want to fit the character. For example, you can design town paths, deserts, sci-fi flooring, ruins, and much more. It’s all up to you, and you have unlimited creativity over what you make.
  • You can save money and make a higher-quality base than what you might get at a store. If you have a lot of figures, you can even print multiple bases for them, reducing costs further.
  • If you’re already printing your own 3D figures, it makes sense to create the bases for them as well. You can print the bases separately for figures you already have or even print the figure and the base as one solid unit.

Overall, there’s a lot of flexibility that comes with preparing your figure bases. You’re sure to enjoy coming up with your own designs. Bases are simple to make and can even give you more confidence in 3D modeling other types of designs.

Can I Still Print Bases Without a Printer?

You can still print figure bases without a 3D printer. There are plenty of online services that let you commission 3D prints. Local libraries often have 3D printers. Make sure to check with them before you visit.

You can still receive prints without owning a 3D printer, no matter where you live. However, if you plan on printing many 3D bases, it might be useful to have one on hand. Printing your own materials will cost a lot less than having them printed and shipped to you.

Some of the best online 3D printing services include:

Check out their sites and ensure they have everything you need for your model. These services offer the option to print using different materials, so make sure that you choose the right one for your base.

Plenty of local libraries and colleges offer their services to the public. Often, you won’t even need to pay to print at a library. Make sure you check before ordering your prints online.

In short, you can still print bases even if you don’t have a 3D printer at home. If you don’t have access to a free printer at a local library or college, then visit online services that can print your models and ship them to you.

Final Thoughts

The process of printing bases for your figures is very straightforward. You design the base using the size measurements from the model, then add in detail. After exporting it to your slicer software, all that’s left is to print it.

Printing your own 3D bases can be a lot of fun! Many hobbyists love the freedom of being able to design anything they want. All you need is a little knowledge of your 3D modeling software and access to a 3D printer.