If you are planning to buy a 3D printer for miniatures, you will need to buy thin filaments on spools that are melted down and then sprayed, onto one layer on top of another layer, to progressively build up your model.
So, what is the best 3D printer filament for miniatures? It’s actually quite a tricky question to answer.
- EDITORs TOP3
- SUNLU Carbon Fiber PLA Filament – EDITOR’s PICK
- OVERTURE PETG Filament – EDITOR’s PICK
- Mika3D Shine – EDITOR’s PICK
- HATCHBOX PLA 3D Printer Filament
- Filabot TCC1 Taulman t-glase PETT Filament
The kind of 3D printer filament you should choose very much depends on exactly what you’re trying to make and how it will be used later. There’s also the issue of cost and the question of just how much fine detail that you want.
If for example, you are planning to make game pieces that will be handled and may be dropped, you need something very robust and maybe that focusing on very fine detail isn’t the main criteria for d&d miniatures, chess pieces.
On the other hand, if you are going all out for maximum quality and very precise fine detail, for example on pure display pieces or miniatures that will be ornaments, then there are different options to choose from and you can go for something less tough.
Do you want to make test prints – in which case something fairly affordable/cheap and biodegradable, like APL, might be a good plan? Then there are questions of how do you want to create color, or for example have a metallic look?
In fact, the reality is that there are different kinds of filament for printing miniatures for each of those buying criteria and there is no single best 3d filament for miniatures.
OK, so before you buy any filament for your 3D printer, and set up your first print on a C-reality Ender 3, or some other good 3D printer, stop and take a breath for a bit. You’ll want to make a researched and informed decision before parting with that cash. The good news is we did a lot of that for you already and took around 50 hours to review many candidates for the best filament for miniatures.
I don’t believe in top ratings and reviews on anything without really digging down into the buying criteria and we generally couldn’t care less about topical brand buzzwords unless they actually are relevant.
Having got that semi-rant out the way, and before going into full detail on our top 5, here’s our top 3 headline list of best filament for 3d printing miniatures.
TOP three Filament for Miniatures in 2022
So, that’s our top 3 recommendations for a 3d printer filament for games and miniatures, let us dig a little deeper into ‘what is what’ in this hobbyist world.
Understanding 3D Filaments in detail
When choosing a filament brand, before that you need to be familiar with the kinds of material the brand uses. Here’s a quick rundown of the main kinds to find in hobbyist 3d printing.
PLA (Polylactic acid) This is a very popular filament material but as we will see not great for game pieces. Yes, it’s biodegradable, no it doesn’t smell during the printing process. It comes in many colors. Sounds great? – sorry, not really. The fact is that PLA is very easy to break, so we don’t recommend using it for game pieces that could go through lots of handling.
ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene): Now we are talking. It’s not quite as popular and preferred in the general world of 3D printing as PLA – and it is trickier to use than PLA – but the big win is that ABS is pretty tough. When your best buddy drops his Orc on the floor in a fit of D+D rage, a PLA printed miniature is pretty much a goner. Not so for an ABS Orc which will be more likely to live to fight another day. ABS filaments are also available in a range of colors.
HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene). This is similar to ABS but uses Limonene as its solvent.
Other runners and riders are PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) – probably the most commonly used plastic in the world, but not always recommended for miniatures that will take a real beating, which we look at later in the review, then there is the popular PC (Polycarbonate), which is super strong but a bit tricky for the hobbyist 3D printer, TPE (Thermoplastic elastomers) which is kind of rubbery and a bit sticky to work with and Nylon. Plus of course, there are all the industrial-grade materials but what we are focusing on here is the best hobbyist filament for making miniatures.
If it’s a metal look you want then you can buy PLA and ABS with metal powders mixed in. You can get a pretty reasonable look of steel, iron, brass, bronze, or copper. That’s great for historical accuracy.
PLA can also be bought mixed in with bamboo, pine, and other woods to create objects resembling wood. Very handy if it’s a few angry Ents you are after. While we are in LOTR territory you can also get PLA mixed in with fluorescents, for that Orc-sensing elven sword your miniature needs. How cool is that?
Choosing the best 3D printer filament for miniatures
Now, on with our full list with details of five top picks in our quest for what is the best filament for 3d printing.
1. SUNLU Carbon Fiber PLA Filament
Best for toughness
If it’s toughness you want, then Carbon fiber reinforced PLA is about as tough as it gets. That said, you still need a good balance between that toughness and the ability to render fine details on miniatures. With this Sunlu product, the dimensional accuracy is good at +/- 0.02 mm. Another big plus is the good layer adhesion – which avoids a kind of corrugating situation which can otherwise be an issue in very fine detail.
To top it all off this is biodegradable, so plenty of green credentials.
- Very tough
- Very accurate details considering the material
- Non-toxic and biodegradable
- Not that cheap
Verdict: Tops our list for miniatures as the resulting printed model will cope with rough handling but also have well-rendered fine detail.
2. OVERTURE PETG Filament
Best for a smooth finish
On your quest for fine details, two common problems you can get when 3D printing of miniatures is a clogged nozzle and bubbles. They are a hassle as they will spoil the overall look. That’s why we like this Overture product which is specifically designed to mitigate these twin hassles and has a patented technology – always a good sign.
Dimensional accuracy is a respectable +/- 0.05 mm, not quite as good as our #1 but definitely good enough for most purposes.
What’s more, most printers support this product, so you have less hassle with compatibility issues.
- Patented quality technology
- Reasonable price
- Good printing accuracy
- Wide range of shades and colors
- Not quite as accurate as some
Verdict: This is a very easy to use and reliable choice for 3d miniature printing.
3. Mika3D Shine
Best for shiny colors
If you are looking for a shiny or metallic – looking figurine, mini statue, weapon, etc. the Mikashine PLA range is a great option. They really do deliver the goods. If you don’t want the hassle of a hand-paint job, it makes sense to get the sheen and the shine built into your miniature model from the outset.
- Gives a look that most other PLA printer filaments simply can’t match
- Great for creating iron/bronze/steel/gold/silver or copper looks
- Works fine on common 3D printers like a standard Ender 3
- Can take a bit of practice to get right
Verdict: In its specific use-case, the Mika 3D Shine PLA filament is hard to beat.
4. HATCHBOX PLA 3D Printer Filament
Best mid-price quality PLA
With an impressive +/- 0.03mm accuracy, the Hatchbox is a no-nonsense PLA product at a reasonable price considering the product quality. Many poor (or good) reviews of printer filaments miss the point that there is plenty of possible human or mechanical factors that will affect how well a filament performs. So, read the manual on your 3D printer and make sure you have things set up for the brand of filament you are using.
- A dependable workhorse
- Good print accuracy
- Make sure you have the temperature just right and as we say ‘RTFM’ (read the freaking manual) on your printer. You should usually set something like use a bed temp of 50 centigrade/Celcius and a nozzle temperature of 200 centigrade/Celcius.
Verdict: You can pay more for something fancier but if it’s consistent quality at a fair price why not check Hatchbox out.
5. Filabot TCC1 Taulman t-glase PETT Filament
Best for water resistance
OK, finally something a little more exotic – a PETT (PolyEthylene coTrimethylene Terephthalate) filament from T-Glase.
PETT has plenty going for it. For starters, it’s not brittle, which is important for game pieces that are going to get handled. Nor is it prone to warping or shrinking. That means it is a good bet for creating a long-lasting miniature.
However, this Filabot T-Glase has one last trick – it does not absorb water or moisture from the air, or when immersed in water. That’s great news for your Goldfish if you want to do a fish tank makeover with some model sea-figures.
- Nylon-like construction is highly water-resistant
- Strong material means it can be handled without issues
- A little tricky to master for the novice
Verdict: If your kids want a new Spongebob Squarepants, or Little Mermaid model in their fish tank, or your tropical fish really could use a miniature diver, give the Filabot t-glase a try.
What filament size should I use
So, which diameter is best for miniatures? 3D printer filament for the home hobbyist typically comes with different diameters, either 3mm, and 1.75mm. In fact, the most good 3mm filament is actually just 2.85mm filament because it’s the standard size used by manufacturers.
Best 3D Printer Filament
So, there you have it. ABS and PLA are the main contenders from the products we have listed but there are some other interesting special use alternatives.
If it comes down to most miniatures, the strength and the flexibility of ABS might appeal, or it might be the range of shades, colors, sheens, and shines of PLA.
As is usually the case, there is no best 3d printer filament for miniatures, just some different choices for different needs.
We hope you found this useful, please leave us your thoughts in the comments section and thanks for reading.
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You mentioned waterproofing – is this a big issue?
Yes! Moisture is a common issue with some kinds of 3D printer filaments. Moisture, when heated, turns into steam and we all know about steam power – right? Suddenly you have small but powerful and expanding packets of energy being introduced into your 3D printing process and all kinds of issues can come out of that. Vendors with poor packaging or vendors who leave long exposure before the filament material is put into airtight packages are asking for trouble. That trouble will then find it’s way to you.
Can impurities also be an issue?
That’s another ‘yes’. Chemical impurities will turn your 3D printing experience into a hassle. Expect uneven or poor results. Generally, we’d recommend avoiding very cheap filament products, especially ones from vendors that no one has ever heard of. You pay for what you get – if something is really cheap, then some corners have been cut somewhere.