A while back, I commissioned 3D digital sculpt that can be used to print a 3D miniature. It cost just over $100 (roughly £70 at time of writing) and for some people, it may (or may not) seem like quite a fair chunk of money.
But what if money was no object and you were adamant you wanted to hire the very best digital sculptor to create your mini for you?
Don’t get me wrong – I think the artist who worked on my last mini did a fine job for the price (though there are obvious problems with it – more on that later), but the old adage that you get what you pay for applies here as it does anywhere else.
As an aside, it may be possible to outsource the sculpt to an artist outside of the West where prices will be a lot cheaper, but for the purpose of this article, I will write about my experience hiring someone who charges premium rates in the West.
At All Costs…
This is what you can get for $100 or so:
Getting a custom 3D mini for a hundred-odd bucks can be a good deal for the following reasons:
- Tailor made.
- Fast (though that depends on each artist).
- Cost effective, considering the many other uses for a digital model, especially if you own the IP.
However, bear in mind that what you see on the 3D model and the actual physical mini will be different. The renderings look great, but you may find the results a tad disappointing once you print it.
That said, while the detail on a $100 model could be a whole lot better (especially compared to traditional sculpts), you could probably get round that problem by paying a talented miniature painter to paint it all on for you.
But what happens if you hire someone who operates on the other end of the scale?
I’ve recently hired someone to sculpt a mini for my character, Anders Brightwood, worth just under $2000.
This is the result:
See the difference?
Looks like the actual mini doesn’t it?
It’s not, but you can see it gives you a very good idea of what you will be getting when you shove it through Sculpteo or Shapeways.
Expect to wait for something of this quality, but it should be well worth it – provided the price is not a stumbling block (which will be for most people).
There are drawbacks to having this level of detail on a sculpt – the smaller it is, the more exaggerated the details have to be.
This Sculpt is scaled at 28mm and you can see how prominent some of the elements are compared to the concept art – things like the shoulder pads, the head of the mace and, although you can’t see it here, the detail on the face of the shield.
This is because 3D printers are not suited to very fine detail work, so the only way to get it to print correctly would be to make the sculpt look like something out of Warhammer 40K.
I suspect that 3D printing technologies will improve over time to the point where such fine details are printable, but for now, this is what we’re stuck with.
I am more than happy with what I’ve received and I can’t wait to print it out. It looks great, represents my character concept well and it seems like it will result in something that I would be proud to display in a gaming session.
It’s definitely not for everyone and it’s likely only those with noble heritage would ever consider paying over the odds for a mini, but it shows what is possible with 3D printing.
Over the next couple of months or so, I will test this mini on a number of different 3D printing services and will review the mini as well as the services I used.
Have you ever hired a top notch artist to sculpt an expensive custom D&D miniature for you (digital or traditional)?
Were you happy with the quality and did you feel you got the best quality for that price?
Or maybe you’ve spent ‘peanuts’ and got something just as good or even better.
In any case, please share your thoughts in the comments section.