How to 3d print figures

How to 3d print figures DEFAULT

3D Software Modelling

No, you don’t need super advanced 3D modeling skills to make your figurines. I am going to teach you the three easy steps you need to create your first 3D printed Yoda, Batman, or even of a model of yourself!

As a 3D artist, I am in love with 3D scanning, and I have used it a ton in the past for figurines and models I’ve needed for various projects. Recently I've started applying it by creating three-dimensional scans for 3D printing, and in this article, I am going to show you how to make your own 3D printed action figures.

What do you need to print your own figurines

Whether you have 3d modeling skills or not, to make your action figure there are three basic things that you need to have access to:

  • 3D Scanning Software
  • An Xbox Kinect
  • A 3D Printer

The first tool you need to add to your arsenal is a copy of either Reconstruct Me or Skanect. This will be the software you use to construct and edit your 3D scanned model.

reconstuct me

The second piece of equipment you need is an Xbox Kinect make sure it is one with a normal USB port, purchasable on Amazon, and not a proprietary Xbox port; this is crucial for getting it to work with your PC.

robo 3d printer

The 3D printer shown above is the Robo 3D R1+, it is what we use and one of the best currently on the market. It's currently selling on Amazon for under $400.

Owning a 3D printer is cheaper than ever, and it will enable you to print anything from the larger action figures to very small miniatures, which can be used for various role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons.

We will also show you what to do for both after you've gotten all your gear together.

Scanning with the Kinect

you'll want to open your scanning application if you're a beginner without 3d modeling skills.

And you’re going to want to use the Xbox’s Kinect. The Kinect allows you to go from scanning to cleaning up the model to printing the model very easily.

No other skills are required. However, if you are versed in 3d modeling, I highly recommend using Reconstruct Me.

Reconstruct me gives you a little bit more detail to work with. However, more cleanup work is required before you start scanning.

Here are a couple of things to consider:

The Kinect has two cameras on it one is an infrared camera that scans depth and 3d space the other one is a normal camera that captures color but to use these properly you need a certain amount of space.

About a 10 to 15foot radius generally around your subject and do not wear anything that's reflective because the bouncing light from the reflective clothing might be wearing will confuse the camera and confuse the depth. This will screw up your 3d model.

Natural sunlight has a lot of infrared frequencies in it, and since the infrared camera on the Kinect uses these frequencies to gauge the depth of the object, that will also start throwing off your scanning program.

You want to make sure that you've set your scanning area (your scanning box) to be as close to that person as possible to maximize the resolution of the scan.

I find it helpful to turn the monitor around so I can see it while I'm scanning, consider purchasing a USB extension so you can have the freedom to walk around the room.

Scanning with the Xbox Kinect

Pictures in this article sourced from Sam and Niko's DIY 3D printed action figurines video

When you’ve set a good scan area, as shown in the picture above, you want to start scanning. 

You have toexplore every nook and cranny of your object, to capture all the details. This part take some practice, you also have to make sure you scan the form a top-down angle to properly scan some of the upward facing details. 

This technique works really when when trying to create a 3D printed figurine of yourself!

So, here is our first scan of the model, there is still a few small errors in our model, but that's okay since Skanect can clean that up.

Skanect modelling

I'm going to fill some holes and colorize it, in case we want to print this in color.

Now, this is going to go back through and take all the color data from the camera and make that into a texture.

Skanect coloring

That looks pretty cool, the last thing we want to do before printing this is to crop out the ground plane. As you can see, there is a lot of terrain in the model, and you'd want to crop that out. In Skanect it is very easy, just orbit around the model and select what you don’t want and crop it using the “Move and Crop” feature.

So now that we've modeled, we're going to show you the reconstruct me version.

This technique is slightly more highly detailed and much better when you're trying to make a figurine which is small with tiny details.

Now, to showcase what Reconstruct Me can do, we are going to show you how to add a 3D modeled sword to your model.

When you're scanning it's hard to hold perfectly still for 30 seconds and when holding high detail objects such as a sword, there's natural wobble and shake to these objects.

How to 3D print your own figurines 2
3D figurine with modeled sword

It's very difficult for the scanner to model that properly. In this case, our sword is very reflective - bad idea for scanners and that one is super solid actually, and just with the tiny bit of cleanup, there were good to go.

As you'll see with your first import into your 3D program of choice that we have similar issues.

I will go into the vertices of the model shown in the picture below, and you can quickly select them all and delete the ground plane. It's good to select all your elements and then deselect the piece you want to keep and hit delete.

filling holes in your model before 3D printing

As you can see from the screenshot above, there is no color and no texture.

But this time, we don't need that.

Because of the detail level that we're going to be printing at, we're going to paint these on our own.

The last step you want to do is use a modifier that will fill the holes up. You want to use a modifier in 3D Studio Max called “cap holes.”

If you're not using 3D Studio Max, then I'm sure there is an equivalent feature in whatever program you are using. The last step is to scale it to the size you want to print it.

If you're making a miniature for Dungeons and Dragons, about an 1.5 inches in height is good. If you're making a miniature just for yourself, it can be any size, but just be aware bigger gets the more expensive it gets, not to mention the printing time can get exceptionally long. 

Thereafter, just hook up our 3D printer (here's a list of good cheap options if you do not own one yet) to your computer, follow the instructions on the printer, and make your model come to life!

I hope you have learned something from this small introduction into the world of 3D scanning and 3D printing if you guys want to try this out I highly recommend trying out either Skanect or Reconstruct Me depending on your skill level. 

To check out our other resources on 3D printing, head back to our 3D printing page or read one of the related posts below. As always, feel free to share your comments and ideas for figurines you would like to see printed! 


Introduction to 3D Printing custom miniatures

Miniatures are small scale replicas or models of something else. Sometimes these are toys, props, demonstrational pieces, or collectibles. Due to their tiny size and precise details, minis may be complicated to handcraft, especially in a larger quantity. 3D printing, on the other hand, provides a way to manufacture miniatures with decent quality and production time. But in order to make it work for your needs, there are a few facts to consider in regards to 3D printing small figurines and minis.

Different types of miniatures

There are several areas, where small scale replicas and models are used, each sphere with its intricacies respectively. Here is a quick rundown of the small size figurines we are touching upon:

  • Tabletop wargaming minis
  • Action figures
  • Model figures
  • Scale models
  • Diorama pieces
  • Landscape models
  • Rail transport models
  • Dollhouse props
  • Educational models

Though all miniatures have much in common, they differ not only in size but also in the functionality of pieces as well as accuracy and stiffness requirements. As a result, certain production methods and 3D printing materials will suit each type of piece better.

Miniatures 3D printed using Resin

What 3D printing methods are there for minis

Miniatures and figurines can potentially be 3D printed using any available method. However, depending on the application and requirements, some techs are more suitable than others.

TechnologyMaterial typeAffordable Detail Quality Stiffness Color
FDM/FFFPlastic5/52/54/5Usually monochrome
[Resin] SLAResin3/55/53.5/5Monochrome
[Resin] DLPResin3/54.5/53.5/5Monochrome
[Resin] DUPResin4/54/53.5/5Monochrome
[Resin] MJ/PolyjetResin2/55/54/5Full-Color
SLSNylon Powder3/54/54/5Monochrome


One of the most affordable methods works by heating up plastic strings and using it to form a piece layer by layer. The big downside of the technology is that it leaves some layer lines as well as marks under overhanging parts. In order to print minis with FDM, it is usually required to have a separate, thinner nozzle, and slower printing time to ensure better details. Fused deposition modeling, though, can work fine for bigger scale models, some educational models, and rail transport models of larger size.

Figurine 3D printed using FDM method

Figurine 3D printed on FDM machine by OKSharPei 3D

VAT polymerization/Resin printing

Resin 3D printing is a family of technologies that cures liquid photopolymers layer by layer by laser, LEDs, or projectors. These methods suit miniatures really well as they allow preserving intricate details while keeping a smooth surface. However, you should take into consideration that some resins or technologies suit it better. For example, laser-based machines commonly help avoid voxelization of a piece. And for high-detailed minis, special HD resins are recommended. Overall, SLA miniatures are suggested for tabletop wargaming that doesn't require functioning parts.

Miniature 3D printed with Resin


This set of 3D printing technologies works with UV-activated resins. But contrary to vat polymerization methods, it works with droplets of resins, which allows mixing them to get different colors and properties. These advantages make MJ a good method for educational and demonstration models.

Laser Sintering

Powder sintering is usually a professional manufacturing method that relies on sintering nylon-based powders. It is capable of making sturdy and accurate minis free of layer lines. Aside from costly production, laser sintering has some limits to its precision, but overall allows a great quality of figurines. If preceding through sintering, it is a good idea to order a small batch rather than a single piece to save some money as nesting (printing a batch) is usually more cost-efficient. This method should suit action figurines, props, and landscape models.

Chess pieces 3D printed with SLS

3D printed chess set from a personal portfolio of Rapid 3D Parts

Color Jet Printing

CJP technology uses sandstone powder and a binding agent that fuses grains together layer by layer. In the process, inks add color to a part. Through combining several primary colors, these machines commonly deliver a wide range of shades. End results are full-colored, they have a medium quality of details. Compared to other methods, CJP provides more brittle minis. Consider choosing Color Jet Printing for colored landscape models, model figurines that won't be actively used or memorabilia pieces.

Color Jet Printing allows making figurines in full color.

3D print by Make it 3D Manufacturing Center

What Materials to choose for Miniatures

Within each 3D printing technology, there are always several material options. Choosing a suitable one for your mini makes or breaks the results.

FDM Plastic

PLA is one of the most common and user-friendly plastics out there. There are many interesting options available as well as colors. It is one of the best filaments in terms of details, and medium choice in regards to stiffness and temperature resistance. With right post-processing and coating, PLA will be serving you decently.

Other FDM options include ABS, PETG, Wood, and many more. However, these are usually the types of plastic printed with higher temperatures, which raises chances of failures and artifacts such as echoing and warping.

Generic resin

All-purpose resin is a standard photopolymer used. It is easy to find, and it produces fine results in terms of detailing. It is a bit brittle in thinner areas and prone to warping in unsupported small overhangs.

High-detail resins

With a bit different formulation, these resins allow getting more details to come out. Even when a machine’s resolution allows it to go to 25-50 microns precision, other resins may not support that tolerance. HD resins, on the other hand, are designed to allow 3D printing such fine elements.

SLS Nylon

PA 12 is a pretty standard material used in Laser sintering. It combines good detail transition and technical parameters. Other grades of nylon are okay to use for minis, too. Such materials are pa 6, pa 6/69, and more. For miniature printing, composites or flexibles would be a bad choice, so sticking to usual polyamide is the best you can do.


Sandstone is one of the primary materials used in CJP along with powders like gypsum or nylons.

Polyjet polymers

MJ processes use UV-activated polymers close to the resins in SLA and DLP printers. However, these machines are able to combine and blend together different grades of their own polymers to get complex results. Some common materials include Rigid opaque resins and Clear ones, Vero, Agilus, Tango, and more. They can either provide a glossy-looking smooth surface finish or matte texture.

A Quick look on Post-Processing of 3D printed Figurines

All 3D printed miniatures require post-processing and finishing touches, though some may need less work than others. Key steps for all printed figurines are likely to include:

  • Supports removal
  • Sanding
  • Smoothing or Polishing
  • Sealing

For 3D printing processes except for powder-based ones (SLS, CJP), a miniature will probably require cleaning the surface from supporting structures. This process is usually easy but requires accuracy and patience when it comes to small pieces. The main goal is to ensure intricate details will not be damaged. Many 3D printing services offer support removal but can charge an additional fee for smaller models or large quantities since it is a time-consuming task.

Supporting structures can be removed at home as well without much special skills or tools required.

How to Design models suitable for 3D printing

Another step to getting a good-looking miniature is to ensure you have a proper 3D design. Certain metrics and clearance must be included in a model with technology in mind. Thus, it is a good idea to settle on a printing method before making or optimizing a file. Here are some general tolerance guidelines for the mentioned technologies.


  • Try to reduce the number of overhangs and angles less than 45 degrees;
  • Model design details to be larger than 1.15 mm or at least 0.5 mm;
  • Ensure a model's wall thickness of 1.2 mm at least;
  • For text, prefer thicker fonts and opt for 1 mm depth/height for it.

Resin Printing

  • Model figurines hollow if you want to reduce cost;
  • Include escape holes to the design to avoid uncured resin inside your piece;
  • If possible, keep the detail size greater than 0.05mm.


  • Hollow enclosed parts are not possible, thus, include holes or model parts solid;
  • Recommended detail size is bigger than 0.8 mm;
  • Suggested wall thickness is around 0.7 mm - 2.0 mm;
  • For text details, ensure depth/height about 2 mm.

For beginners, it can be a good idea to use someone's designs that were tested for 3D printing before. Or, as an option, you can hire a designer to either create a custom model or rework the one you have on hand to suit the process.

Why should I choose to 3D print miniatures?

3D printing is a good method of getting custom parts in low quantities. With a ready 3D model, turnaround times for printing figurines are also quite short. FDM and DUP printing methods are usually affordable as well. More precise methods have a competitive advantage of accuracy when it comes to thin details and allow to create smaller figurines.

3D printing will not be able to fully replace outstanding handmade miniatures, however, it can serve as a fine alternative or a base for painting and customizing.

How to order 3D printing of miniatures?

There are 2 main options you can use to order 3D printing of miniatures through Treatstock:

If you already have a printable 3D miniature and know for sure what material suits your application, then instant order will probably be the easiest way for you. Navigate to the "Instant Order" button on top of the site and upload your model, choose specifications, and fill in delivery details to get the cost estimation and order 3D prints.

For more complicated models or projects without optimized 3D models, we recommend using the “Get a Quote” option. A quote allows contacting a print service before setting up on a price and specifications. That way you can get help with choosing proper settings and technology to achieve the goals or order additional services like post-processing, painting, and coating.

To search for vendors that offer 3D printing, visit the catalog. This way also helps to find a specific technology like SLA printing service or Material Jetting.

You can also check out design on-demand offers to have a starting point and apply for a 3D model first or find a suitable miniature in our store.

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Marvel and DC movies are everywhere these days. Starwars is never far out of reach. For most of us, to own a piece of these universes is to own an action figure. 

Can you 3d print an action figure? With the correct files, you can print either a static or an articulated action figure. If the design isn’t readily available, you may need to create your own, and that requires some artistic talent.

In the simplest form, you can download an STL file from Thingiverse.ComOpens in a new tab., like this Blastoise Action Figure: in a new tab.. With that STL file, you can bring it into your slicer software, prepare it for your home 3d printer, and then transfer it to the printer. Print away! 

Printing Static Action Figures

When I think of action figures, I think of two types. First, there’s the display action figure that is a miniature model of the subject that I’m interested in. It’s in a pose, but it doesn’t move. Second, there’s the articulated action figure. I grew up in the 70’s where GI Joe was a big deal (and a big deal taller than the later, smaller ones). He was articulated, and could be moved into all sorts of positions. Star Wars action figures were next in my world, and they could at least move arms and legs.

You may be wanting to make a simple display piece for your desk or shelf. If you have a 3d printer already, the process is simple. Have a look at places like Thingiverse.ComOpens in a new tab. or Pinshape.ComOpens in a new tab. for STL files. Do a search on “Action Figures” and you’ll find a lot of examples. Not surprisingly, you won’t find that many Marvel or DC action figures, or Star Wars characters. These are all covered by trademark and copyright laws, and their owners want to control the rights very tightly. If you do find an STL file of an action figure like this, it’s likely being done outside the law. Caveat Emptor, or buyer beware!

Most action figures, even the static ones, come as multi-part models.

Steps to Creating and Painting a Static Action Figure

  • Print each pieces of the STL
  • If you’re using an FDM printer, sand the pieces to remove the layer ridges.
    • On a Resin DLP printer, at 25 micron Z-height, you’ll find that it takes no sanding, or very light sanding to remove these lines.
  • You may wish to paint the parts separately before assembly. 
    • Spray lightly with a primer paint (like a cheap Walmart Krylon White paint)
    • Once dry, spray with the color of paint that you want. Use multiple super-thin coats here. It’s slow, but let each layer dry before spraying the next.
  • Once the pieces are painted, assemble the print using superglue. Usually, less glue is better than more glue. Use the minimum necessary.
  • Once assembled, you may wish to go back and add details to your model. To do this, you would take hobby paint and a fine brush, and paint on any additional details that you’d like.
    • This step is fiddly and difficult for first-timers. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it! Give it a try. If you mess it up, simply wipe away the paint you’ve added. Once the remainder is dry, mask off that area (using masking tape), leaving only the messed up part visible. Respray lightly with the color that was originally underneath. Once dry, you can try again!
  • That’s it! You have a great action figure to put on display!

Posable Action Figures Printed Statically

Posable action figures are what first come to mind when I think of the term “Action Figure”. Again, Thingiverse.ComOpens in a new tab. or Pinshape.ComOpens in a new tab. are great places to find models to print. There are likely more parts to a posable action figure, as these have to have separate pieces for upper and lower arms, upper and lower legs, head and torso at the minimum.

The process is the same as for a static action figure. Print the parts, and prepare them. Sand as necessary. Prime, then paint the pieces before assembly.

Most posable action figures use a snap fit ball-and-socket style connection. These can be troublesome, as they can break during assembly. Press fitting them together can sometimes snap the ball off, so it’s best to do this carefully. If you find that the ball will not go into the socket without excessive pressure, take a rat-tail file and open up the socket some. You will want to do this in stages and test, to ensure that you haven’t made it too loose. 

The worst case is that you’ll have to reprint a broken part or a too loose socket part. It’s good to remember that this isn’t just a model kit that you put together from a box. You created the parts, and you can create them again if you need them. Just remember that it’s not a fast process. It’s unlikely that you can download, print, prepare, paint and assemble a model in a day. With practice, this is very doable, but when starting out, give yourself time to learn and understand. You’ll have more fun that way!

Printing Articulated Action Figures

Theoretically, action figures can be printed already assembled, with their articulation already in place. The balls are printed already inside the sockets as necessary. I haven’t found any files for such already-assembled figures but I’m sure they’re around.

You’ll want to use a good FDM printer for this sort of print. It prints “dry”, or without more curable material around the pieces. If you try this with a resin DLP printer, the model may print, but the parts won’t articulate. The liquid resin can’t escape the ball and socket joints, so when the model cures in UV light, this excess trapped resin hardens too, jamming the ball and socket in one place, unable to articulate. 

Have a look at these excellent action figures that you can print. The Iron Man figure is unbelievable! You do have to be careful assembling these, as the ball joints are very tight (which you want). If you’re using a DLP resin 3d printer, I recommend assembling after cleaning the parts but before UV curing the parts.

Digitally Sculpting Your Own Action Figure

3d CAD software that we use for making boxes, building models and car models is not well suited to creating organic forms. Instead, you’ll want to use a software that allows “Digital Sculpting”. With this style of software, you can create human (or alien) organic shapes. I’m no sculptor, so this is well beyond my comfort zone!

Some helpful softwares are out there. 

  • Maya
  • Autodesk Mudbox
  • Brush
  • MakeHuman

Mastering these software can take some time, and just as with other skills, practice will be key. All of the listed softwares have the ability to export 3d STL files for use with a 3d printer. All that’s left is you, your imagination, and some 3d sculpting to create you own action figure. It’s beyond my skillset, but I’ve seen others do it, and create amazing pieces!

Take a look at the Wikipedia page for MakeHumanOpens in a new tab.. It has some interesting ideas on how to start with a bare-formed human body and push, pull and prod it to make whatever figure you’re wanting.

Scanning Yourself For An Action Figure

Have a look at in a new tab.. This is a service that will create your action figure for you. You’ll have to go to them to get scanned, or find them at conventions that you may be attending! They produce some amazing models, and the best part is that they’re creating you, or more accurately, a mini you! in a new tab. does a similar service, but you can send them your photos. Instead of a full body scan, they’re creating your face on a head, then matching that with an existing body. It means that flabby me doesn’t have to have flabby me action figure. It can be my face on Superman’s torso. That sounds much better! 

These services are expensive. You can get just a head created for under $50 US, but a full body model will cost you $100 US or more! 

Autodesk has created software to convert photos into 3d objects. It takes a lot of photos, but it can work nicely. I’ve seen this done with architecture mostly, but it could be used for people, too. It’s called Photogrammetry and it’s a relatively new technique. Check out in a new tab. and see if it fits your needs.

Services also exist like My3DSelfieOpens in a new tab. that will make 3D print action figures for you. Upload up to four images of the figure of your choice, and you’ll receive it on your doorstep in 3-5 weeks. It too can be a bit expensive, but you’ll find coupons on their website to get a significant discount, so well worth the look! What a cool way to make a birthday or Christmas present! They even do customized wedding cake toppers, so prospective brides and grooms, take note!

Related Questions

How much does it cost to make an action figure of yourself? in a new tab. can create a 6” to 8” model for around $90 US or a 12” model for around $120 US. They come with packaging, and look professional grade.  

Can you 3d Print Anime Figures?

An anime figure is no different than an action figure. It’s just the subject. If you can find the STL files for what you want, then you’re set. Download and print away! If they don’t exist where you can find them, it’s likely because the rights holder of the intellectual property wants to control that likeness and doesn’t want it readily available. In this case, you may need to sculpt your own 3d model for printing.

Honkai Master: the Making of Yae's 3D Print Figure - Honkai Impact 3rd

Tips and Tricks for 3D Printing Your Own Action Figures

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If you’ve ever considered collecting action figures, then you’ve probably realized one thing – they can get very expensive. It’s not uncommon to see highly detailed action figures that cost $200 or more. A collection of these action figures can be considered a small fortune.

One of the joys of owning a 3D printer is that you can just make your own action figures. With some skill, you can even create custom 3D models for printing, so you won’t need to settle for the designs that are available in the market. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, then check out our tips and tricks for getting the best results.

Where to download 3D models

Toy Forge

Every 3D printing project starts with a 3D model. The only question is – where is the model going to come from? If you just want to get to the 3D printing step as quickly as possible, then you can simply download models from any of these sites.

For those who are looking for professional-grade 3D models that were designed specifically for action figures, we have two recommendations. Toy Forge is a relatively new site that hosts high-quality 3D models for action figures. These are some of the most intricate action figure models we’ve seen with a lot of articulation points. The only drawback is that their selection is quite small – right now there are only four unique models.

CGTrader is another good option for downloading professional-quality 3D models. This site hosts a wide range of high-fidelity models with a much wider selection including toys, figures, and architectural models, among others. Not all of the models are ready for 3D printers, so make sure to check the tags before downloading.

Both Toy Forge and CGTrader offer high-quality models at a price. Models generally don’t cost more than $20, but there are a few particularly expensive ones. The quality, however, is almost always top-notch.

If you’re up to paying for a 3D model, then there’s always the ever-reliable and free 3D model hosting sites like Thingiverse and MyMiniFactory. With a huge database of user-submitted designs, just these two sites will ensure that you are never going to run out of new 3D models to print.

Since these models are user-submitted, consistency and quality are not guaranteed. You may have to leaf through several dozen models to find one that you’re satisfied with. Searching for “action figures” or “figurines” would be a good place to start. Just make sure that you’re downloading a 3D model that is 3D printer-ready.

Create your own 3D models

Conversely, you can also create your own 3D models. 3D modeling from scratch is quite a complex process. There are two ways to do this: use digital sculpting software, or 3D scan a real-world object.

Digital sculpting


If you’ve never done digital sculpting before, then it’s going to take a lot of practice before you can come up with something that looks really good. The good news is that there a few software platforms that are decidedly user-friendly and make the learning process easier.

Sculptris is an oft-recommended digital sculpting software for beginners not only because of its intuitive interface but also because you can use it for free. One thing you need to know is that Sculptis is no longer being actively developed and that the last version was released way back in 2011. Thus, many of its features are considered outdated by today’s standards.

Once you’re confident with your digital sculpting skills, then it’s time to graduate to the industry standard – ZBrush. One of the most advanced digital sculpting software platforms today, ZBrush is widely used by professional artists, filmmakers, and game developers. The learning curve of ZBrush is definitely steeper than Sculptris, but that’s only because of its wider array of tools.

If you can manage to become an expert in ZBrush, then you can probably come up with action figures that can rival the level of detail and quality of professional action figure makers.

3D scanning

A faster way to create 3D models is to generate them by scanning real-world models. Although this is certainly a quicker method, there’s still a considerable level of skill needed to prepare a 3D scanned model for 3D printing.

The amazing thing about 3D scanning is that you don’t even need sophisticated equipment for it – even your phone’s camera can do the job. This is possible through a technique called photogrammetry. By stitching together a series of overlapping photos of an object, photogrammetry software infers the dimensions of an object’s features in 3D space. The result is a reasonably accurate 3D model which requires minimal processing.

If you want to use your phone’s camera for photogrammetry, there are several apps that you can download and install. We’ve written about these 3D scanning apps in the past. Our top picks include Trnio, Qlone, and SCANN3D.

Something you should know is that a model from 3D scanning will rarely be good enough for 3D printing without having to make some repairs. Depending on how well you’ve done the 3D scan, the model will almost certainly have multiple defects. These can include misaligned features distortions, and areas where the model is not fully sealed. CAD software will be the best option for making these repairs.

No matter which option you take, there really is no “easy” way to create a 3D model. 3D sculpting and modeling is considered a highly technical craft that requires a combination of training and experience. 3D scanning may be considered a shortcut to creating 3D models but said models are not going to look good without some considerable skill.

Use ABS or PLA filament

When it comes to filament materials for action figures, either of the two most popular 3D printing filaments is equally suitable. Each option has benefits and drawbacks, but they are both easily available. You might even already have spools of these filaments on hand.


GizmoDorks Gold ABS Filament

ABS is known for its strength and heat stability. It doesn’t crack easily, does not warp when exposed to heat, and is fairly stable when exposed to chemicals. If you want your action figure to last a long time, then ABS would be a better bet.

One of our primary reasons for choosing ABS as a material for action figures is the fact that it can be finished by an acetone vapor bath. By exposing an ABS print to dissolved acetone, the outer surface of the print dissolves in a very controlled manner. This results in the disappearance of its layer lines and an overall smoother finish. The acetone vapor method is one of the easiest finishing methods that result in remarkably consistent quality.

The problem with ABS is that it’s not exactly an easy filament to work with. It’s prone to warping, requires very good bed adhesions aids, and emits a particularly noxious gas while printing. If it weren’t for its superior physical properties, we would have little reason to recommend ABS.


PLA isn’t known to be a strong or long-lasting filament. Its impact strength is subpar, it’s vulnerable to chemical attack, and it can easily deform when exposed to heat. However, it remains one of the most popular filament materials because of how beginner-friendly it is. Not only is it one of the more forgiving 3D printing filaments, but it’s also the only plastic filament that is sustainable and completely biodegradable.

Finishing a PLA print will require a more old-fashioned technique – sanding. By using sandpaper of different grit sizes, irregularities on the surface of a PLA print can be removed bit by bit. Take note that sanding too vigorously can generate enough heat to deform PLA, so it’s best to do so using gentle circular strokes. Alternatively, you can also use a wet sanding method which may speed up the whole process.

The advantage of the more traditional process is that it gives you better control of the finished product. Do you want certain sections of your action figure to be rougher than the others? Are there nubs from support structures that you want to remove? With sanding, you can achieve just about any kind of finish for each section of your finished print.

To put it in simpler terms, ABS is better if you want your printed action figures to last longer and be stronger. If you don’t want to handle the complexities of printing with ABS, PLA provides a much easier 3D printing experience. Both filaments provide finishing options that will help your action figures achieve a smoother and more uniform look. As the next step shows, the finishing process doesn’t stop with just a smooth surface.

Polish and paint your finished prints

spray primer from Rust-Oleum

Very rarely would you see an action figure with just a single color. If you’re aiming for a professional look, then you will certainly need to paint your finished prints. This is especially true if you’re trying to create an action figure modeled from a popular cartoon or video game character.

To successfully paint your print, make sure that you’ve gone ahead and sanded it already or finished It with an acetone vapor bath. The next step is to apply a coat of primer, which is meant to enhance paint adhesion. This spray primer from Rust-Oleum is as good an option as any. Make sure to apply the primer in thin and even coats.

Apply at least two coats of the primer, allowing the previous coat to dry before reapplication. The layer of dried primer can also be sanded to retain a smooth surface.

Once multiple layers of the primer have been applied and have dried, you can proceed to apply paint based on your desired color scheme. Spray paint is a good option to achieve uniformity, but you may also need to apply paint using a brush for those small details. In any case, you should not have much trouble. The ease of paint adhesion is also one of the reasons for us recommending either ABS or PLA for this particular enterprise.


If you really want to make your custom action figure pop, then you might need more than just 3D printed objects. How about giving your action figure some clothes or props? Clothes made with a real fabric look best, especially if you’re handy with a needle and some thread. If you’d rather buy miniature clothes from someone who knows what they are doing, then you can check out handmade crafts sites like Etsy.

Props are a little more challenging because they are usually too small to be 3D printed. If you have old action figures lying around, you can consider borrowing some of their props. The model toy community calls this practice “kitbashing.” You may also come across someone on Etsy who is willing to hand-craft some custom accessories for you.

Final thoughts

Creating custom action figures is a huge undertaking. From coming up with a 3D model to fully painting and accessorizing a finished print, a custom action figure isn’t exactly the type of project that you can finish over one afternoon.

Despite the difficulty, creating custom action figures is still one of the most fun things that you can do with a 3D printer. This is especially true if you’re a huge fan of some video game franchise or comic book. By adding a touch of your own creativity, you can create action figures that are truly unique and would make a great addition to any collection.

Warning; 3D printers should never be left unattended. They can pose a firesafety hazard.


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