How To Create Miniatures With 3d Printing For Beginners – A Step By Step Tutorial

I’m going to let you in on a captivating process – the creation of miniatures with 3D printing, specifically for dollhouses and miniatures, on a journey into crafting small-scale furniture, décor, and accessories that bring your dollhouse to life.

I’ll break down the process for you: it starts with planning, where your ideas take shape, followed by using tools like Blender, Meshmixer, or Sculptris, and here’s the good news: they’re widely available for free download.

Make sure to first equip your digital toolbox with these programs to kickstart your miniature-making 3D printing quest, here we go for more details!

Step 1: Getting the Blueprint: From Sketch to a real miniatures or dollhouse


I’m going to lead you through the process of turning your imagination into tangible blueprints for your dollhouse miniatures.

While it’s easy to fall in love with existing miniature designs (and just buy those for your 3D printer), remember, the charm lies in uniqueness.

So go ahead, and explore the designs in dollhouse blogs, and flip through (online) interior design books, or even an Ikea catalog, just don’t directly copy; but let those visuals spark your own creativity and adapt them in specific software.

Design furniture on Ikea.

Think about how the piece will fit into the overall décor. Will it be a centerpiece or a subtle addition? Which dollhouse style will it be, vintage or modern? This step saves time and materials in the long run!

This foundational sketch also acts as the roadmap for the next phase.

It is really important to find the real size measurements of a real scale object like a table or chair before you start modeling it!

Shaping Your Vision: The Art of Blender Basics for miniatures

Think of Blender as the place where you’ll begin the exciting process of turning flat drawings into 3D reality.

We’ll import the sketch into Blender. This step is surprisingly straightforward and exceptionally useful. as you begin to mold the main shapes of your miniature, keeping everything to scale and true to your design.

Design or Find 3D Models:

Use 3D modeling software like TinkerCAD, Blender (in this case), or Fusion 360 to create your own miniature designs.

If you’re not comfortable with designing, you can find ready-made 3D models on websites like Thingiverse, MyMiniFactory, or Cults3D.


Imagine sculpting a tiny chair – where would the armrests curve? How would the backrest weave into the seat? Let us help you answer these questions, allowing you to add definition to your miniature piece by piece.

Today, we’ll learn how to use Blender to build dollhouse furniture, what you need to do is then just use a real scale model and adapt it to a miniature scale.


The tutorial below is based on the video above, let’s go over it step by step, but for more details, please check out the whole video! (it is for real-scale furniture, but you can easily scale it down in Blender, you can just use my scale converter).

Shaping a dollhouse chair in Blender involves both basic commands and artistic vision.

1. Launch and Create:


Alright, now that we’ve got our research and reference materials sorted, let’s dive into the modeling process in Blender. Fire up Blender and start a fresh project. You’ll be greeted by the default scene with a cube, camera, and light – think of it as our virtual stage.

2. Interface Tour:


Take a minute to familiarize yourself with the Blender interface. The 3D viewport is where your creation comes to life, the toolbar houses essential tools, and various panels offer customization options. Don’t worry; we’ll explore these throughout the process.

You can for example switch the metric system (meters and centimeters) to inches, if you want. Just have a good look around!

3. Sketching Our Chair (The Foundation):

Cube Time! Press Shift + A, navigate to “Mesh,” and select “Cube.” This cube is the starting point for our chair.

4. Shaping Up:


Switch to Edit Mode (hit the Tab key). Now, the fun begins! Drag, push, and pull those vertices, edges, and faces to transform the cube into the rough shape of your chair seat. Let your creativity flow; imagine the basic form without sweating over perfect details for now.


5. Adding Dimension and Detail (Bringing it to Life):


Leg it Out! Stay in Edit Mode. Select faces or edges and extrude them outwards to create chair legs and a backrest. This gives our chair some height and character.

Refine, Refine! Use the transformation tools (G for grab, S for scale, R for rotate) to adjust the shape like a virtual sculptor. Remember, good proportions are key to a realistic look.

6. Blending It Smooth (The Finishing Touches):

  • In Object Mode, select your chair and right-click. Choose “Shade Smooth” – this helps eliminate those blocky edges and brings a smoother flow to your design.
  • Subdivide and Conquer: Add a “Subdivision Surface” modifier to your chair. This fancy tool increases the mesh resolution, making everything super smooth. Adjust the subdivision level for your desired effect.
  • Edge Detailing: Time to sharpen things up! In Edit Mode, press Ctrl + R to add edge loops. Slide them around to control edge sharpness and achieve that polished, professional look.
  • Sculpt Mode – Details on Demand: Let’s switch gears and move to Sculpt Mode for some intricate details. This is where you add those special touches that make your chair unique.
  • Brushstrokes and Magic: Experiment with different sculpting brushes for indents, textures, or patterns. Turn on “Dynamic Topology” – it’s like magic, adapting the mesh to your sculpting in real-time!


7. Accessorize Away (Personality Plus!):


Now this part, of course, you don’t need to do this as a miniature creator, because you will obviously have separate cushions and dolls and such, but for diorama creaters, this can be handy!

  • Import Party: Press Shift + A, but this time choose “Import” and select your 3D model accessories (cushions, maybe a tiny doll?). Position them strategically on or around your chair.
  • Blending In: Use the scaling and positioning tools to make your accessories feel like part of the chair, not just stuck on. Imagine them interacting naturally with the design.


8. Scaling to Perfection (Dollhouse Harmony):


Size Matters: Back to Object Mode! Select your chair and use the S key to scale it appropriately. Remember, it should fit seamlessly within your dollhouse world.

Treasure Your Work: Go to “File” and “Save” or “Save As” to keep your amazing creation within Blender.

Would you like to dive deeper into an online tutorial on Blender for beginners? Check out this affordable course on Domestika!


9. Ready to Print?:


When you’re ready to bring your chair to life in the real world, export it as an STL or OBJ file. This is the format most 3D printers understand.

Bonus Tip: Don’t be afraid to experiment! Blender is a vast playground, so explore different tools, modifiers, and techniques to create unique and personalized miniatures.

With the fine details checked off, it’s time to focus on printing..

The Final Touches: Preparing for the 3D Printing Journey


Now that you’ve sculpted and detailed your miniature in Blender, it’s time to bring your vision into the physical world. Ensuring that your design is print-ready is critical, so let’s walk through the export process together.


Here are the general guidelines:

1. Exporting the 3D Model from Blender:

  1. Save Your Blender File:
    • Before exporting, make sure to save your Blender project (.blend file) in case you need to make further edits.
      Double-check that the scale is just right for your dollhouse. It’s easy to overlook, but it makes all the difference!
  2. Choose Export Format:
    • Go to File > Export and select a suitable 3D file format for 3D printing. Common formats include STL, OBJ, or FBX.
  3. Export Settings:
    • Adjust export settings if necessary. For 3D printing, STL is a widely used format. Make sure to check the “Selection Only” option if you want to export only the selected objects.
  4. Export the File:
    • Click “Export” and save the file in a location of your choice.

2. Slicing the Model:

  1. Download Slicing Software:
    • Download a slicing software such as Cura, PrusaSlicer, or MatterControl. These tools convert your 3D model into layers that a 3D printer can understand.
  2. Import the 3D Model:
    • Open the slicing software and import your exported 3D model.
  3. Adjust Print Settings:
    • Configure print settings such as layer height, infill density, supports, and print speed based on your printer’s specifications and the desired print quality.
  4. Slice the Model:
    • Click on the “Slice” button. The software will generate a G-code file, which contains instructions for the 3D printer.


3. Preparing for 3D Printing:

  1. Transfer G-code to Printer:
    • Save the G-code file on an SD card or use a direct connection to transfer it to your 3D printer.
  2. Load Filament:
    • Load the appropriate filament (PLA, ABS, etc.) into your 3D printer.
  3. Calibrate and Level the Printer:
    • Ensure that your 3D printer is calibrated and leveled properly to achieve accurate prints.
  4. Start Printing:
    • Initiate the 3D print using the printer’s control panel or software. Monitor the print progress and make adjustments if needed.

4. Post-Printing:

  1. Remove Print from Bed:
    • Once the print is complete, carefully remove it from the printer’s build platform.
  2. Remove Supports (if applicable):
    • If you used supports during printing, carefully remove them using appropriate tools.
  3. Post-Processing (optional):
    • Depending on your preference, you may perform post-processing steps like sanding, painting or smoothing to enhance the appearance of the printed object.

Summarized, what you need as software for 3D printing miniatures is:

  • Blender: Used for 3D modeling and creating your design.
  • Slicing Software (e.g., Cura, PrusaSlicer): Converts the 3D model into printable layers.
  • 3D Printer Firmware: Built-in software on the 3D printer that interprets the G-code and controls the printing process.


Which materials are best to 3D print dollhouse miniatures?


When 3D printing dollhouse miniatures, especially those that are not (Warhammer) figurines, the choice of materials depends on your specific requirements for detail, durability, and appearance.

Here are some commonly used materials for 3D printing dollhouse miniatures, so you can compare it’s pros and cons:

Material
Advantages
Considerations
Resin
– High detail and smooth surfaces – Realistic finish – Various color options
– Somewhat brittle – May not be suitable for items requiring flexibility or high strength
PLA (Polylactic Acid)
– Biodegradable and environmentally friendly – Easy to print with – Variety of colors
– Not ideal for items subjected to high stress or outdoor conditions
PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol)
– Durable and resistant to moisture and chemicals – Better layer adhesion compared to PLA
– Requires higher print temperatures – May not capture fine details as well as resin
ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)
– Known for strength and durability – Withstands impact and temperature variations
– Emits fumes during printing (requires ventilation) – Requires a heated print bed
Nylon
– Flexible and strong – Suitable for functional components requiring bending or stress
– Requires specific printing conditions – Absorbs moisture from the air, affecting print quality
Wood PLA Composite
– Unique, wood-like finish – Suitable for dollhouse furniture or elements needing a natural appearance
– May have reduced layer adhesion compared to pure PLA

Mostly resin is used in the dollhouse miniature world, but people do choose other materials from this table, as it can depend on the project.

My Final Conclusion

I really hope that you’ve found this guide on how to create miniatures with 3D printing helpful.

Whether you’re a seasoned miniature maker or just starting out, the journey from digital design to 3D printing is a rewarding one.

The reasons why anyone would 3D print miniatures or handcraft them, can be totally different and who am I to judge either of them, right?

Keep experimenting and refining your craft. Remember, your dollhouse deserves the best, and so do you.

Happy printing!

Kind regards,

Lizzy

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2 thoughts on “How To Create Miniatures With 3d Printing For Beginners – A Step By Step Tutorial”

  1. Hi Lizzy,

    Well, thank you for opening my mind up to a whole new world of possibilities! I have to admit that I am not the biggest connoisseur or even particularly knowledgeable in the world of dollhouses or miniatures as such, but the 3D aspect (both the programs, like Blender, and the actual 3D-printing) is super interesting to me. I like to draw, and am slowly moving from strictly traditional (pen and paper) into more and more digital drawing, and the idea of being able to turn something I draw into an actual tangible 3D object sound super fun!
    Thanks a lot for the detailed intro to using the programs. I heard about Blender before, but I never had any idea how it worked. It actually looks pretty straight forward. 🙂
    This is definitely something I will have to dive deeper into! And your site seems like a very good place to start. Thanks again!

    All the best,
    Michael

    Reply
    • Hello Michael!
      I am very glad that I have could help you on your way, and it is very recognizable that there is so much out there that we still can learn and interested in, there are so much possibilities these days in the digital world haha.
      thank you for your comment!
      Kind regards,
      Lizzy

      Reply

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