It is indeed very exciting, cool, and fulfilling to create your own 3D printed miniatures. Not only is this more cost-effective, but also, you can customize and create your own designs.
Whether you need miniatures for your war game battlefield, create characters and figurines, recreate a scenery, or build an architectural model, fine details are absolutely important in FDM printing small-scale models.
Hence, in order to get the details right, you need to select the right set of filaments. In this article, we’re going to discuss the following to get the job done:
- Best types of filaments for printing miniatures
- Filament brands for small-scale FDM printing and where to buy them
7 Best 3D Filaments for Miniatures According to Filament Types
The type of 3D printer filament you would choose depends on how you will use your miniature.
For example, if you are thinking of making a war game component that would go through a lot of handling, then you need a tough filament. PLA+, ABS, or Carbon Fiber filaments can be good choices.
If you want to make miniatures for a display-only diorama or a collector’s item kind of model, you’d be focusing more on the intricate details than its strength. In which case, you can choose PLA or multicolor filaments. You’d also be considering the filament cost and affordability of the materials.
Below, we elaborate on each filament type and where you can best use them.
Top 3D Printer Filaments for Miniatures
Why it’s awesome
Price Range per Spool
Best Filament for Fine Miniature Details
PLA+ or PLA Premium
Photo credit: Cubic Technology
$20 to $35
Best for Dimensional Accuracy
Photo credit: Monofilament Direct
$15 to $27
Best for Moving Game Parts
Photo credit: Monofilament Direct
$15 to $27
Best for Tough & Lightweight Minis
Carbon Fiber Filament
Photo Credit: Sunlu
$30 to $60
Best for Colorful Display Figurines
Multicolor/Rainbow PLA Filament
Photo Credit: Sunlu
$25 to $40
Best for 3D Printed Aquarium Minis
Photo credit: Overture
$23 to $40
Review for Each Filament Type for 3D Printing Miniatures
1. PLA+ Filament or PLA Premium
PLA+ is the best filament minis if you’re using an FDM printer. The “Plus” features an extremely enhanced quality and strength needed for 3D printing finer details. You’ll also better prevent tangling and warping during extrusions.
If you want to print in small scales such as the 28mm, 34mm or 56 mm dungeons, dragons and war game tanks and terrains, we recommend using PLA+ among others. It’s also quite easy to use like the PLA filament and it’s affordable.
PLA+ usually has a melting temperature between 205 °С to 230 °C and a glass transition temperature from 54°С to 58°С. It also doesn’t emit plastic fumes and is safe for the environment.
- More manageable than PLA
- Less stringing, warping and tangling than PLA
- Still on the affordable scale
- Best for printing detailed structures and figurines
- Better surface color and smoother finish than standard PLA
- Refined mechanical properties such as strength and durability
- Shorter lifespan than ABS
- Processing of 3D printed miniature more difficult than ABS
2. Standard PLA or PLA
PLA is the most common, economical filament for 3D printing simple figurines, markers and small-scale 3D models. For beginners, we highly recommend trying on PLA for printing your first set of 3D printed tabletop minis and war games.
PLA is advantageous when it comes to price and ease of printing. It doesn’t need a high printer bed temperature and doesn’t easily warp. What’s more, it doesn’t emit a foul smell when printed and it’s made from a plant-based material (corn starch).
Although PLA is just fine for printing minis and d&d terrains, you might want to stir clear from using it for printing game pieces that would go through a lot of handling. PLA is not as durable as ABS, PLA+ or PC.
So we recommend using this type of filament for printing display figurines, trees, terrains and collectibles that will not be shaken or beaten up that much.
PLA filaments are available in 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3mm.
Related: PLA Filament Guide
- Easy to use, budget-friendly
- Most common material used in 3D printing
- Less durable than ABS
Although it’s not as 3D printing-friendly as PLA, ABS does a great material for FDM printed miniatures. ABS is generally more durable and less brittle than PLA and PLA+. ABS and PLA belong on the same boat of being in the affordable range.
However, it is generally more difficult to print with ABS than PLA. You may encounter some difficulties in fine-tuning your 3D printer to make failure-free prints.
The tricky part is avoiding warping by maintaining a stable and high temperature on the print bed.
ABS filament do have some advantages when it comes to printing minis and small-scale models. In terms of post-processing, you can easily post-process ABS parts by acetone vapor smoothing, which is much easier than sanding PLA.
ABS parts are also tough and ideal for printing moving vehicles such as miniature cars or tanks and Orcs that will be moved a lot. Like PLA, ABS is available in a wide color spectrum.
ABS are available in 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3mm.
- Tough and hard to break
- Easy to post process
- Ideal for printing tabletop minis which will be frequently moved
- Highly stable
- More difficult to print
- Issues with temperature management
- Prone to warp or curl
- Emits foul odors
4. Carbon Fiber Filament
If you want to print really strong 3D printed miniatures, this filament will do. Carbon Fiber filament is a PLA plastic added with carbon fibers to get excellent features and properties. This filament is biodegradable and non-toxic, which gives it added value.
Although it costs more than standard ABS and PLA, it’s a good filament to choose if you want to print intricate models and miniatures without sacrificing robustness. Another plus is its lightweight considering how strong the material is.
Other plus features of carbon fiber filament is its high stiffness, high temperature tolerance, great layer adhesion and low thermal expansion. This means you can most likely stir clear from shrinkage of parts while cooling. Hence, it’s great for printing extremely fine details.
Carbon Fiber filaments are available in 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3mm.
- High stiffness and tensile strength
- Great for printing tough objects but still lightweight
- You may need to use stronger nozzles such as hardened steel nozzles
- Clogging issues may occur
5. Rainbow/Multicolor Filament
If you’re looking into printing small-scale models with an amazing multicolor, silky smooth finish, try rainbow gradient filaments. Multicolor filaments contain a large spectrum of colors as it transitions every 13m to 20m depending on the brand. For example, a spool may contain red to orange to green to yellow to blue to purple colors.
Most rainbow-colored filaments are usually PLA-based, which makes it easy to use and print. Unlike the conventional way of switching extruders or having a multi-extrusion system to print in multicolor, rainbow filaments make it so easy to print colorful 3D printed figurines.
However, its downside is that you won’t have definite control over the transition of colors per layer. This means that while you can control the layer thickness or infill settings to manage the gradient output, it’s difficult to visualize how the finished product will actually look like.
But overall, rainbow filaments are perfect for displaying figurines and miniature models for its beautiful aesthetics and eye-catching color gamut.
- User-friendly multicolor printing
- Less plastic wastage than changing filaments on single extrusion systems
- Easier to use than a multi-extrusion system
- Fantastic color transitioning with a great silky finish
- Incalculable color transitions and outlook
6. Wood Filled Filament
Wood filament is great for 3D printing life-like miniatures of trees, dice trays, barns, the sheriff’s office, and other wooden-inspired miniature models. The wood-filled filament is a composite of PLA base and wood dust, cork, and special derivatives. The end product gives your design with realistic rough wooden texture and look.
Do note that printing with wood filament is a little tougher as you would probably need larger nozzles than a 0.4 nozzle. It’s also very prone to stringing, which means there’s a lot more time taken in post-processing your finished product.
We do recommend using wood filaments for larger than 28mm scale miniatures as printing very tiny details with wood filaments may not be visible after post-processing.
- Less abrasive than carbon fiber
- Great for 3D printed wood miniatures
- Has a pleasant smell
- Stringing can be unpleasant unless it’s part of your design
- May need larger nozzles
- Can easily clog smaller nozzles
7. PETG Filament
Finally, we have PETG – Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol, which we recommend the best for 3D printing aquarium minis. PETG is the safest 3D printer filament currently available. It’s often used as food decorations and food packaging as long as it’s labeled as FDA-approved.
This non-toxic and food-safe filament is also good in repelling water (hydrophobic), which makes it great for aquarium decorations. So if your hobby is designing fish tanks with awesome terrains or wonderful aquamarine sceneries, consider PETG filament.
What’s more, it’s a strong filament with low shrinkage and it’s not brittle, making it also ideal for printing durable and long-lasting models.
As for ease of use, PETG is generally seamless to 3D print with. You wouldn’t need an enclosure and a heated bed. It also comes with a complete spectrum of colors. However, its major drawback is it usually sticks to the nozzle while printing. Printing PETG can also damage your nozzle due to the high-temperature requirement.
- Food-safe and nontoxic
- Durable, high strength for creating long-lasting models
- Not brittle
- Sensitive when it comes to under extrusions
- May burn your nozzle especially if it’s made of brass
- High bed temperature requirement
Considering the Type of Miniature
Landscapes and Terrains
When building landscapes and terrains, material cost is usually the main consideration. PLA is the most common filament to use for 3d printed D&D terrains and wargaming fields. You can also use PETG (especially for aquariums).
Ideally, you’d want to print your landscapes and terrains using large volume printers with 300×300, 400x400mm build plates, but you can also make use of a 200mm x 200mm 3D printer.
28mm to 54mm Figurines and Miniatures
There’s a common notion that SLA printing is a better choice when printing these types of figurines. Although there’s some truth to it, you can actually use filaments with great dimensional accuracies to make detailed minis.
Plus, resins are actually more expensive than filaments. So for printing 54mm and up miniatures, we recommend PLA+ or PLA Premium. You can also use ABS, PETG, and special filaments such as Multicolor PLA.
Ready to print your first 3D printed tabletop wargames minis and scale models? We hope this filament guide helped you consider which filaments to buy for your first/next 3D printed miniatures.