Setting up a 3D printer for the first time is pretty exciting, and if you’re anything like us, your first prints as you started to learn the ropes were likely some test items or free files that you found from a place like Thingiverse. While there are totally some very cool offerings that way, sooner or later you’re going to want to harness the true potential of your new machine, especially if you are printing for tabletop, cosplay, and hobby painting purposes. That means, eventually, you’re either going to learn to design files or buy files from creators.
It was about a year ago that we started truly collecting a library of STL files from some amazing creators. Many creators can be found via places like Kickstarter for bigger campaigns or Patreon. MyMiniFactory is also a great choice as its features include a built-in Patreon-like system as well as crowdfunding abilities.
I’m a big fan of buying files from creators when it’s not a skill I have. Not only do I get some truly awesome and unique minis, but I’m a firm believer in supporting artists for their work. Many creators do offer merchant licenses to 3D printing shops in case you do not have a printer of your own, and you can find quite a few of these shops on Etsy. I want to strongly encourage you to read the shop policies and item descriptions, though. A number of printers do sell without a license, but those that are fairly supporting the original artists will usually indicate that they are licensed to sell from certain creators.
Over this past year, we’ve found a number of creators I would happily recommend to others—especially those newer in the hobby who are looking to get started. Some are better suited for FDM printing than others, and I will note that accordingly. I would also like to note that not one of these creators has contacted me for a review in any way, shape, or form. All of these recommendations come from our personal experiences.
Fat Dragon Games
This is probably the best place to start with terrain, especially if you have an FDM printer. Fat Dragon Games is a well-known name, and their profiles for printing settings are hands-down the ones I see referenced for any FDM printing purposes. They are also behind the Dragonbite System, a printable link that allows you to connect terrain pieces together. They’re stewards of tabletop terrain—they go back to printable terrain before 3D printers were more accessible—and after 17 years, they know their stuff. Many of their new launches are available via Kickstarter like the Realm of the Goblin King Collection (currently live).
What makes them a must-have? Their terrain sets are modular and cover common needs like forests, dungeons, cities, and castles. You can print the exact pieces you need to build the setup you want, and thanks to the Dragonbite clips, you can rearrange pieces according to your requirements. When we first printed the Tower of Terror, I loved that it felt like I was picking a home remodel based on which flooring or stairs I wanted. My husband has since gone back and printed some pieces I can swap out to make the tower look more like ruins. I have seen quite a few dioramas with minis from other creators that clearly have terrain bases from Fat Dragon Games.
Prices vary per collection and can often be purchased in smaller sets. Prices range from $1.99-$24.99.
Vae Victis Miniatures
Creators Mathilde and Jonathan from France do monthly releases through MyMiniFactory. If Fat Dragon Games is the place to go to for modular terrain that is most commonly requested, Vae Victis is what I recommend for minis. Many of their collections feature common miniatures that you would want for NPCs. Generic thugs, cultists, guardsmen, knights, gnolls, etc.
The best part is that last year they designed their models to make these figures modular within their many collections, so you can easily create some variety. On top of the modular figures, their monthly releases include some pre-created minis with modular bits, some unique characters, and some terrain bits. They may not be as crazy detailed as some of the makers out there, but their stuff hits a great balance of having good details without being too overwhelming for new painters. I’ve subscribed to them for over a year and have been very pleased with what I have received. Terrain can be FDM printed, but I recommend resin printing for the figures and small bits.
The price is $10 a month with the first month containing a Welcome Pack, and the previous collections can be purchased for a higher price via MyMiniFactory (though subscribers do get previous collection discounts).
Props & Beyond
Do you want life-size props for cosplay or just because it’s awesome? Props & Beyond is the first place you should look. Their stuff can be FDM or resin printed, although some projects might be easier done one way or even by FDM printing the big part and resin printing the smaller detailed bits. They’ve had two large Kickstarters as well as doing a monthly prop drop usually around a particular theme. All items include a 5e Item Card and many prop names will be familiar to those of you who play D&D.
We printed one of the spellbook containers ourselves on our FDM printer, as well as a caltrop via our resin printer. Honestly, I want to print out, like, a zillion more, items but there’s always an insane wait list at our house for the printers. Their props include things like wearable pieces, weapons, fun magic items, puzzle boxes, and wall decor. As a bonus, their site also includes step-by-step tutorials for how to get certain effects while painting (like wood, leather, glass, etc).
Price is $9.99 a month with the first month containing a Welcome Pack. Previous drops can be purchased for a higher price via their site (and subscribers do get previous collection discounts).
If crazy details are what you want, Loot Studios is likely the group for you. Each month, their collection revolves around a particular theme. While some are more specific than others, the range of what you get is huge. Each month Loot Studios drops a selection of highly detailed hero characters and NPCs in two sizes (32mm and 75mm), busts, terrain with scatter, and some form of prop item along with a 5e adventure.
If you want to paint items as a hobby and not just for your table, these are the models that let you really show off your skills. If you want something amazing for your tabletop, their large terrain pieces are crazy stunning. My personal goal is to work our way up to printing The Lady Harpy, a large multi-level pirate ship.
You’ll want a resin printer for the figures and small bits, and many people have painted the terrain pieces on resin printers as well. Others print the terrain via FDM or split it with the big terrain on the FDM and smaller bits on a resin printer. There’s so much cool stuff and large terrain pieces that I’m pretty sure Loot Studios has been responsible for quite a few secondary printer purchases. Their subscriber-exclusive Facebook Group is also a huge asset for printing advice and troubleshooting as well as being very welcoming to those new to the hobby.
Their price is $15 a month per bundle—they offer both fantasy and sci-fi options—with the first month containing a Welcome Pack. Previous collections can be purchased for a higher price via MyMiniFactory, but subscribers get a discount on old bundles via their site and access to exclusive bundles.