I see a lot of threads in comic book groups, and other art groups where people are asked what their page rates are or commissions,etc. the same discussions also in the sculpting for 3dprinting groups…🤔 Artists generally look at something they have drawn or made and wonder “how much can I charge for this?”—and feel almost apologetic about asking for money 😅
If you look at it from a different perspective (probably more like a businessman would, if deciding what he has to price it to stay in business…) then you would look at your costs of living first, and a reasonable number that you could live on, and divide that number by the amount of art that you can, or do produce in a year. —if you look at it from that direction, then you may quickly realize that you haven’t even been making minimum wage 😅! Which is probably why most artists are “starving” (or at least keep a lot of ramen in the pantry…)
I sculpt models that I 3dprint , and thought that I could make money selling the STL files for other people to print also…A lot of other artists are also trying to make a living doing this (and several that I know do quite well at it… ) But looking at how much time I generally spend on a sculpture, I really take at least a week from start to finish. And since I can’t actually work at it non-stop, and have to also LIVE, and do other tasks around the house, and not forget that there is the printing,painting, photography, social media, quotes,etc that eat up your time!😅—sustainably, I can sculpt something new every 2weeks, or 2 per month…
So that is only 24 models in a year… But to survive (cost of living) is a a minimum $30,000 per year [if we were to use the $15/hr, $600/week basis]…And honestly, that is just barely enough to survive… A better number to use (and closer to a median for a 3D designer) would be $60,000/year as a goal. 🤔
If I’m only able to sculpt 2 models a month, then I have to somehow sell that work for $5,000 to make the sustainable income… This is not something that I’ve been doing, and I haven’t even really stopped to look at it and realized that I was not pricing my work to support my costs of living. I suspect that I’m not the only artist who has made this error ….
So to “make a living” as a sculptor, I have to sell that sculpture:
To a single person, as in the case of a commission, or a single artwork, for $2,500
Sell a limited edition of sculptures (eg. An edition of 5 sculptures, 3dprinted and hand-painted, for $500 each)
Sell the STL file for $10 to 250 people, or $5 to 500 people, or $1 to 2,500 people….
I haven’t been doing anything like this. 😟
I do have an hourly rate that I use when quoting 3D design work, which IS sustainable (as a freelancer a good rule of thumb is to charge 3 times what you would be paid for the same job as an hourly employee ), but When I ventured into sculpting models and miniatures for 3dprinting I didn’t do any analysis of this…I just put up my Patreon page like everyone else and hoped to see enough subscribers to make it somehow work! This is the “magical thinking” that I have been guilty of, regarding my art….
And to make matters worse (for me personally), I feel very vested in the things that I create. ..My whole identity is wrapped up in it…so that if you like my art, then you must like me 😀! And if you don’t like my art, then you don’t like me 😭!
So if I have a Patreon that only brings in $500/month (and I do 🙄) I emotionally feel like what I do has no value…and I have no value 😢….No wonder I’m depressed!
I had a few comments about my paint job on these gnomes, so I thought I would post some step by step pictures of the process, in case that would be helpful to you as you paint your own…
If you have any printing errors, the first thing you will do is fix them if you can. Sometimes you might have partial print failure (if a support gets knocked over) and it could leave you with a missing portion of your model. If you have something like a layer shift while printing, you can separate with the putty knife and glue it back together. I have even used a wood-burning tool to weld PLA pieces together or smooth out a rough print!
Sometimes rather than fix it, it might work even with the print failure–This Gnome had a support fail, which left a portion of the shield missing. Rather than try to fix it, I thought that it looked like it could be battle damage, and decided to just go with it!
The first step that I did with these gnomes was to apply a surface primer. I don’t know if it is really necessary, but since my silver metals will be drybrushed over it, I decided to use a black primer.
The chainmail texture printed very cleanly! All It needs is a little metalic paint drybrushed across the links. The goal here is to not have much paint on your brush so that it will only hit the raised areas, and leave the black showing in the crevices. This paint is Folk Art metallics–the other colors that I will use are Apple Barrel and Deco Art–It is about 50 cents for a 2 oz bottle at Walmart.
I will go section by section and paint a solid color for each item. Often I will go over an area with two coats to try and get an even coverage.
After the base colors are dry, I mix up a wash of black and brown thinned with Acrylic thinner. I think that using acrylic thinner gives a better result than just thinning with water. After the wash was dry, I painted the dark parts of the eyes with a tiny brush.
The next coat of paint is done with the same colors as the first coat. You can also add a couple of drops of glaze medium into your color to thin it, if you want to build up the color. In this step, I want to bring the color and saturation of the original color out, while leaving the recesses dark. Don’t paint over all of the wash that you’ve done, but let your bright color blend into it. You can use wet blending to soften the transition into your recesses. Even the armor and other metallic areas will get a second drybrush coat.
When I’ve finished the second pass of colors, I will go into the details like the eyes, and add the iris color and specular highlights.
The last step is to add a gloss varnish to the eyes and lips. And maybe a satin varnish to other shiny areas.
After Painting, your Gnomes are ready for the Garden!
If you would like to 3dprint and paint your own set, you can get the STL files at Cults3D
Sometimes you will wait all day for your 3D Print to finish, only to find that some areas of the geometry where parts are long and thin are weak and liable to break… In this example of my Guardin’ Gnome, the first print, though it looked great, was fragile at the sword blade. The the layer cross-section of the blade is weak because the bonds between layers are not as strong as the perimeter. [This was printed on a Creality Ender3, an FDM style printer]
The second time that I printed this model, I oriented the blade so that it was horizontal to the build plate. As the layers are build up, the extruder lays down a perimeter of plastic that outlines the entire blade. This will make the sword very strong and not prone to breaking.
The second print turned out much stronger for the sword. Though, because the back side had to be supported, there is a lot more cleanup and sanding required. On both versions, there were some details that failed, (due to partial support failure) that I will have to fix with a little Green Stuff (modeling putty)….
Below are some other Gnomes (The little ones (28mm scale) are printed in resin on a SparkmakerFHD).
I hope that this tip will be useful for you, if you have a long thin part that you are worried will break.
I had this idea that I thought would look pretty cool: Gnomes for D&D, bust sculpted in the style of Garden Gnomes! Where they typically have a pointed cap, I would keep that shape, but make it a pointed helmet. This was a series of sketches that I made the next morning when I woke up with the idea…
After I sculpted a few, I decided to make a “Garden-Sized” version for the yard! The mini is printed on my SparkmakerFHD and the big version on my Ender3.
I am sculpting some more for my Patreon for next month, but if you would like to get these you can buy on Cults3D:
One of the most intimidating things for new users about 3Dprinting resin miniatures is adding supports. But actually it is pretty simple!
There has been a few requests on Facebook groups that artist should provide the models pre-supported, but I will try to explain why that is not a good idea and demystify the process….
When you are 3Dprinting in resin, the model is printed upside down. The build platform dips into a vat of UV light sensitive resin, and the layers are exposed from underneath.
So the trick with supports is to keep them small enough that they are easy to remove (usually with tweezers), but strong enough that they don’t break during the lifting process between layers.
If the supports don’t hold, you may find the build plate with only supports, while your miniature is just a silhouette at the bottom of the vat of resin!
The first thing that you may think is that the supports are too thin, and that you should use medium or heavy supports, but that is not the problem…
The reason that the support failed is the exposure setting!
The default exposure for this printer is 8 seconds/layer. But on the bottom layers on the build plate it is much higher–that is why the support raft is successfully printed, while the model was dropped. The resin was not cured enough to pull the next layer off of the FEP film (at the bottom of the vat).
Not all printers and not all resins have the same exposure settings. In this case I was using Anycubic Grey resin with a SparkmakerFHD. The default settings for exposure are calibrated to the resins that are formulated for it.
I found a table online for Anycubic resins with the proper exposure settings, and changed that setting in the Chitubox slicer.
In this example, the supports are the same. But the successful print on the right had two more seconds of exposure per layer. That made the supports strong enough to hold on to the model.
Editing “Auto Supports”
Adding supports is as easy as one-click! But after Chitubox generates supports, you need to look at the result to see if you like it. There could be areas that still require support or there may be supports that are not needed.
Though I have set this to Light Supports, I have modified the diameter of the supports to be even smaller… The default diameter is .8mm with .3mm contacts. This is still too heavy for 28mm miniatures, so I have been experimenting with .6 (or .5) diameter with .2 contacts!
There are some heavy pillars running between the arms in this example. for some reason, there is no taper, and they are going to be difficult to remove without damaging the miniature… So, I have selected the removesupport button and selected them–clicking the button again removes them.
After deleting the supports that I didn’t like, I used the Add button to create some new ones. If you only click the same spot, it will give you the same result as Auto… Instead, Add the new support to an existing support pillar–then use Edit support to drag it to a new spot, adjust the height, and drag the tip to a new target!
With this delicate balance between resins, support diameters and exposure settings, calibrating your printer requires a few experiments to get it “just right”. But once you have figured it out, supporting a model is very simple.
Here is an example of a miniature printed at different scales. One size is for tabletop play, and the other is for display. If the model were pre-supported, the supports would be much thicker and heavier when scaled up! In my opinion, it is better to scale the model and support it in your slicer. It also gives you the freedom to print with FDM or SLA style printers.
This is a new mini that I sculpted last month for my Patreon. I had done the illustration as an “art test” for Wyrd Miniatures, and later decided that I would sculpt it too, as it would make an awesome mini for D&D–especially with Descent into Avernus campaign setting.
The name “Porkus” was a little nod to the Demon-Prince “Orcus” which was a big villian in AD&D when I was a teenager… I started with a ZSphere armature in ZBrush2020 and sculpted the model, giving him a meat cleaver as a weapon.
After finishing the model, I 3Dprinted it on a SparkmakerFHD resin printer. Which is a type of printer that I talked about in an earlier post.
The model is available to all patrons, but if you would like to print it for your campaign, the .STL file is available for $5 on Cults3D
I have been pushing my STL files on Patreon, trying to get enough supporters to sculpt minis full time. If you have a 3D printer, you can get access to my back catalog of 3Dprintable miniatures for only $9.95!
A couple of users have asked me for a guide to laying out their PuzzleLock Sewers to match the example in the product video. I can see how it could be a little confusing until you have enough tiles printed out to be able to play with it and see how you can configure it.
In the video, you can’t really see all of the puzzlelock connections. This is a good thing–unless you are having to freeze frame to figure it out… So here are some call outs for the pieces you need to configure the large area that I show leading to a large arch inspired by the “Cloaca Maxima” of the sewers of ancient Rome.
The normal passageway through the sewers is 6″ across. The “wall” sections (3 types) have a 1″ wide ledge that would be the walkway when the sewers are full of water. Between the walls is a 2″ square tile. There are bridge tiles that can cross the entire span, and “end” tiles that can cap off a passage:
The Sewer_Column_A and Sewer_Column_B should be places symmetrically across from each other on a passageway to create the impression of an arch across the passage (though the height of all pieces is cut off at 70mm).
I hope this is helpful! If you have not purchased the .STL files they are available here for only $19.95
SparkmakerFHD was a Kickstarter that I backed last year, for a low cost resin printer. Though I had vowed never to pledge on another 3d printer kickstarter again, I couldn’t resist… I worried when it didn’t ship when anticipated, but eventually it arrived!
I had never used a resin printer before, so I was a little intimidated. I read through the manual a couple of times before I began. I bought nitrile gloves and lots of isopropyl alcohol, and watched some YouTube videos. Eventually, I overcame my fear and turned it on!
For my first print, I loaded up some of the miniatures that I had sculpted for my Patreon into Chitubox (the slicing software), used “Auto supports” and clicked SLICE.
I assumed that I would get some failures, and that I would use that experience to learn how to improve my prints. But when I came back and checked on it a couple of hours later, it was done printing and everything came out perfectly!
When I had first shown these designs on Facebook, someone said that the weapons would be too thin, and these same models uploaded to Shapeways got flagged as unprintable, because the blades and crossbow strings violate their minimum feature sizes…
I have had some experience with Shapeways, because I was one of their Designers-For-Hire and had done some contract modeling for them as part of their Design with Shapeways service… Their minimums are put there to make sure they they never have a problem (and have to reprint or refund), so they are meant to play it safe (for Shapeways)…
But as you can see, the blades and crossbow strings printed just fine.
My next print was to see how big I could go, so I scaled up Conan the Cimmerian to 120mm and let it print overnight. I added some more resin to the tank before I went to bed (I was paranoid that it would run out).
I was totally impressed with how this turned out! This is on a resin printer that was only $250 on Kickstarter (it is $349 on their website)
Now that I’ve got this printer, I am thinking that I can use it to produce physical miniatures for sale. The level of detail that can be achieved is far superior to what can be done with injection-molding. There is no tooling cost, and no inventory, everything is print-on-demand.
I’m weighing this idea vs just selling .STL files, since even though it is pretty simple to do, there are many more gamers and painters who would rather just buy a mini, rather than printing it themselves.