Home Forums General General Engineered v. Sculpted Miniatures?

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    I tend to think of digitally mastered and printed miniatures as being “engineered” v. hand “sculpted”.
    I’ve worked with both processes, and find that my feeling about those things that I create with my hands, involve a different “feeling” both in the creation of a the master, and towards the final product.

    I find that this feeling carries over to miniatures.  Basically, I have a different emotional attachment toward miniatures that are the product of hand sculpting, than of digital production. This feeling is so strong, that I find that I lose interest in miniatures that are digitally created.

    One is a passionate, artistic creation; while the other is a dispassionate thing.

    I know it is silly, but it is there, and I can’t shake it.  Does anyone else get affected by the manner in which a miniature is produced?

    Mr. Average

    I own and enjoy both kinds. Personally, for fantasy figures, of which I don’t have a ton but have been getting into lately (cheers, Microworld 6mm!) I like hand-sculpted as they feel more loose and characterful to me. For sci fi, especially 3mm sci fi, I’ve found that CAD and hand-sculpts coexist very well, though CAD definitely has the edge in detail and definition as sculpting tools can only get so small.

    Darkest Star Games

    I understand how you feel IrishSerb.  When I do things by hand I feel like I have more emotionally invested in the creation.  Less so when I make things in 3d.  In fact, sometimes I feel like 3d is cheating!

    A few months ago I hand built a model for an architectural client because they wanted a display piece that was “nice and made out of wood for that classic look”.  I really enjoyed making it, sawdust and all.  Took about 60 hours, with removable roof, viewable interior with furniture, landscape and all.  Later the same client had a brain storm and asked us to make a smaller version that could be “somehow reproduced” to give out like a paperweight to whomever.  Knocked together a 3d model, little base, etc, and had it printed up to show.  They loved it, and now they are having 2 dozen printed up to give away.

    I am really attached to the wood model, it is a thing of beauty that I put a lot of heart into.  The 3d printed model felt like just something I did.  It’s cool, but I do not feel the same pride as the wood model.


    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."


    I too agree that hand sculpted has a character to it. For some reason I feel attached to every imperfection on a hand sculpt while on 3D models it feels like a design flaw.

    Brian Handley

    why would you hand sculp?  Slow and a one off or needs lots of extra work to cast.  Only worth it if you want to make hundreds.   I CAD sculpt simple figures and vehicles, much better than the old days, trying to find stuff to canabise and then you only get one.   Perhaps its just who you are and how you view life and the digital age.



    Having cast from printed and from hand sculpted masters, I have found printed to cost more to get to market.

    Gone Fishing

    Count me as another who far prefers hand sculpting. They have far more personality. Digital sculpts, on the other hand, always end out looking like department store mannequins. Having said this, how nice that these days both preferences have ample choices to indulge in!


    My experience is sort of the opposite of Brian Handley’s.  I can hand master something like a 1/100 Pz III to a pretty high standard in something like half the time it takes our machines at work to print the same, and after printing, there will be finish work on the printed version, that my hand mastered model will not need.  that would usually be the case for gaming type products.  It goes back and forth though as to which is faster or cheaper on a per project basis, dependent on the specific details and requirements of the item being made.

    As far as my hobby preference , it is simply irrational.

    With a vehicle or piece of equipment, it is not as obvious, but I have seen some beautifully detailed human figures, digitally modelled, and all of the figs were the same 50th percentile body, same face, in a different pose or with a different weapon.  No soul, just the cheapest path to a profit margin.  In my case, gaming is a passionate pursuit.  Nice figures with no soul, means no sale.

    Angel Barracks

    With my old 6mm I preferred digital sculpts for vehicles.
    The lines are neater and cleaner, recessed detailing much nicer and so on.
    But if being cast from metal they cost more than a hand made model.

    The issue myself and many others have/had, is that whilst a digital sculpt may be cheaper than a physical sculpt you then need to print it.
    I would use a mid-range printer (cost the guy £50,000) and the printed model would have some striation.
    So once sculpted and printed at a mid-price the costs were about the same as a physical model.
    However pretty much every printed model would not take in a conventional mould.
    It would react with the rubber and not give a good mould.
    So in order to combat this either the model needs to be coated in a substance which would hide some of the details but seal it, or you could make a resin version of the printed master and that would be used to cast the moulds from.

    It is this extra resin master that tipped the cost higher than a traditional sculpt.

    I did look into printing from a material that could go straight into a normal spin casting mould but the price was such that it was cheaper to go hand made.

    So I have not had any experience of it being cheaper when making models for production spin casting.

    As for soulless people, that depends on the sculptor I feel.
    I agree that digital renders give that effect, but once painted they can look as cool as normal hand made figures.

    When you can print a 15mm person, with no printing lines at all, and from a material that can go straight into a mould cheaper than a traditional sculpt I will be interested.
    But as of yet no-one has been able to offer me that.

    Darkest Star Games

    The 2 things about 3d miniatures of people that a lot of digital sculptors have difficulty with are proportion and pose.  We often complain about how hand sculpted figures look chunky or have huge heads and hands, but there is a reason for all of that.  The first few 3d figures at 1/100 scale I made were of human proportion, and they looked dang weird, with super skinny little legs and tiny heads and hands.  You couldn’t even see the fingers.  They just looked wrong, despite being perfectly right.  A lot of artists do the same thing.  Looks perfectly good on the screen, but when it gets printed often it just doesn’t look right.  And since prints are expensive, many do not go back and fix this issue.

    As for pose, a lot of figures are either too static, though easy to cast, or in some crazy pose that looks cool but is a real pain to mould and cast.  A lot of the time this is the same issue as the proportions; it looked right/good on the screen, just didn’t translate well to print.  So that’s an advantage of hand sculpting: you can see instantly what the final product really looks like.

    I do plan on having a bunch of 3d printed figures made, mostly as they will be multiple poses of the same armored dudes, some with different weapons.  I already have some cyborgs, but they aren’t quite ready for moulding yet, me thinks (weapons too thin, and poses a bit too tough to mould).  A few little changes and they should work a treat.

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."


    I’m interested in seeing your figures. I have thought about modeling a character with equipment variants but never went ahead with it.

    Tired is enough.
    R-rated narcissism

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