Home Forums General General What to expect when expecting to produce your own miniatures?

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    Avatar photoRhoderic

    I’m slowly, slowly working my way up to maybe, maybe commissioning and producing my own miniatures at a “vanity business” level. Some facts and figures Mike has mentioned recently in the Crom’s Anvil thread and in other conversation have piqued my curiosity to continue exploring this avenue. I may have asked some of these things before but if so it was a long while ago, and it’s one of those subjects where one may learn more by asking again.

    So, while I have some insight into the industry already, I’ll present these questions in as beginner-level a form as possible: What’s the typical process of having miniatures commissioned, moulded and cast? What are the alternatives at each stage of the process (e.g. vulcanised rubber moulds vs. silicone moulds, and metal vs. polyester resin vs. premium polyurethane resin) and what do they entail in practical terms? What are the typical costs at each stage of the process?

    These questions are mainly about producing figures and small-scale vehicles, as opposed to large things like 28mm vehicles, but any and all insights on anything in the general area of miniature production at a “vanity business” / “garage industry” level are welcome.

    Do note however that I’m not at all interested in getting my own spincaster or anything of that sort. I’m talking about having the moulding and casting done by professionals in the industry.

    Avatar photoAngel Barracks

    So the cost of making a pack of figures:

    Let us assume you are starting with 5 figures.
    My 6mm ones cost £20.00 per figure to get the greens sculpted.
    £100.00 for the greens.

    You have decided that they will be sold in packs of 10 and each pack has 2 of each figure in it.
    A production mould (used to cast the figures that get sold) holds 30 models.
    So a production mould will yield you 3 packs.

    But you first need to make the production mould and you need 30 figures to fill it up.
    Now you only have 1 of each sculpted so you need to make copies of the greens to fill the production mould.

    So you make a master mould first.
    The master mould has the 5 figures you had sculpted in it.
    £60.00 for a master mould.

    The master mould is spun 6 times, you now have the 30 figures you need to put into the production mould. (the 5 models spun 6 times)

    The production mould is made from these 30 masters.
    £60.00 for the production mould.

    So Costs:

    £100.00 greens
    £60.00 for the master mould
    £60.00 for the production mould

    £220.00 and you have a production mould that when spun will give you 3 packs of the 10 models each time.

    I sold my packs of 10 at a price that made me £1.00 per pack sold.

    So to get my money back I needed to sell 220 packs of figures.

    If say you were doing 28mm at say £200.00 a figure then your costs would be

    £1000.00 greens
    £60.00 for the master mould
    £60.00 for the production mould
    £1120.00 in total.

    Avatar photoDeleted User

    Aaaaand the reason I’d never want to get into producing miniatures.

    Avatar photoNorm S

    Thanks Mike, a helpful post.

    Avatar photoian pillay

    Great informative response Mike.

    The £200 for 28mm is that if they are made from green stuff rather than CAD files? Or doesn’t that matter much.

    the moulds seem reasonable in price. Do you have a minimum order quantity on the metal that is to be used?

    This is something that I keep thinking I would like to have a go at one day.




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    Avatar photoRhoderic

    Aaaaand the reason I’d never want to get into producing miniatures.

    I’ve asked around about these things often enough to have become desensitised to the cost estimates. That still doesn’t mean I’m ready to take the plunge (especially in 28mm), but I’ve progressed (or regressed?) from thinking about these cost estimates as something astronomically out of my reach to something that could be manageable if I want it badly enough.

    Regarding the £200 for a 28mm sculpt, Mike may have gotten that estimate from me as I mentioned it in passing, and it’s a figure I’ve heard sometimes when I’ve asked people who have had their own miniatures commissioned from professional sculptors. It might not always be as high as that, though. Some 28mm sculpts might go for £100 or £150 or thereabouts. Depends on what kind of figures you’re after.

    Avatar photoThuseld

    This really makes me appreciate those putting themselves out there to create miniatures so we can play toy soldiers.

    Avatar photoBlackhat

    £200 is extremely high for 28mm sculpting costs unless you are looking at high end fantasy of SF figures.. (and even then I paid less than that for Cobalt-1 figures sculpting by Bob Naismith).  If you are producing a range of figures then you can get a dollie made of the basic shape then additional equipment, heads, etc and will then get each figure made up from these for £30-£40.

    I would estimate 5 28mm at £400 for masters for general figures…

    Casting is usually £3 or so a spin (possibly plus VAT) and then the cost of the metal (2.5p a gram for pewter at the moment).



    Avatar photoRhoderic

    £200 is extremely high for 28mm sculpting costs unless you are looking at high end fantasy of SF figures..

    Admittedly, yes, some of the people I’ve asked have been the sort to commission high-end fantasy/sci-fi/pulp sculpts. But I dunno, maybe I’m misremembering, too. It might possibly have been $200 estimates that at some point transformed in my head into £200, or something (neither of those is my local currency). If AB Mike got that figure from me, then I probably skewed this thread in advance of even starting it. Sorry. 

    It is soothing to know that the cost for 28mm isn’t quite that high.

    What’s the consensus on 15mm sculpting costs?

    Avatar photoRhoderic

    I would estimate 5 28mm at £400 for masters for general figures…

    Sorry for spamming the thread, just another question: Is that £400 for getting the finished figures, not just the dollies and parts? And that’s to reach the stage where masters have been produced, but not the final production mould?

    Avatar photoBlackhat

    Yes, completed masters but no moulds.

    If you are doing a range of similar figures then dollies are the way to go as you can get a 28mm figures assembled from dollies and parts (just needing arms sculpted) for £35.

    So you need dollies and a master mould and some castings.



    Avatar photoMike

    15mm I have had quotes from a number of people ranging from £20 to £150. The most common was around the 40 to 50 area.

    Avatar photoDeleted User


    Are you looking to sell a range of miniatures or do you want to multiply your own sculpts?

    I did read many years ago the rule of thumb is £10 per mm. It got me really wanting to get into mini sculpting but alas I was too lazy to pursue that path.

    Avatar photoOB

    Very interesting stuff.  I guess making or commissioning a range of figures has appealed to many of us at one time or another.



    Avatar photoDarkest Star Games

    I can tell you that in the US figures sculpting is AT LEAST $10usd per mm for physical sculpts.  Digital figures… well that’s a whole different thing.  One guy wanted $1,200 for a trio of unique 15mm figures, while another only $100 for each to sculpt.  But the big thing is printing.  For a figure you’ll want to use a DLP printer at the minimum, which is not something Shapeways uses so you’ll have to go pro.  Now, a 15mm figure in DLP shouldn’t cost more than $30 to print, if that.  Prices are usually volume based.  I had 100 6mm figures printed for $40, yet had a single 15mm vehicle easily cost $180.  my big LODAVs… they hurt a little!

    After creation you also have to consider production.  Will you be spinning them yourself?  Buying your own equipment?  Having them spun by a company (add that cost which can vary a bit)?  And if you’re going to sell them don’t forget the cost of licence, website, business taxes, and any packaging you may consider.

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

    Avatar photoDeleted User

    This wouldn’t give the volume for commercial sales but I use this thing called oyumaru to duplicate my 3d prints. The results are good and quick.

    Avatar photoRhoderic

    @rhoderic Are you looking to sell a range of miniatures or do you want to multiply your own sculpts?

    Not quite either of those, but closer to the former. I can’t sculpt well enough to be able to make a decent sculpt from scratch, and even starting with a dolly as a base I’m probably lackluster at best.

    What I would like to do – in the long term – is commission some figures that I think “ought to” exist, and make these available for sale. But I live in a part of the world that few hobbyists have ever ordered from, which would likely kill most potential sales if I were to sell them myself. So I would more likely be looking at some sort of solution where a friendly UK-based vendor would deign to carry the range(s) in exchange for them getting to keep most or all of the profit. Or I would just sell the sculpts and masters with casting rights immediately after commissioning them. I’m not really looking for profit (or maybe even to break even) as I don’t think I’m in a position to be able to expect it, due partly to geographical location and partly to the niche nature of the prospective miniatures. I just want certain miniatures made, on my own terms, to enrich the hobby, that’s all.

    I have considered simply commissioning sculpts for myself without having them moulded and manufactured at all, but I really can’t see myself having something professionally sculpted without sharing it. Besides, I often strip and redo my own paintjobs, which a “green” couldn’t handle.

    As for oyumaru, I have some of it (by a different name, Blue Stuff) but that’s for something else than the kind of miniature production I’m talking about here.

    Avatar photoRhoderic

    I’m curious about the practical differences between vulcanised rubber and silicone for mould-making.

    From my patchy knowledge, I get the impression that the advantages of vulcanised rubber aren’t big enough to be worth the hassle. Am I missing something here? Aside from the shorter mould life (which doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal?) are there any downsides to silicone moulds that I don’t know about, such as cost? Or am I wrong to think vulcanised rubber is a hassle? I know the heat can play havoc with some glues, putties and other materials used in the sculpting/building (or 3D printing?) of the pieces that are to be moulded.

    Do mould-making/casting outfits generally stick with one or the other of these materials/processes? Which do manufacturers generally prefer?

    EDIT: To provide some background for this question, I just feel I need a better understanding of what kind of mould-making and casting service to potentially shop around for, as I wouldn’t be doing it myself.

    Avatar photowillz

    Lots of respect to all you budding and practising mould makers, keep up the good work.

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