have been entirely unable to find anything written
on this topic anywhere, yet everyone seems to have minis. Even
some of the industry's mini producers had no idea of the answers to
some of my questions! So I'm certain this will
prove useful to have all in one place in terminology that normal people
how you get mini's made.
if you want to make Plastic or Pewter miniatures. (see below)
if you want your miniature's "Sculpts" done by hand or with 3d CAD
files. (see below)
· Physical-The old norm, a true art.-I stayed away because I would
only be able to see images (not actual clay sculpt), and the detail
would be less "perfect".
· 3d Sculpts (CAD)-The new norm, but doesn't strike me to be quite as
classy. But the minis turn out smooth and just right. You
have to add on the step of "Rapid Prototyping" to make them into
Physical if you want metal minis (Pewter, etc.)
· Both-Cost a fortune ($200 to $350 per sculpt for a worthy one) and
take a while to get right.
a physical Sculptor OR a 3d modeler (harder than finding 2d artists,
but the processes listed in Article
#5 should work well enough, or you can see my
"Recommendations" at the bottom of this Article.)
a 2d artist to draw out sketches of your model, front and back.
· A good modeler of either type can improvise the rear of the Sculpt
from a good frontal image if you already have the game art for them
· We used our 2d Hero art for this, and our 3d Modeler invented the
it's a 3d CAD file and you want to make...
· Plastic Minis-Send it off to your manufacturer, they do the rest.
· Pewter Minis-Send it off to your Rapid Prototyper to make it
physical. Then send the physical off to your mould maker.
it's a physical sculpt, you are making Pewter, period. So send it
to your mould maker.
mould maker (or moulder) makes a Master Mold.
the Master Mold the moulder will make a few "Masters".
the Masters he will make the Production Mold.
the Production Mold he will "cast" the minis.
end result is a bunch of "Casts", also known as "Minis".
and cons of each mini type...
Easier production cycle.
Far less expensive cost per
mini in mass
Your game manufacturer can produce these and put them right in the box
more easily than pewter.
HUGE minimum buy in/start up costs due to set up fees and huge minimums.
· ($20,000-$28,000 for 10 minis at 3000 copies each)
Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) of around 3000 copies (half of which you
may never need).
Feels lower quality / less satisfying in your hands than metal.
Made in China.*
Harder/more expensive to order replacement stock (due to MOQs and that
the molds are in China).
Far lower buy in/start up costs.
· ($4,000-$5,000 for 10 minis, at 10 copies each.)
Minimum production run of 1 Mini.
Easily order replacement stock, in any quantity (Low MOQ & molds in
your home country).
Feels heartier more satisfying to the hand.
Made in the USA.*
More expensive cost per
mini in the long run, forever cost of about
$1.00 to $1.55 for 28-30mm scale minis.
Therefore more expensive sale point that may turn off buyers in a
If used as part of a core game, they need to be shipped to your
manufacturer as an "outsourced component" for inclusion in the game box
- Labor charges to inclusion now apply also.
Both will take a lot of work to get right.
Both are equally paintable.
Both are equally fragile in their own right.
Both have people that love them.
Both have people that hate them.
If using pewter, be sure to make sure your manufacturer uses 100% lead
free Pewter. The 80s are over.
If using plastic, be sure to budget the cost for as many as 3000+, and
though you may THINK the cost per mini is only $0.20 each, bear in
mind: when you have to incinerate the 2000 that you didn't sell, your
effective cost per SOLD mini just jumped to $0.60 each.
Not everyone charges the same prices for the same services. Call
around find what works for you and your needs.
Suggestion: If creating a "Miniatures Game", use plastic. If
creating miniatures as an Add On option OR for your own small line of
mini's, use pewter.
needed "Mini" Glossary-As best as I have gathered from extensive
chronological order of the process.
Different people at different times have used these terms
interchangeably. These seem to be the closest to the core of
what's what though.)
Modeler - The guy that makes cool images
like this one, that can be printed on a 3d printer (or by
File - Computer Aided Design
file; a general term for files of this type.
Usually refers to physical sculptors of clay, etc; but can be used to
refer to 3d Modelers.
The initial prototype,
either physical or 3d. Physical sculpts are also your Prototype.
Prototype - (Verb) A fancy term for turning
CAD files into physical prototypes.
(Noun) the new physical prototype made from the 3d sculpt. See
image and note at bottom of page.
the result of the above processes; also "proto".
Maker - The guy that makes your mold/moulds.
A generic term for any type of Mold/Mould listed below. Use of
this term "mold" is very confusing in conversation, as it can refer
to almost any step of the process.
Mold - The rubber formed around the proto,
used to make the original and highest detail "Masters" possible.
This mold produces only 1 mini at a time (usually). Cost per
Master Mold: $75 to $125. There are some that refer to the main
Production Mold as the Master Mold, while others refer to the Master
Mold simply as the "Master". (yeah, confusing, right?).
The first minis made, 1 at a time from the
Master Mold (above). These will be used to make the...
Mold - The circular wheel of Silicone that
will be used to "Spin Cast" your minis. A production mold can be
made to suit 4 to 10 minis depending on size and shape. Can host
all of the same mini, over and over again, or all different ones.
Costs: $50 to $150 (depending on costs from same company for the
individual Master Molds).
Cast or Cast (v)-Molten metal is poured
into the center of the Production Mold, the Production Mold is then
spun very fast, forcing the liquid metal into the
mini-shaped-cavities. After it sits for a few minutes to cool,
the Production Mold can be opened, and the Casts can be pulled out.
see one get spun? Watch this ReaperMini
Factory Tour video. Super interesting!
- The final mini(s). This is the final product, what you will
sellinclude in your game.
The rectangular plastic bubble, oft attached to cardboard backing, that
a mini is commonly sold in.
hope this helps. It took me weeks worth of discussing with 4 or 5
different companies to get all that straightened out. I really
hope you found this before you attempted the same.
for contacts to get Physical Sculptors: Contact
Oliver Piotrowski at www.tablewarfare.com he
has a team he can refer you to. - Yahoo has a Sculpting
Yahoo Group. - A quick Google search can pull up some names
and companies to drop emails to as well. - Whoever
you hire, be sure to give clear art direction; it's easy to end up with
excessively angry looking males, and excessively chesty/bootyful
females, even when your concept art doesn't show such.
MacLean did all of our work and is a complete
blast to work with, and creates a level of detail that is mind
Harlow is also excellent but we didn't end up
working with him for perfectly mutually neutral reasons.
for Rapid Prototyping: Shapeways.com all the way. Really?
We ordered a high end Rapid Prototype of the $298 value; AND a
Shapeways "Frosted Ultra High Detail" miniature (a $15 dollar
value). The Frosted Ultra High Detail one from Shapeways is:
A) Higher Detail, and VERY noticeably so.
B) 1/20th of the price. At $15.72 cents for a big thick mini, you
can't really complain.
ordered one of every type from Shapeways (SW)
that might possibly be
detailed enough to create Masters from.
Four were denied production and refunded because our details were too
(I thought that was cool!) Four others survived the pre-production
were made, and shipped to us.
we got one mega-expensive type from a separate high-end professional
Rapid Prototype company, to compare every possible option
to make the best possible minis for our game, for our backers, for you.
"Frosted Ultra High Detail" from Shapeways won by
is the type you'll want to order.
for getting Master Molds and Masters done: This
can be hard to find quality and price at the same time. Sling
some emails around the internet and get some pricing quotes.
Speak with them on the phone as there are many layers to the cost, and
you should understand them.
for final production/spin casting: We're
sending our Production Molds to Michael Noe of Iron
Wind Metals. He produces bulk minis more often, more easily,
and more cheaply than other companies we've spoken with. I chose
to trust the final production to his capable and experienced hands
(...and less expensive Pewter).
you do contact any of the people or companies I've mentioned, please
tell them that I sent you. I would appreciate it, and so would
your own countries' economy is always a good idea. China is
notorious for terrible labor laws and even worse working conditions -
it is what it is. Nobody should pretend that's not the
case. Therefore, these were worth stating as pros and cons for us.
here to be brought to one of our most highly lauded articles: Article
#7 "How to make a Budget".