Beginners guide to 3D printing tabletop terrain

beginners guide to 3d printing tabletop terrain

So, you want to start 3D printing your tabletop terrain but don’t know where to start? We’ve compiled a simple guide to get you started building your 3D printable scenery collection!

Table of contents…

Why 3D print your Wargaming terrain?

The benefits of 3D printing your own tabletop terrain are many, but the our three reasons are as follows :

1. 3D printing tabletop terrain is cheap!

Compared to buy plastic moulded terrain kits or fiddly MDF terrain sets, printable scenery is a lot more bang for your buck! See just how much terrain you can print with a $25 roll of PLA filament here!

2. Easily print and resize multiples of the same models or parts

When you have downloaded the 3D printable model (STL file), you can hit print as many times as you like! You can even flip, mirror and resize the model with a single click to make variants of the same piece.

3. Grow an an incredible terrain collection Fast!

Yes, individual prints can take several hours to print but when compared to shipping times, waiting for stock, visiting a store or building complex MDF terrain kits, 3D printed terrain can get you a large collection of terrain in no time! Eg, you can download your print in the morning and have your new terrain piece ready to paint that evening!

Whats the set-up cost to start 3D printing terrain?

After the initial investment of buying a 3D printer, ongoing costs are tiny.

A 3D printer can cast from $200 but the entry level machines deliver excellent results! Which printer should you get? Here’s some suggestions.

Most 3D printers also come with the necessary tools needed for set-up and maintenance so other than the machine itself, you only really need some PLA filament which usually cost $18-25 per roll.

Note – terrain printing is best done on an FDM style printer, not resin. Click here to see the difference.

What games use 3D printable scenery?

Most tabletop games use 3D printed terrain because of the low cost and excellent results. If you want to see how specific games are using 3D printable terrain, follow the links below:

3D Printed terrain is for both fantasy games and sci-fi wargames. You can just as easily print a set of crumbling ruins for D&D as you can a set of modular battle bunkers for Star Wars Legion.

What is the 3D printing process?

  1. Find and download an STL file – this is the model(s) you want to print
  2. Use a slicer (3D printing software) to prepare your model (terrain STL file) with your desired settings – balancing print speed / quality / model density
  3. Send your your sliced STL file to your printer (as G-Code)
  4. Make sure your printer has a level bed and has a clean printing surface
  5. Start your print
  6. Monitor your print
  7. Wait for the finished model and printer to cool
  8. Remove your 3D printed terrain and clean up if required
  9. Paint your finished terrain!

How much space do I need to print terrain?

Most 3D printers will fit on tabletop or deep shelf and don’t cause any mess unless you’re printing in resin (resin printing is best for miniatures but not terrain).

3D printed terrain setup

Just make sure that your 3D printing space keeps a constant temperature, isn’t likely to have the printer knocked/moved, has a mains power supply, can easily be monitored and has enough space for the printer to move / do it’s job.

What quality terrain can I print?

Even with a cheap 3D printer, you can achieve some excellent results! Check out some community results of printing 3D printed terrain sets here.

Where can I buy terrain STL files?

The STL files required for 3D printing terrain can be downloaded online. Saucermen Studios has many categories of printable scenery and some incredible value terrain bundles. You can even get a few FREE terrain pieces to get you started.

How do I know what settings to use?

Your slicing software such as Cura will have default printing settings and the ‘standard quality’ preset often works well for terrain, just remember to drop the infil down to 5-10% to cut print time and save in PLA printing materials. You can see more about our recommended print settings here.

How big can I print my terrain?

An entry level printer suck as the Ender 3 can print Wargaming scenery of around 22x22cm. This allows for some great sized terrain pieces and if you get a modular terrain set such as Ordus Station, your terrain layouts can be any size you like!

How do I paint 3D printed terrain?

Painting 3D printed scenery is easy but depends on the hobby and painting supplies you have available. An airbrush is the quickest method and offers the best results but rattle cans and drybrushing are also excellent options.

You may need to clean and prepare your 3D prints to remove any minor flaws or stringy bits of filament. This is very easy and takes very little time. You can see our process for this here.

We recommend using rattle can primer (automotive filler) as your base coat, then craft or water-based house paint as your base layers. Miniatures paints such as Citadel or Vallejo can be used for fine detailing.

If you are using an airbush, consider using some hobby stencils to quickly and easily add some incredible detail to your scenery.

Check out our tutorial for painting a 3D printed spaceship crash site here.

Where can I get help if I get stuck?

3D pprinting communities are plentiful, we even host our own active community, specifically for 3D printed terrain here. Feel free to check it out and ask any questions you have about printing our scenery or getting started. We’ve also got lots of tips and tricks specifically for 3D printing tabletop terrain and getting them game ready with out painting guides!

How do I design my own 3D printable scenery?

Designing your own 3D printable scenery traditionally required skills in CAD or 3D modelling, but with dedicated tabletop terrain building software such as BeamDown, you can get started building your own scenery for sci-fi games in no time. This new platform gives you access to a library of essential components, building parts, incredible models, and dedicated terrain building tools. You can see more about custom building your own 3D printable terrain here.