How to 3D print your own figurines

No, you don’t need super advanced 3D modeling skills to make your figurines. I am going to teach you the three easy steps you need to create your first 3D printed Yoda, Batman, or even of a model of yourself!

As a 3D artist, I am in love with 3D scanning, and I have used it a ton in the past for figurines and models I’ve needed for various projects. Recently I've started applying it by creating three-dimensional scans for 3D printing, and in this article, I am going to show you how to make your own 3D printed action figures.

What do you need to print your own figurines

Whether you have 3d modeling skills or not, to make your action figure there are three basic things that you need to have access to:

  • 3D Scanning Software
  • An Xbox Kinect
  • A 3D Printer

The first tool you need to add to your arsenal is a copy of either Reconstruct Me or Skanect. This will be the software you use to construct and edit your 3D scanned model.

reconstuct me

The second piece of equipment you need is an Xbox Kinect make sure it is one with a normal USB port, purchasable on Amazon, and not a proprietary Xbox port; this is crucial for getting it to work with your PC.

Finally, you will have to buy a 3D printer of your own. If you want to go on the cheap here, check out our post for printers under $500. 

robo 3d printer

The 3D printer shown above is the Robo 3D R1+, it is what we use and one of the best currently on the market. It's currently selling on Amazon for under $400.

Owning a 3D printer is cheaper than ever, and it will enable you to print anything from the larger action figures to very small miniatures, which can be used for various role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons.

We will also show you what to do for both after you've gotten all your gear together.

Scanning with the Kinect

you'll want to open your scanning application if you're a beginner without 3d modeling skills.

And you’re going to want to use the Xbox’s Kinect. The Kinect allows you to go from scanning to cleaning up the model to printing the model very easily.

No other skills are required. However, if you are versed in 3d modeling, I highly recommend using Reconstruct Me.

Reconstruct me gives you a little bit more detail to work with. However, more cleanup work is required before you start scanning.

Here are a couple of things to consider:

The Kinect has two cameras on it one is an infrared camera that scans depth and 3d space the other one is a normal camera that captures color but to use these properly you need a certain amount of space.

About a 10 to 15foot radius generally around your subject and do not wear anything that's reflective because the bouncing light from the reflective clothing might be wearing will confuse the camera and confuse the depth. This will screw up your 3d model.

Natural sunlight has a lot of infrared frequencies in it, and since the infrared camera on the Kinect uses these frequencies to gauge the depth of the object, that will also start throwing off your scanning program.

You want to make sure that you've set your scanning area (your scanning box) to be as close to that person as possible to maximize the resolution of the scan.

I find it helpful to turn the monitor around so I can see it while I'm scanning, consider purchasing a USB extension so you can have the freedom to walk around the room.

Scanning with the Xbox Kinect

Pictures in this article sourced from Sam and Niko's DIY 3D printed action figurines video

When you’ve set a good scan area, as shown in the picture above, you want to start scanning. 

You have to explore every nook and cranny of your object, to capture all the details. This part take some practice, you also have to make sure you scan the form a top-down angle to properly scan some of the upward facing details. 

This technique works really when when trying to create a 3D printed figurine of yourself!

3D Software Modelling

So, here is our first scan of the model, there is still a few small errors in our model, but that's okay since Skanect can clean that up.

Skanect modelling

I'm going to fill some holes and colorize it, in case we want to print this in color.

Now, this is going to go back through and take all the color data from the camera and make that into a texture.

Skanect coloring

That looks pretty cool, the last thing we want to do before printing this is to crop out the ground plane. As you can see, there is a lot of terrain in the model, and you'd want to crop that out. In Skanect it is very easy, just orbit around the model and select what you don’t want and crop it using the “Move and Crop” feature.

So now that we've modeled, we're going to show you the reconstruct me version.

This technique is slightly more highly detailed and much better when you're trying to make a figurine which is small with tiny details.

Now, to showcase what Reconstruct Me can do, we are going to show you how to add a 3D modeled sword to your model.

When you're scanning it's hard to hold perfectly still for 30 seconds and when holding high detail objects such as a sword, there's natural wobble and shake to these objects.

How to 3D print your own figurines 2
3D figurine with modeled sword

It's very difficult for the scanner to model that properly. In this case, our sword is very reflective - bad idea for scanners and that one is super solid actually, and just with the tiny bit of cleanup, there were good to go.

As you'll see with your first import into your 3D program of choice that we have similar issues.

I will go into the vertices of the model shown in the picture below, and you can quickly select them all and delete the ground plane. It's good to select all your elements and then deselect the piece you want to keep and hit delete.

filling holes in your model before 3D printing

As you can see from the screenshot above, there is no color and no texture.

But this time, we don't need that.

Because of the detail level that we're going to be printing at, we're going to paint these on our own.

The last step you want to do is use a modifier that will fill the holes up. You want to use a modifier in 3D Studio Max called “cap holes.”

If you're not using 3D Studio Max, then I'm sure there is an equivalent feature in whatever program you are using. The last step is to scale it to the size you want to print it.

If you're making a miniature for Dungeons and Dragons, about an 1.5 inches in height is good. If you're making a miniature just for yourself, it can be any size, but just be aware bigger gets the more expensive it gets, not to mention the printing time can get exceptionally long

Thereafter, just hook up our 3D printer (here's a list of good cheap options if you do not own one yet) to your computer, follow the instructions on the printer, and make your model come to life!

I hope you have learned something from this small introduction into the world of 3D scanning and 3D printing if you guys want to try this out I highly recommend trying out either Skanect or Reconstruct Me depending on your skill level. 

To check out our other resources on 3D printing, head back to our 3D printing page or read one of the related posts below. As always, feel free to share your comments and ideas for figurines you would like to see printed! 

Last update on 2022-09-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

8 thoughts on “How to 3D print your own figurines”

  1. So if someone wanted to make a Civil War soldier figurine they would actually have to be wearing a (replica) Civil War uniform? Or is there 3-D printing software that can interpret 2-D photographs in three dimensions? Sorry if these are dumb questions, I’m a dummy at all this.

  2. So if someone wanted to make a Civil War soldier figurine they would actually have to be wearing a (replica) Civil War uniform? Or is there 3-D printing software that can interpret 2-D photographs in three dimensions? Sorry if these are dumb questions, I’m a dummy at all this.

  3. I am interested in buying a 3d which can print from photos , easy to use to make caste for figurine 5 to 10 cm high as i never did before. Under $1000

    • To print from photos you will need software that can recreate a 3D model from a photo.
      For a good 3D printer under 1000 USD I would recommend anything from Robo 3D. check out this post for some options


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