How to Print Figures

Besides “how should I paint your figure kits?” the most common question I get is “if I download your files, how do I print them?” Well, I’m not going to do a full step by step tutorial on 3d resin printing because, frankly there are a million ways to do it and a billion YouTube videos already dedicated to laying out the process. Instead, I’ll just tell you about the methods, materials, and equipment that I personally use, and you can take it from there!

I’ll assume that if you’re here you have either downloaded some of my designs from Cults3d or are considering doing so, and are new to the whole 3d printing thing. If you’re more advanced than that, then you may want to skip down a few paragraphs.

If you download my files, you’ll see that each figure’s body part is a separate STL file. This allows you to use a slicer (software that prepares 3d models for printing, such as Lychee, Cura, or Chitubox) to arrange the parts on the printer’s print area as individual pieces. Once prepared in the slicer, the pieces can be printed all at once, and the the result is a figure that can be assembled and will therefore be articulated.

TIP: I personally use Lychee Slicer, having found it to be the most reliable and flexible. I’ve also used Chitubox and Anycubic’s proprietary slicer, but found both to be lacking in their MacOS versions. Lychee’s latest stable release also has the extra benefit of slicing not only for resin printers but also for filament – meaning it’s a great all-in-one solution if you do multiple types of printing.

Once I’ve prepared the files and export them to my little USB stick, it’s time to get printing. I use Anycubic printers, and currently mostly use their Photon Mono 4k units. I find them to be a solid mix of affordability, reliability, and repairability – though if I were printing larger or substantially more detailed pieces…I’d probably use one of their 8K units.

TIP: The FEP (the clear thing at the bottom of the resin vat) is your best friend and worst enemy. If it is kept in good shape, your prints will be great; if it is damaged or dirty…you’ll see bad/failed prints. Anycubic’s stock resin vat is built in a way that changing the FEP can be challenging, and ordering replacement FEPs from them can get expensive! So I recommend buying a couple of SOVOL’s third-party resin vats, and a packet of their pre-cut replacement FEPs. It makes changing them out super easy and affordable!

Let’s talk resin. If you buy the “Standard” resin from Elegoo, Anycubic, SunLi, or any other similar manufacturer and just dump it straight into the vat, you’re going to get brittle prints. In some cases that’s fine, but if you want your figures to be more durable and handle the articulation that we all want in a vintage-style figure…you’re going to have to do some mixing. I recommend mixing some of Anycubic’s Tough Resin in with your regular resin for more durability, and even throwing in some Flexible resin (like this stuff) to increase its strength. SirayaTech’s Tenacious is another good mixing resin for increased durability. Everyone has different opinions on proportions for their recipes, but with a little experimentation you’ll find what works for you. Also, the eco resins are extra brittle in my experience – you can mix them just like Standard resins….but your results will vary.

Once I’ve printed something and pulled it off the plate, I dump the printed pieces into a used plastic container from some old trail mix. It has some 91% IPA (Isopropyl Alcohol) in it, about an inch deep. I put the lid on it and give it a decent sloshing around – this is my ‘pre-wash.’ I then (using tongs) pull the pieces out and put them into Anycubic’s Wash and Cure Station – a couple of minutes swimming around in that thing, and the prints are clean. I lay them out to dry for a while, and then cure them in the same machine, this time of course using the ‘cure’ settings.

That’s basically it!

A NOTE ON SAFETY: Resin can be nasty business, as I’m sure you know. It’s very important to wear gloves of the Nitrile variety (like these) whenever you’re handling the resin, open bottles, or any surfaces that uncured resin has touched. I definitely recommend marking areas of your workspace as “gloves” or “no gloves” so you can create a workflow that allows you to minimize your exposure while not having to take the gloves off and put them back on constantly. And when you’re going to have your face over a resin vat or container of 91% IPA, wear a respirator. I use this one.

ANOTHER NOTE ON SAFETY: It’s also key to vent the fumes outside. Don’t even think about putting a resin printer in your apartment bedroom. A garage or basement or outbuilding is much better, and even then – find a way to isolate the machines and ventilate them. Personally, my workshop is in my unfinished basement, and I created an enclosure using hacked IKEA cabinets for my printers. I then ran ventilation tubes from it to a hole I cut in the exterior wall of my house and installed an electric fan to circulate the air from the enclosure out of the house. Works pretty well, and it was super cheap to build.

Other materials you’ll want around:
* No-slip mats to help contain any potential spills. I have these under all my work areas.
* Tongs like these for pulling parts out of IPA baths.
* Silicone funnels for mixing resins, like these.
* A strainer of some sort to make sure any failed print pieces don’t end up back in your resin bottles. I use this.
* Metal catering trays like these that you can use to pour contaminated IPA into, that you can then set out in the sun to evaporate/cure before proper disposal.
* Alcohol inks like these to use in creating custom resin colors.
* PATIENCE. Yeah, you’ll need to have a lot of that on hand too. 🙂