How to 3D Print Amazing Symbols for Your Warhammer 40k Miniatures

Dark Angels Symbol

How to 3D Print Symbols and Textures for Your Warhammer 40k Miniatures

As a warhammer 40k enthusiast with over 20 years of experience painting miniatures, I am always looking for ways to customize my armies and make them truly unique on the battlefield. One of the best methods I’ve found is using 3D printing to add custom symbols, text, and textures to your miniatures.

In this comprehensive guide, I will walk you through multiple techniques for adding high quality details to your prints, using either embossing, engraving, or post-processing methods. I’ll also cover software, best practices for modeling, and finishing techniques to take your prints to the next level.

Space marine using PC

Choosing the Right Software

When creating custom 3D models for printing, you first need to select the appropriate software for the job. Here are my top recommendations:

Computer Aided Design (CAD) Software Programs like Fusion 360 or Tinkercad allow precise, technical modeling perfect for mechanical parts. Easy to add text and dimensions.

Polygon Modeling Software Tools like Maya or Blender are ideal for modeling smooth, organic shapes like characters and creatures. Lots of flexibility.

Sculpting Software For shaping intricate figures, I recommend ZBrush, Nomad Sculpt, or Blender’s sculpting mode. These mimic a clay sculpting workflow.

You’ll likely need to combine techniques across multiple programs. For example, you may sculpt a character and then add text or insignias using CAD software. I’ll cover specific best practices below.

Ultramarine Symbol

Adding Text or Symbols with Embossing

One of the easiest ways to customize your miniatures is to emboss text, insignias, chapter icons, or other symbols directly into the surface. This creates a raised 3D effect that looks great when painted.

Here are some pro tips when modeling embossed details:

  • Use a sans-serif font like Arial for maximum clarity
  • Minimum emboss height depends on print process. 0.5mm works for most FDM prints
  • Position prominently on flat or gently sloped surfaces for best results
  • Split model into multiple parts to hide internal support structures

I love showcasing faction icons on shoulder pads and text slogans on banner poles. Embossing works beautifully for these use cases.

Crimson Fists Symbol

Enhancing Details with Engraving

As an alternative to embossing, consider engraving fine details into your miniatures. Engraved trenches create nice shadow lines when painted and conserve print material.

For optimal engraved elements:

  • Vary line depth between 0.3mm and 1mm depending on location
  • Position on flat areas just like embossing
  • May require supports – place strategically to minimize
  • Looks fantastic for tech details on weapons, armor, and vehicles

Two of my favorite engraving applications are chapter symbols on Space Marine pauldrons and kill markings on Ork vehicles. The depth stands out nicely post-processing.

Custoades Symbol

Post-Processing for Maximum Impact

If geometry limits your ability to physically emboss or engrave, don’t fret! You can also apply stunning decals, textures, or paint effects post print using these techniques:

Laser Engraving Precisely etches designs into surfaces with a concentrated laser beam. Great for metals and plastics.

Silk Screening Uses a stencil and ink to transfer images onto models and components. Works on complex shapes.

Pad Printing Involves an etched plate to ink text or graphics directly onto objects. Excellent for uneven or detailed surfaces.

Airbrushing Sprays thin layers of paint to gradually build up color gradients and custom art. Takes practice but offers endless creative potential.

Hand Painting Don’t overlook classic brushwork when post-processing! Blending, wettering, washing, dry brushing, edge highlighting and more.

By combining 3D printed textures with painted details, you can create truly one-of-a-kind miniatures suited to your custom chapter, regiment, or warband.

Blood Angels Symbol

Recommended Modeling Approach

When designing your own 3D printable upgrades, I recommend this general modeling roadmap:

  1. Find reference images so you know exactly what you want to create. Concept art, existing miniatures, sketches etc. Provide inspiration and guidelines to match an existing aesthetic.
  2. Model base structure in CAD or polygon modeling software. Basic shapes, posture, weaponry, appendages etc.
  3. ExportBaseModel.stl and bring into sculpting program to add organic concavities, outfit folds, embellishments etc. Enhance uniquely.
  4. Import EnhancedSculpt.stl back to CAD software and emboss/engrave any symbols, text, patterns, etc. keeping suggested minimum depths in mind based on print process.
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 to iterate until perfect. Kitbash multiple models for custom combinations.
  6. Export as HighlyCustomized.stl and print using an MSLA, FDM, or outsourcing service using your preferred method.
  7. Post process with paints, chemicals, sealants, and artistic techniques to finish.

Iron Hands Symbol

Extra Tips for Prepping Models

As you explore modeling and printing techniques, keep these additional tips in mind:

  • Hollow interiors to conserve material. Just be sure to include drainage holes in feet areas.
  • Optimize geometry for easier printing by minimizing overhangs, bridging small gaps, etc. Some organic shapes may need manual supports.
  • Bold chunky shapes and thick features print better than spindly fragile bits prone to snapping off.
  • Consider multipart assemblies so each component fits build plate and material limits.
  • Smooth jagged edges for nicer finish. Basic bevelling goes a long way.
  • Sand to prep surfaces for painting adhesion, fill layer lines, etc. IMPORTANT!

And remember, our Warhammer Universe YouTube channel has lots of additional guides for getting the perfect prints dialed in for quality and purpose. Be sure to check it out!

Space Wolves Symbol

Recommended Places to Share and Purchase STL Files

As you get into 3D modeling and printing, there are lots of free tools, communities, and marketplaces to leverage at every step along the way. Here are my favorites:

3D Model Repositories Cults3D, Thangs, Printables, Fillerment, My Mini Factory, and Shapeways offer model hosting and discovery options. Share and access a wealth of free community designs!

Kickstarter and Patreon Via crowdfunding on Kickstarter or recurring payments on Patreon, you can access model packs and one-off sculpts from talented artists and designers before they hit mass market. Great way to get limited edition STLs.

Marketplaces and Shops For unique models, I turn to marketplaces like CGTrader, Gambody, The Makers Cult, and Archvillain Games. These have specialty shops and creators delivering stunning print designs.

When all else fails, I use search engines to hunt for free models across any site that aggregates 3D files.But buyer beware, always double check licenses!

3d Printed

Concluding Thoughts on Custom Miniatures

Hopefully by now you have lots of inspiration to create your own signature designs from scratch or customize downloaded STLs with personal touches like text and symbols using the provided techniques.

With the right combination of software, modeling approach, and post processing, you can take your Warhammer regiments to the next level with custom decals rivaling any official release. Experiment and have fun making them your own works of art!

And if you come up with something extra special, make sure to share the results on our Warhammer Universe social channels showing off your modeling chops. Maybe your design will even inspire an official model someday!

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