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Making 3d table top terrain from idea to design to print Rate Topic: -----

#1 modi123_1   User is offline

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Posted 30 August 2020 - 11:09 AM

I found myself in a mood to make some 28mm scale terrain to paint. Certainly I could bust out some cardboard or styrofoam, but I do have a handy 3d printer available and figured this would be a good exercise from design to CAD to paint.

The skills here should help you setup to make custom terrain, cheaply replicated pieces, or just something to throw away to brush up on paint schemes.

After some trial and error, here's what I found to be the more effective way to go about it.


A bit about the tools I am using.

First TinkerCad - an online 3d modeling program that works great getting an .STL to send to my 3d model slicer Cura. Basic shapes and blocks that can be manipulated into nice designs. The resulting file from Cura is dropped in my Ender 3, and used to print.

Cura is my slicer of choice. ( ) A slicer takes a 3d file and produces small small horizontal layers. The slices dictate where the 3d printer is to lay down plastic on that layer before moving up to the next. Each layer builds up to the complex shape. There's a ton of settings, and typically the fine detail is determined by your nozzle's size and plastic layer height.

Currently I am using 0.2mm layer height on a 0.4mm nozzle.

I find myself iterating between TinkerCad and Cura to make a design, slice it, see how the physical paths/internals/etc will lay out, and flip back to TinkerCad multiple times before actually doing a print.

I am shooting for a 28mm mini figure scale. This typically translates to about 1in bases or a 20-25mm bases. Certainly won't be to perfect scale, but gets the job done for a game table.

Making a classic door

For my first project I went with making a basic rectangular door, and angling towards a fantasy decor. Sometimes just the boiled down essence of a complex object is all that needs to be there.

Sign into Tinkercad and create a new design.

Set the scale to what ever you are working with, but in my case snap grid is set to 1.0mm.

Plop in a box/cube, and given average D&D mini is 28mm scale with 20-25mm bases I opt to make the door 20mm wide, 3mm thick, and 40mm tall.

This doesn't need to be too thick or heavy duty as it's just there for a visual representation on the table. Plus a thinner door helps cut down on printing time and material.

I found using a wedge that is slightly bigger than the door width (pokes out both ends) works well for giving the appearance of a door handle. Scale it down to size, have it poke out 2mm on both ends (so a total of 7mm deep) and voila! A handle!

Note - 2mm is used as that's a good amount of distance for the printer to build up layers and give a crisp and distinct section.

Note - The slicer program really is concerned about the outter 'shell' of 3d objects so if there's an object passing through one it doesn't really care about the inner bits.

The thin door will have difficulties standing up right in a game so attaching a base is a good idea. Put down another 'box', set the height to 4mm, keep it 20mm wide to match the door, and make it 15mm long.

Position the door in the middle of the plate, and raise the door and knob up so only 1mm is inside the base. If you have them flush the printer sees this as an edge and won't fuse them together.

Select all three objects, hit the 'group' option in the top right, and now export to an STL.

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I use my default 3d printer profile, double check settings, and slice it. (5% infill, grid, 2 wall layers, etc)

Remember a slicer does horizontal cuts so it may help to re-orientate the model to make use of that.

Example - the door vertical, while fine, is telling me it takes 39 minutes. If I rotate it to the edge that is cut down to 24 minutes.

Always always check your model, eyeball the layers if your program allows and adjust accordingly. It's easy to miss better orientations or settings that could improve the quality, the structure, or print time.

There's a side benefit that with the door on the side the horizontal layers of plastic can look like wood grain and help out dry brushing!

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After the print you have options to paint or just use straight up. I prefer giving them a single layer of gray filler/primer from a rattle can, let dry, and then commence painting with acrylics.

Making an advanced door with holes

While this door is nice and abstract in the concepts you can push it a little more. Door jambs help provide a bit of depth with minimal complexity.

From the previous model ungroup the objects, and move the base and knob to the side.

Add a new 'box', and size it to be about 7mm deep. With a 3mm deep door this should allow 2mm to jut out on the front and back.

To keep things visually cohesive the jamb will be 24mm so the left and right of the door have about 2mm of space.

Here's where it gets a little tricky - use the existing door to make a 'hole' in the door jamb! Certainly I could have gone and uses multiple smaller boxes to frame it out, but this just makes more sense to me.

Select the current door, and duplicate it using the duplicate button..

Move the duplicate door over to be inside the door jamb, and extend the front and back a bit of distance through the door jamb object on the front and back.

With the duplicate door jamb selected click the 'change to hole' (or hit 'H'). The duplicate door goes transparent showing where the hole will be.

To make that a 'thing' select the duplicate door-hole and the door jamb and click 'group'.

TinkerCad shows the hollow jamb, and we can move that over the original door.

You can move the base and knob back over, extend the base to cover the jamb and Bob's your uncle!

Group, export to STL, and ready to print!

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Oh, wait a minute. That won't work. There's that pesky edge with two objects are touching but not together.

Back to tinkercad and take the door and extend it .25mm to the left, right, and top so the model is 'inside' the door jamb.

Fix, group, export, and slice.

Eyeballing that looks much better, and you can still rotate to the side to shave off some time.

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Making the advanced door with tongue and grooves

Additionally you can making a tongue-in-groove like system for the door to the base can help mass produce similar bases at once, swap out bases, and generally making a locking system to be interchangeable with all your parts.

The idea will be pretty straight forward.
- Have a small notched out section attached to the door.
- Have a similarly sized hole in the base, and off you go.

Since the base is 4mm thick it would be good to have the tongue be 4mm long.

Grab the door, jamb, and knob and shift it up a good distance from the base.

(Ungroup your current object if it is still grouped.)

I try not to go less than 2mm wide, and that door is 3mm. Not ideal because I would like the bottom of the door to have a little bit of a lip to rest on the base.

Pop the door, jamb, and knob out one more millimeter.

Drop in another cube, and size it to be 14mm long, 2mm wide, and 5mm tall. Position it to about the middle of the door, and embed 1mm into the door itself (so the model is 'fused' for printing).

Duplicate the tongue to use as the hole for the base.

Center the duplicate, and sink it into the base in the center. I extend the top and bottom to clear the base.

In a perfect world these bits would slide in nice and easy, but a printer is a little less than perfect. I find extending the base's hole piece by 0.25mm on one of the width edges, and .5mm on both length ends, leaves enough of a gap to friction fit. You may need to play with these values given your printer.

Select the 'groove' block, and make it a 'hole'.
Select the base and the groove hole together and 'group'.

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You can certainly export everything to one .STL to print, but I like breaking up a project.

Select the base group and click 'export'. Now you will have an .STL with only that base in in.

Group the tongue and door parts, group, and export those.

In the slicer you can print multiple bases off at a time, or just one. The same goes for the doors

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Making an advanced door with texture.

The simple door has come a long way from the basic slab it started as. Using the hole function in tinkercad one can add interesting designs and patterns to an object. The hole doesn't have to go all the way through!

The only caveat is the Tinkercad only imports SVG or STL external files, but a bit of work around can be done.

The goal is to add the illusion of door wood planks, and cobble stone around the frame.

To add planking ungroup the door from the last section.

Add a 'hole box' from the basic shape, and make it about 1mm wide. Duplicate that a few times and space them out evenly, and about the height of the door (remember the door will be a little bit bigger so it merges with the door jamb.

The length really doesn't matter as this is only concerned about the width and height and how much those take out of an existing object.

Embed the edges 1mm into the door.

Select the holes, duplicate, and mirror on the back side.

Select the door, and all the holes, and group.

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The cobble is a bit more involved. It's best to make, or find, a vector cobble image.

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Using Inkscape, or the website mentioned above, convert it to an SVG.

Import that SVG into Tinkercad. Use the same process as the door lines to exclude the cobble pattern and make the illusion of stone.

It imports pretty huge, but can be scaled down.

Orientate and size the cobble object to be 2mm sunk into the door frame.

Check if the pattern looks ok, by converting the cobble to a hole and grouping with the door frame.

That doesn't look too bad. You certainly can adjust the door jab size to make the texture more pronounced or orientate it how you like.

Just remember to ungroup, and mirror the end result on the back like the lines in the door above.

Slide the door, knob, and tongue back into place, and admire that work.

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Note - when slicing weird shapes like the cobble it is a good idea to bump up the wall count from 2 to 3 or 4. This helps cover any physical gapes that may happen.

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The base can also have the same cobble texture applied. Just duplicate the cobble object, make it a hole, and embed!

The bases could have your villain's sigil, or other patterns. You can swap them in and out with a random door to see if your players know.

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Note - if your groves are deep enough you can paint them black to add depth, and color the raised areas. Alternatively a dark wash would sink in those crevices as well.

Above and Beyond

You should now have the tools and basic thought process to branch out to your own designs.

Fantasy doors may not be your speed then maybe a space bulk head door?

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Want floor tiles? You can keep a consistent 1inch grid, but also have the tile look!

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With a few applications of of primer/filler and sanding you can smoother out the printer marks, and even cast your parts in silicon. From there you can mass replicate your parts to have, in short order, a box of terrain, tiles, doors, and other table top items.

If ya do go about this drop me a note here. I would love to see everyone's end results!

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Replies To: Making 3d table top terrain from idea to design to print

#2 modi123_1   User is offline

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Posted 31 August 2020 - 09:41 AM

Derp, totally forgot to add my results to the original post.

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#3 snoopy11   User is offline

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 03:21 PM

This is incredible and not one like, this is why I'm an Atheist...
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