DIY Area

Do you have 3D modelling software and access to a 3D printer but don’t know how to use it to best effect?  Worry not, young Padawan.  We can help you learn how to make your own sculptures!!

Bbmbbf would like to add in. “This is a tutorial that I wrote a year ago and was posted on my Inkbunny account. The resulting figure size was 9 inches in height. The commission, at that time, cost $300 )”



I’m really glad that so many people have asked about my figures lately, but some of them were really surprised when they heard the prices. Obviously these are not mass produced products made by machines in the thousands.  These are custom-made, and the prices reflect that.  With this in mind, I felt it might be an opportune time to explain the amount work that goes into the production of a figure better. Some 3D printing enthusiasts have also written me before, asking about the process for educational purposes. Keeping both things in mind, I wish to use this chance to explain in detail how my ‘magic’ is done.

As many of you may know, the figures I produce are 3D printed. however 3D printing is nothing like printing a photo on a home printer. For starters, you will need to generate a 3D model for you to print. I use a software called Zbrush to model the figures. I find that Zbrush is the best program to use for characters and most other organic stuff.  If you want to model a car or buildings there are far better programs, such as Maya or blender.  but for characters, Zbrush is – in my mind – the best option.  Modeling in Zbrush is like working with clay. You don’t need to worry about faces, vertexes, planes, etc. instead, it is much more like real sculpting, especially with a pen tablet, since the pressure sensitivity makes the process feel much more life-like.

The modeling of this figure took 16 hours (that’s the average time actually). The model will then look good enough for rendering and other purposes (like animation) but before you can print the model it needs to have some more prep work done. The first step is to plan how the model will be printed.  Most printers don’t have enough print volume to print large models (and in general it is not a good idea to print the whole model in a single block because there are areas that will be hard for the printer to create without using a lot of support material. (I’ll talk about this term later, but long story short, you want to avoid having a lot of support material).  For this reason, we usually divide the model into pieces.  Another benefit to this process is that it will make painting the figure that much easier by allowing us to paint areas that would have been otherwise much more difficult to reach.

Needless to say, you can’t just simply cut your model into random parts.  You will need to give some serious thought about where you want to place your cuts.  You do not want to have any cuts visible on the finished product, so you need to place these separations along what would be natural seams in the model or places where they will not be highly visible.   This is also the best time to modify the model for printing.  Some details may look great in 3D, but they are not practical for printing, such as individual strands of hairs. (Your printer will walk off and go on strike)

In the case of my sample figure, the whiskers and nails were far too thin and small.  The printer would, of course, try to print them, but these details would have likely broken off while I was separating the model from the support material.  In fact they likely would have been so thin that they would have broken even before that stage.   For this piece, the hockey stick was made thicker than the render model, because we did not want it to break easily once the model had been finished and delivered into the hands of the customer.

Clothing is another example of something that will need to be altered. Normally in a model for rendering, the clothing is a thin layer (much like actual cloth) but for printing you need to make clothing a solid block, and merge it with the body. (Think of how Bart Simpson’s hair is merged with his head) 

Finally, you will notice that the model is not just split, but parts have had pegs added to them, along with matching holes on the opposite parts. Not only do these pegs allow for a loose fit of the pieces together, but they create a stronger bond once everything is glued together (We will attach the parts together with super glue at the end of the process).  So, as you can see, there’s some heavy editing work needed in between finishing the 3D model for rendering purposes, and printing the actual model.  This ‘extra’ editing work alone cost me an extra 6 hours of work, on top of the previous 16 hours of modeling time.


I decided to start printing these two parts first: the lower body and the head.  After setting up the printer, I left it running over night, as it would take up to 13 hours to finish.

You see those vertical columns? Those are the support structures I mentioned in the first post. The slicing software creates these so that the printer can deal with overhangs and shallow angles.  These support structures help the printer carve out these details, but once the printing is done, these pieces are useless and must be removed.  (Yeah, as you can imagine, this can be a real pain in the ass sometimes!) Some pieces, especially those found on internal recesses such as an open mouth, can be incredibly difficult to remove.  You pretty much have to become a surgeon and cut them out of the inside of the model with care and precision.  (Good luck! ^_^v)

When slicing up the model, you don’t want to create too much support material for three reasons. one, It’s a waste of filament.  Two, the less material you have to remove, the easier your life will be when removing it.  Three, support material can leave a rough spot from where it was connected to the model. These rough spots – if not dealt with – can ruin your paint jobs.

So, as you can see, when we split the model, it is best to keep a good control over the use of the support material. This will allow us to position the parts in such a way that the amount of support needed is minimized. It also allows us to control where the support attaches to the model. You don’t want support material sticking to the face of the character, as the face has many small details that would be ruined by the rough surface the support material would leave behind.  This would be a critical mistake for the face as the face is the first thing everyone looks at.  Hence, why the head is facing up on this print, so that the support can be created on the back of the head, where there’s not much detail required.

So on day 2, we spent a total of 16 hours modeling the figure: 6 hours of preparing the model for printing, and 13 hours of printing only two of the parts for the model.



Here are the two parts with the support material removed.  You will notice that the prints look really smooth compared to how they looked before.  Although I use ABS, smoothing the models with acetone is completely out of the question.  Acetone is actually quite difficult to get a hold of in my country (Peru) because of it’s historical inclusion as a component for both bombs and cocaine.  I have found that chloroform works well,  but I don’t really like smoothing the print-outs with chemicals because I feel you end up with less control over the smoothing process.  So instead, I have chosen to use sandpaper and a truck load of patience to smooth out my prints.

if you look closely you’ll also notice some “pinkish” areas on the forehead.  This is an automotive putty known as Bondo.  Normally it is used to fill holes in a vehicle after a crash.  I, on the other hand, use it to fill in small holes and defects in the printing process, and then and the surface out until its smooth.  Bondo works well for this for two reasons: it is designed to be sanded down, and it is designed to be painted over.

Today’s process took five hours for these two parts.

Total work time until now has been as follows:

  • 16 hours doing the 3D modeling
  • 6 hours preparing the model for printing
  • 13 hours printing these two pieces
  • 5 hours smoothing the surface of these two pieces.

That night , I allowed the printer to print off the next two parts while I slept.


I left the printer on the previous night to create the the upper part and tail.  This resulted in another 11 hours of print time.  As you can see, I choose to print the upper half upside down, which minimizes the amount of support structures needed.

I have no plans to touch the model until Monday, as I want to enjoy my weekend! ^_^v

Total work time until today:

  • 16 hours doing the 3D modeling
  • 6 hours preparing the model for printing
  • 13 hours printing the lower body and head
  • 5 hours smoothing the lower body and head
  • 11 hours printing the upper body and tail



Well, yesterday (Sunday), I attempted to print the final 2 parts. the hockey stick was too large for the printer, so I divided it into two parts.

Then I ran into a problem.  Before the final print had started, the extruder of the 3D printer began to malfunction.

Fixing it would require tearing apart the extruder, but since I was alone, I decided to wait until today so that I could get some help from one of my friends. (To tell a small secret, I’m half blind so it can be hard for me to see the areas that are dark and small)

Today, I gave the various pieces to one of my artists to continue working on. (I’m not good with using traditional brushes/paints, so I have an artist help me with that job)  After I finished the sanding process, he added a white base coat and then painted on some of the primary colors (you can see the paintwork in the first photo).  I am currently printing out the base, which will likely take another four hours.

  • 16 hours 3D modeling
  • 6 hours preparing the model to print
  • 3 hours printing the lower body and head
  • 5 hours smoothing the lower body and head
  • 11 hours printing out the upper body and tail
  • 1 hour printing out the hockey stick
  • 5 hours smoothing 3 parts (upper body, tail, staff/stick)
  • 2 hours painting
  • 4 hours printing out the base

This brings us to a total of 63 hours so far, not including the modeling time.



I spent another 2 hours spent smoothing out the base.  In the end, we had to use a dremel tool to reduce the size of the pegs on the base because they did not easily fit very well into the holes in the legs

This was followed by 5 more hours of painting.  Those numbers on the shirt are really hard to paint with thin brushes.  Thank god my friend here has surgeon hands… lol!  Tomorrow will be the last day… I hope!

Total time until now

  • 16 hours 3d modeling
  • 6 hours preparing the model to print
  • 13 hours printing off the lower body and head
  • 5 hours smoothing the lower body and head
  • 11 hours printing off the upper body and tail
  • 1 hour printing off the hockey stick
  • 5 hours smoothing 3 parts (upper body, tail, staff/stick)
  • 2 hours base painting
  • 4 hours printing off the base
  • 2 hours smoothing the base
  • 5 hours base painting


After 7 more hours of painting, here’s the final result ^^!  Many thanks to Daftventure, who checked my spelling and reviewed my description of the process.

Final Total time

  • 16 hours of 3D modeling
  • 6 hours preparing the model to print.
  • 13 hours printing the lower body and head.
  • 5 hours smoothing the lower body and head
  • 11 hours printing the upper body and tail.
  • 1 hour printing the hockey stick
  • 5 hours smoothing 3 parts (upper body, tail, staff/stick)
  • 2 hours base painting
  • 4 hours printing the base
  • 2 hours smoothing the base
  • 5 hours base painting
  • 7 hours of final paint job

Total work time on the figure (not including the repair time) = 77 hours

Pent (c)