How I Make Tabletop Game Miniatures

One of my favorite past-times in recent years is table-top role-playing games, and Pathfinder in particular. And I’m a sucker for figurines, like these:

image 01

(Not my collection, sadly.)

Unfortunately, as awesome as some figures are, many of them are collectors’ items and it can be quite an expense for even a few of them. Since I’m cheap, and like to make things, I developed a way, using art software I know and computer printouts, to make my own figurines, like these:

image 02image 02b

So, in this article, I want to share with you how I make my paper miniature figurines. In the grand Pathfinder tradition, I’ll be using goblins as my example.

First, I know the shape that I want my miniature to take: it will stand upright as a square or rectangle of paper, connected to a hexagonal base. My design requires some folding, first in half, and then two half-hexagons outwards, so as to make the flat base, as seen in the examples above. The unfolded template looks like this:

image 03

As you can see, there are two half-hexes, each with a number inside: I can change this number when making multiples of the same thing, so players can identify specific figurines on the field (“I’m moving next to ninja number 5”, for example).

Once I have this set up, I prepare a small picture of whatever thing I plan to produce.  I can get creative in my selection of which art to use for a given thing. Usually for 1-inch battle-grids, I make the image 1 inch wide and tall, but for these size category Small creatures, I’ve reduced their size to 0.60 inches.

image 04

In this particular example, I have two images: one of the complete goblin from head-to-toe, and the other is a close-up of the individual’s face. Normally I just mirror the full-body image on both sides to more regularly resemble a sculpted plastic miniature, but for greater individualization (such as for figures players may use for their characters) having the mugshot/close-up is more recognizable.

Now it’s time to center the image, as below, keeping in mind orientation, as the paper will eventually be folded in half.

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I have prepared a single completed mini! But, it’s wasteful to print a full sheet of paper with only one miniature on it, so I usually fill up a page with batches of them. I repeat the process …

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(and you can see that first goblin in the upper-left hand corner) … until I have a full sheet of minis of all different types, and even some of slightly different sizes. This page looks really busy, but that’s because I’ve filled it with Starfinder figures (and I’m really looking forward to that release!). It can take quite a while to line everything up so there are no gaps, but that just means I can be efficient and make more miniatures per page.

And here’s the completed legal-size draft:

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… and here it is printed:

image 08

From this point the next step is to cut the individual unfolded figurines up. You can use scissors if you like, but I like and recommend the precision of a utility or hobby knife:

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With a pair of scissors, the next part is to cut off the corners of the edges, so that my square bases can become hexagons when folded, like so:

image 13

Once I’ve done that and all of the cutting is complete, I fold the paper in half, and then fold up the hexagon half-sections to create the base. Using double-sided sticky tape, I attach the paper hexagon base to a penny (or similar worthless thing), and I’m ready to go!

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I repeat until finished, and I now have an army ready for the battlefield!

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Using this method, one can customize for whatever figures desired. I didn’t have to use goblins: a quick image search online and some creativity in some art programs allows anyone to select images they want to make into figurines of any kind: robots, zombies, accountants, you name it. And in case you’re wondering, the trees in the second picture were printed on plastic transparency sheets, rather than opaque printer paper, but the process is very similar.

I hope this inspires you to create your own things, rather than spending money on stuff. I’ve found I’d rather spend the time to make something as well as I can, and it’s become a hobby that I enjoy.

NOTE: The unfolded base template was something I created originally in OpenOffice Writer (which is now LibreOffice Writer, a freeware version of Microsoft Word), and is now something I make as a vector object in Serif DrawPlus (which is a freeware version of Adobe Illustrator). Incidentally, DrawPlus is now legacy software. If you would like to acquire a vector graphics program you can still visit the website or alternatively there is a download for Adobe CS2 (I’ve never used it, but there’s the link if you’re interested.)

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