Hey! We from animake will tell you why 3d printing has become a hobby for so many people. It has become very cheap in the last couple years with many high quality printers being available below 200usd. Second, you can print nearly anything you want, be it a coat hanger for your wall, an action figure of your favorite character or a crazy looking flower pot.
We as animals have specialized in the second, action figures, statues, dioramas etc. like our name suggests we mostly do anime stuff.
So, how to get started with 3d printing figures and more?
1. Decide which type of printer you need (Best would be one of BOTH)
There are alot of options on the market as far as consumer 3d printers go, but there are only two options on which type to choose.
FDM and SLA/DLP all have their own upsides and downsides.
FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) is Ideal for very large prints, due to the fact that they are a lot more affordable, even the bigger ones! The downside would be that they are generally a little slower, and the level of detail they can produce is quite low, in comparison to SLA/DLP. This means i can only recommend using FDM printers if you want to print VERY big things, like Statues and Dioramas. My personal recommendation would be a Creality CR-10, a proven classic in the FDM category.
Now, while SLA & DLP (Stereolithography & Direct Light Projection) are not the same thing they are effectively so similar that I have grouped them here. SLA/DLP's main benefit is the INCREDIBLE level of detail you can print at, and the level of intricacy you can print at, Printing that incredible looking flowing hair you're used to on anime figurines won't be an issue with it.
The main downside of SLA/DLP would be the printing volume. While there are some Consumer level DLP printers that have a nicely sized printing volume, for example the Phrozen Transform, those are also incredibly pricey, coming in at above 2500 usd. The affordable options still have enough print volume to print standard 1/8 and maybe 1/6 figurines, but don't expect to be printing anything that is more in the realm of statues & dioramas on these.
The middleground, and in my opinion the best option by far would be something like the Elegoo Saturn, due to it's fast print speed and medium sized print volume.
2. Get familiar with your printer & the Slicer software youre using.
Just like there are many different options for 3d printers, there are many options in terms of Slicer´s. The most used ones Include cura, Prusa Slicer, Slic3r, Meshmixer & ChituBox. Don't worry, there are alot of videos available on youtube that will teach you how to use any of these programs in a few minutes!
Once you're comfortable with the Slicer of your choice, you are ready to get started with your first print. Ideally you should pick something easy to print, usually the printer manufacturer includes a test file, but if you decide to not print it or you didn't get one, that's not an issue!
You can find Thousands of free models on websites like Yeggi, they catalog all the models from different 3d marketplaces and make them easier to search for. Other More direct Options Include Cgtrader & Cults3D which are two of the marketplaces included in yeggi's search.
I sell the 3d models of Anime Figurines and Statues that I make on both of those sites, as well as on this site ofcourse. You can find many models of anime figurines etc. of varying quality, but as a big figurine/statue collector myself i really wanted more High quality statues & dioramas which is why i started making them myself.
3. Post-processing & Painting
Post-processing is what you need to do before you can start painting it, this includes removing supports, sanding/filling potential layerlines on FDM printers, sanding marks from the print supports and making sure the parts all fit together nicely. For removing supports on FDM printers i recommend getting pliers to remove them and then sanding the support marks with sand-paper. For removing layer lines there are a couple options, the obvious option would be sanding them down again, but that won't always yield the best results, the more ideal option would be to fill in those lines with something like Tamiya Epoxy putty,
If you use the proper tools, i.e. sculpting tools, you can fill it in so smoothly you wont need to sand afterwards, but of course you can still do that if you want to.
For SLA/DLP printers, i recommend using wire cutters to remove supports, but most of the time you will be able to remove them by hand with very little effort, if there are any marks left you can sand them down or use a Dremel. For filling layerlines, if they even occur, you can use the same method i mentioned for FDM above.
For painting strongly recommend getting an airbrush, for beginners a cheap one will suffice, there are bundles with a compressor and an airbrush available for below 100 usd and those will do just fine to start out. In terms of which colors to use, i can recommend Vallejo & Games Workshop, both have very high quality water-based acrylic colors.
Obviously you will also want to get a pair of normal brushes for more intricate detail, you might also want to try out gundam markers, they are basically markers and fine-liners that work on plastic surfaces.
For things like eyes, and emblems, I have a secret tip.
You can buy water decal paper, print out their eyes or any details you want on it, as long as you print them in the right size. With this you will get results that look like they were professionally manufactured by a company. You can also buy a solution that
completely dissolves the plastic of the decal so only the print itself is left, and there won't be any shiny-ness to it, it will look just like it is hand painted.