How do I print your stuff (with a filament printer)?
Okay... This isn't a how-to site for 3D printing, but I'll go over the basics.
First, download the zip file containing the STL files you want to print off the My Designs page. Separate out only the STL files that you need to use (there are often alternate versions of parts depending on whether you're printing in filament or resin, or using special add-ons like motors or LED bricks) and make a note if you need to print multiple copies of any parts. Further print instructions will be listed in the Print Recommendations section below the file link.
Next, you will need to open the STL files in a slicer program to convert them into a format that your printer can use (Typically GCODE).
If you have a regular filament printer, you are most likely using CURA, which is completely free and probably came with your printer, though there are other programs out there that have a few additional bells and whistles. The first time you use CURA, you'll need to set global settings that are particular to your printer (like the build area size, resolution, etc.) and then after that, you can adjust per-print settings, like what fill percentage to use, where to print support structures around the object, and whether to use a Brim or Raft to make it stick to the build plate easier. These are the typical CURA settings I use for most of my prints:
Once finished, you should be able to save the GCODE files onto a USB or SD card that the printer reads from, or potentially transfer the file across to the printer via wi-fi.
After that, the process differs depending on what brand of printer you have, but on mine,
pop the SD card into the printer and power it on, hit "warm-up" and "PLA", wait a minute for it to reach starting temperature, pick off any stray bits of filament that have leaked out, hit "print", choose my GCODE model from the list, wait for it to almost reach target temperature (target for PLA is 220) then spray a couple of quick spurts of hairspray on the platform if it's going to be a large design, let it do the first initial outline for the raft (the solid bit that goes under your print job), quickly pick off any blobby or stringy bits that might interfere with printing, then the hard part.... waiting several hours up to a solid week for it to finish the print job.
For more tips for getting the most out of your filament printer, see the Tool Tips section of this site.
How do I print your stuff (with a resin printer)?
As resin printers are a bit more complicated and potentially hazardous to operate, you should already know the basics of how one works before coming to this site to print any of my designs.
But assuming you're just wondering how to get the files off this site and into your printer, you can download them via zip file from the My Designs page. Before you load them into your slicer software, make sure you check the materials grid to confirm the design you want to print is SLA compatible (some of the earlier ones aren't) and check whether the design calls for the use of a flexible resin like Siraya Tech's Tenacious. Further print instructions will be listed in the Print Recommendations section below the file link.
Once you open the zip file, separate out only the STL files that you need to use (files for SLA printing will usually be clearly marked as such) and import them into your slicer program. If your printer doesn't come with it's own slicing software, I recommend checking out Chitubox, which is completely free and compatible with most major brands of printer. It also has a rather quick and easy "hollow" function so you don't end up wasting resin on parts that don't need to be solid.
One minor issue with Chitubox is that it's auto-support feature is a bit crap, so the best way to ensure that your figure prints correctly is to use the slider bar on the right side of the screen to start at the lowest layer of your print and slowly drag up, manually adding in supports wherever you start to see "islands" appearing.
Adding supports and orienting your prints is a bit of an art form in itself. There are lots of youtube
videos out there to give you pointers, and there are lots of little things (like fluid dynamics, suction force) that you will gradually become more aware of, the more you print.
For more tips for getting the most out of resin printing, see the Tool Tips section of this site.
Also note that most resin shrinks ever-so-slightly when you print items. The amount of shrinkage varies from brand to brand and printer to printer, but it's generally around 4-7%, so I generally increase the size of all parts by 105% in Chitubox prior to printing when using regular (i.e. cheap) Elegoo or Anycubic resin.
How do I print your stuff if I don't own a 3D printer?
If you do not have a 3D printer of your own, you can use services like 3Dhubs.com or 3Drapidprints.com to locate local print-to-order services near you, but this can be very expensive (up to 10x what you'd pay in material costs printing for yourself) especially for the larger and more intricate figures and play sets.
Before you pay a bunch of money to a stranger, it may also be worth checking to see if any of your friends, of your local library, college, or Maker's club has a printer that you can use. Even if they charge you a small fee to cover print time supply costs, it's bound to be less expensive and more reliable than a print-to-order service.
If you plan on printing more than one or two of these figures, I highly recommend sitting down and at least considering buying a machine of your own. You can get a decent sized filament printer for around £200 these days, which is still a hefty up-front cost, but after that, the actual material costs are pretty reasonable.
You can usually print 3 to 5 regular sized figures off a single £15 to £20 roll of filament or a £30 bottle of resin, and even my most massive and elaborate design, the TV Movie TARDIS Console Room playset, can be printed for around £60 using just three rolls of filament (two grey, one brown) and barring misprints, you should still have some left over when you're done. Compare that to the £40 to £60 you may end up paying for a single medium-sized figure, and suddenly printing for yourself starts to seem like a much better option.
Regardless of who is doing the printing for you, you'll first need to download the files from the My Designs page as described in the sections above, and then upload or email them to the print service to get a price quote.
As always, make sure you are only uploading the files you need for the material you intend to have them printed in (use files labeled for PLA if printing in filament, and SLA if printing in resin) and if the design requires multiple copies of the same part (ex: two identical legs) you may need to manually create multiple numbered copies of the files to get accurate pricing when dealing with an automated system.
Rates on 3Dhubs.com will vary greatly depending on the size and complexity of the model and how many people in your area can perform the work, but are generally more affordable than going through ridiculously overpriced international services like Shapeways (The one advantage of Shapeways is that they can do more exotic printing techniques like metal casting, which can lead to some very cool looking customs, though these options will cost your a packet.) Another advantage of 3Dhubs.com is that they will usually hook you up with an actual person that you can talk to directly prior to committing to a purchase.
Note that all my figures are designed to be printed at standard 0.1mm (100 micron) layer height on regular PLA filament printers or at 0.02mm layer height (20 micron) on resin printers unless otherwise noted, but some unscrupulous 3D printing services cut corners and save themselves valuable printing time by setting their machines at a much higher layer height than you would normally use at home. This allows them to print significantly faster, but causes all slopes and curves to have a very noticeable and ugly looking ziggurat-like step pattern.
If their website does not specify what layer height/thickness they are printing at (or allow you to select that as part of the print options) always make sure you talk to an actual human being before sending payment.
Finally, figures that are listed as Beta on my designs page have not been thorougly tested and may have articulation elements that need to be revised. If you're going to spend £60 for a figure still in Beta, make sure you have seen someone else successfully print it first. Otherwise you may find yourself out a lot of money for a figure that won't even slot together properly.
Will you print or sell me a figure?
Once in a blue moon (i.e. every couple of years or so) I may do a "shelf
cleaning sale" where I put some of my less than perfect prototype figures up for auction. These are figures that may be slightly off-scale, lack functional articulation (see above), have printing defects, broken parts that were crazy glued back together, and/or are an older version of a design that I've since gone back and improved upon.
When this occurs, all proceeds are recycled back into the project to cover onging costs (like replacing a broken printer or computer) or donated to a worthy cause (like helping out one of the Doctor Who animation team who was in desperate financial straits.) Occasionally, I will also donate individual figures to be used as prizes for Doctor Who related fundraising events.
Do not ask if one of these cleaning sales
is upcoming, or if I can sell you a figure on the side in exchange for a "donation" (wink-wink nudge-nudge). The answer is always no. If you want a specific figure, and you don't have a printer, use a print-to-order service. It's that simple.
I'm thinking of buying a 3D printer. Which kind should I get: Filament or Resin?
There are advantages to both types of printers, and it is occasionally useful to have both.
Overall, resin produces infinitely superior print quality, but typically comes with a much smaller print area, uses slightly more expensive materials, and requires the handling of toxic chemicals in a responsible manner. Here are some advantages/disadvantages of both:
|Basic Features/Cost: Most PLA filament printers have print areas of 7" x 7" x 7" or larger, and print at a standard resolution layer height of 0.10mm (100 micron.) Printer prices change drastically every time a newer fancier model comes out on the market, but you can get a decent printer that does everything you need it to do for around £200 to £300.
||Basic Features/Cost: Most resin printers have a small print area of about 2.5" x 4.5" x 6" which is not big enough to accommodate larger figures without slicing them into smaller pieces. These typically cost around £180 to £250. Maximum resolution varies, but even the more affordable models like the Anycubic Photon or Elegoo Mars, can usually go down to layer heights of 0.02mm (20 micron), which is five times better than your average filament printer, and significantly faster too.
Premium Features/Cost: Higher resolution machines can print with layer heights as small as 0.02mm (20 micron), and may come with larger build areas. You can also find some with dual extruders that can print in two colors at once, or even print in full color! Depending on size and features, these can cost anywhere from £450 to £3000.
Note that while a really good machine can go down to layer heights of 0.02mm, you will not be able to get the same level of surface detail as a resin printer printing at the same resolution.
This is because filament is naturally stringy and only really retains its shape and structural integrity when formed into solid shapes more than about 5mm in diameter. Objects or parts smaller than this tend to look lumpy and half-melted if they don't self-destruct entirely.
|Premium Features/Cost: Large scale resin printers are still prohibitively expensive and cost between £1200 and £3200 for something with approximately the same print area as a regular PLA printer. Beyond that, you start getting into industrial units that cost upwards of £20,000!
What you are paying for here is mostly print area. Some of the fancier next generation printers can go down to layer heights as low as 0.01mm, but in most cases, you should never need to print at anything lowe than 0.02mm, as any differences in quality are going to be imperceptible to the naked eye.
|Print Time: Filament printing requires your print nozzle to pass back and forth over every single point of your print job multiple times, so print
times are typically measured in days.
Extremely large objects (like the Dalek Time Machine) can take well over a week to print... assuming it doesn't jam partway through printing. The total mass of the print job affects the total print time.
Print Time: Most resin printers print each layer of your print-job simultaneously, in just a couple of seconds, which means the total print time is entirely dependent on the maximum height of the tallest part of your object.
Most pieces under 3" tall will print in 12 hours or less, and even if you print an object at the maximum resolution and maximum height, it should never take more than a single day.
Overall, resin printing is lightning fast compared to PLA, for a much nicer looking end product.
|Filament Cost: Standard PLA and PLA+ filament are usually pretty cheap, about £15 to £25 a spool, and one spool will get you about 3 to 5 regular sized figures.
Resin Cost: Resin typically comes in 500ml or 1000ml bottles ranging from about £25 to £50 a bottle. One 500ml bottle will get you about 3 to 5 regular-sized figures depending on whether you hollow out the thicker areas of the model.
Keep in mind that since you must maintain a constant resevoir of resin in the vat to print, you will never use 100% of the available resin, but you can reduce the amount of resin wasted this way by printing multiple objects of the same color back-to back, and straining unused resin back into the bottle when done.
Color Options: There are dozens of base colors to choose from, and several fancier filaments out there that will let you do fun stuff like PETG (almost see-through like frosted glass) TPU (highly flexible), thermoplastic (changes color with temperature), plus others that look like metal or are speckled, like stone.
Color Options: Resin base color selection is minimal. Typically clear, grey, white, black, green, blue, maroon, orange, yellow, red, cyan, and flesh tone. However, most resins can be mixed together or have small quantities of resin dye added to tweak the colors, so color options are almost endless, though matching colors between individual print jobs is nearly impossible.
Since most figures are going to be painted anyways, I generally print in White and save myself the hassle of having to empty out the FEP vat between prints.
Material Properties and Limitations: Basic filament is slightly flexible and good at absorbing compression damage, enough that you can use it to create snap-in-place parts very easily.
Thin parts will break if dropped on a hard surface, and prints have a tendency to snap along layer lines if submitted to too much sideways/twisting force.
Filament printers do not print overhangs (i.e. the underside of a sphere or ledge) very well, and these parts come out very rough and misshapen even on the best printers. (The one exception to this rule is if you get a very expensive dual-nozzle filament printer that uses the second nozzle to print temporary support structures that can later be disolved in acetate)
Any parts smaller than about 5mm in diameter tend to self destruct unless they are printed flat against a borosilicate glass plate.
If they do print, they are liable to be very ugly and misshapen. (see the Rutan example above)
Printing small parts is always a gamble because they can not only destroy themselves, they can break free and stick to the nozzle damaging the rest of your print job at the same time.
You also cannot print anything truly transparent with PLA or even PETG. There will always be some cloudiness or frosting due to the way the print nozzle has to lay down each filament strand individually.
Material Properties and Limitations: Basic resin is extremely hard and inflexible and has properites very similar to glass. Because of it's rigidity any sufficient force will cause it to chip or shatter, and you cannot use it to build snap-in-place joints (without flexible additives) because they will break before they bend.
On the plus side, the hardness of resin gives it amazingly crisp resolution, even on overhangs, though you will still have to print support structures. (Placement of these is often a very important part of the print process.) You must also be conscious that you are printing with a liquid where the structures are at least partially submerged, and that your object is effectively printing upside down. Any cup-like cavities without drainage holes can collect resin and result in a solid part that was supposed to be hollow. Surface tension on small holes without adequate drainage can also trap resin in unwanted places, if you aren't careful.
Resin can print extremely tiny parts down to 2 or even 1mm diameter, but again... be conscious as to their orientation, as sharp points can pierce the FEP liner, causing resin to spill and quickly ruining your print, and if you aren't using a flexibile resin, they may break the moment you try to take them off the build plate.
There are special resins on the market, like Siraya Tech "Tenacious" that can be used as an additive (usually a 50/50% mix) to greatly increase durability and provide enough flexibility that specially constructed snap-in parts will work. The smaller a part is, the more flexibility it will have, so thin pieces 1.5mm around will bend with almost as much flexibility as a Character Options figure's hands, but anything over 3mm wide will remain completely rigid. The downside of using flexible resin is that it's about twice as expensive as regular resin, and it tends to make smaller parts semi-transparent.
Since resin is transparent by default, printing perfectly clear glass-like prints is very easy.
Safety, Storage, and Clean-up: Filament has a clear advantage here as it's very easy to store and (mostly) non-toxic. The offgasses from the plastic as it is being melted inside the machine aren't particularly good for you to be inhaling on a long-term basis, but in it's solid unmelted state, you can pick it up and handle it bare-handed, it won't stain, and once you take it off the machine, it is done.
The most dangerous thing about filament printing is that the nozzle gets extremely hot, so just like a hot glue gun, wait for it to cool down completely before you touch it.
Storage is comparatively simple. The most important thing with filament is to keep it away from moisture, as this can cause it to expand and cause nozzle jams and print failures. Don't put your printer right next to a drafty old window or out in the garage if your washer and drier are in there making things humid. When you are done printing, put your partially used spools in a ziplock freezer bag with a silica gel pack (most spools come with them), and store in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight, moisture and extreme heat, and it should last a very long time, possibly years.
While it is always advisable to print in a well ventilated area, the fumes from filament printing are comparatively minor, and can usually be contained by a basic enclosure. (even one you build yourself out of foamcore or cardboard)
Safety, Storage, and Clean-up: WARNING: Resin is toxic and should only be handled when wearing gloves. Contact won't kill you, but it is a skin irritant, and you definitely don't want to ingest it or stick your hand under a UV light with any in contact with your flesh.
It is oily and will stain clothing and carpets like motor oil, and you will need to handle it a lot as you take the print jobs (still covered in liquid resin) and transfer them to a bath of Isopropyl Alcohol or mineral spirits, and then carefully patted dry with paper towels or transferred to a second bath in an ultrasonic cleaner or tub of soapy water to rinse off the remaining resin. (Especially if the part is hollow and may have liquid resin trapped inside) The cleaned part will then need additional curing under a special UV cure light.
Liquid resin has a limited shelf life and will start to cure on it's own after a couple of days if left out in the open, though if you keep your printer in a dark room or cabinet, you can leave resin in the machine for weeks at a time without any problems (just stir it up real good before you try printing again)
Uncured resin should be stored in its original bottle at room temperature in a dark place when not in use. Keep resin, as well as all your tools that have touched resin, well away from children and pets.
Leftover resin as well as the resin-infused alcohol must be disposed of responsibly. It is an environmentally hazardous chemical, so do not flush it down the toilet or pour it into the gutter. If the resin hasn't been exposed to too much UV light, you can usually strain it right back into the bottle, but if you do need to dispose of resin, the best method is to pour it into a ziplock freezer bag, then put the bag outside overnight to slow-cure gradually as the sun comes up. Once it's solid, it can go in the trash. Resin tainted alcohol should likewise be left outside in the sun in an open container like an old pie tin or cookie sheet to evaporate.
Again, if you have pets or small children, be careful where you do this, and keep an eye on the weather, since you don't want it raining and going out the next day to find a disgusting film of resin all over whatever surface you had it sitting out on.
Don't place your bag of leftover resin under your UV cure light, as this is far more intense than regular sunlight, and resin gives off heat when cured, which can easily melt the bag and spill resin everywhere.
Ventilation is also important. If printing indoors in an area where you will potentially be breathing fumes, it is highly recommended that you wear a mask when handling liquid resin and build an exhaust system that will pump fumes out a window, rather than into the room itself. (Depending on your printer, you may also be able to attach a hose or charcoal filter to the exhaust port on the back, even if you have to 3D print the attachment yourself.)
Resin dust can also be dangerous (it's extremely fine and doesn't break down in the human body) so you should always wear a mask, goggles, and gloves if you have to sand down a resin printed piece. Once finished, make sure all dust is vacuumed up afterwards.
You will also need enough table space to accommodate your alcohol/water baths, your UV cure light, plenty of paper towels for laying our parts and resin covered parts, and a large vinyl chair mat to cover the floor in front of your work area to make cleaning up any accidental drips easler.
|Repairs, Replacements, and other Frustrations: Nozzle jams and misprints are quite common, often ruining the entire print, and sometimes requiring partial disassembly of the extruder to clean out plastic.
You will need to replace nozzles and PTFE tubing every few weeks as they get clogged up and disgusting. These parts are fairly inexpensive.
Problems with the machines beyond switching out nozzles and tubing, or releveling, can often be tricky and expensive to diagnose. Heater tubes, thermocouples, heater blocks, extruder parts, and motors cost between about £10 and £40 each, and are often proprietary between brands, so it is easy to buy somethign that doesn't quite fit.
Expect a lot of down-time and trial-and-error testing while trying to problem solve any malfuctions.
|Repairs, Replacements, and other Frustrations:You will need to replace the FEP film liner every few prints, because they are disposable sheets of plastic that will eventually get resin stuck to them and develop small holes that will cause your prints to fail (because everything will stick to the LED panel)
These cost between £3-£15
each depending on how many you buy at once. (buying 5 at a time is usually cheapest)
You can make your FEP liners last longer by being careful with your support structures to avoid creating "islands" without support that will stick to the liner. If you do end up with blobs of resin stuck to the liner, avoid using anything sharp to break them loose. Sometimes, you can dislodge resin remnants by carefully poking up from below with a gloved knuckle or thumb, which will make the edge of the solid piece pop loose without cutting into the liner.
If you are going to print a really big item out of expensive resin, it is probably advisable to go in with a fresh FEP liner, especially if it's starting to get cloudy or develop small wrinkles.
after several months of printing, you will have to replace the UV light LCD screen, as they do wear out eventually. This costs about £40 on the Anycubic Photon, but I don't know what other brands are like.
Resin spills are going to happen occasionally, and you will need to be careful scraping resin up off the glass. A brass ice scraper is usually the best tool for this, but you can also use a razor blade if you are very careful. If you do scratch the glass and have to replace it, this only costs about £15 on the Anycubic Photon, so it's not a huge loss.
Since resin is a liquid, there's always the danger of a catastrophic spill making it's way down into the fan or circuit boards. This can destroy your entire machine in a matter of moments, so uhh.... just be careful not to overfill the FEP tank or put the printer anywhere where somebody could potentially bump into it hard enough to knock it over.
What specs should I look for when I'm shopping for a 3D Printer?
For filament (FDM) printers, here are some of the more essential features to look for:
- The printer should use standard 1.75mm filament, a 0.4mm or smaller nozzle, and have a maximum extruder temperature of 260°C (500°F) or higher. This will allow you to print PLA (the most common type of filament) but also TPU, PETG, and other more exotic filament types when the design requires it.
- A large build area that's at least 7" x 7" x 7". The bigger the better here. The vast majority of my figures and play sets will fit on a 7" x 7" build area, but it's always safer to have more room to print extra brims and heat barriers.
- The smallest minimum layer height you can find.
Most filament printers print at a standard minimum layer height of 0.1mm (100 microns) which is... okay.
Do not buy anthing with a minimum layer height greater than 0.1mm, because your prints will look like garbage.
But if you can find a higher quality 0.05mm (50 micron) or 0.02mm (20 micron) printer in your price range, go for it. Layer height is the single most important factor in determining the overall quality of your prints, and the lower this number is, the smoother your diagonal/curved surfaces will look, and the easier the figure will be to paint once you're done.
- A heated build plate that you can attach a borosilicate glass plate to if your printer doesn't come preloaded with one. (These typically cost about £20, but make sure you can find one that's the same size as your print area.) This will help prevent curling on large pieces and give you a nice smooth finish on your bottom surfaces.
- Compatibility with CURA. It may or may not say this on the box or product details, but it's nice if it mentions it. If it says "works with standard GCODE editors" that's basically the same thing. Most printers are CURA compatible, but if it lists some other slicer software instead, you might want to ask some follow-up questions. The last thing you want to do is get stuck with proprietary in-house software that suddenly stops working when you upgrade computers or the company goes under and stop updating their product to work with the latest operating system changes.
- If you can, try to find a printer with a nice sturdy exterior frame that you can build an enclosure around (it doesn't need to be fancy, literally building a box out of foam core works pretty well). This will help regulate temperature and prevent curling on large designs, and also keep out unwanted hair, dust, small hands or paws, any anything else you don't want to interfere with the print.
- Some newer printers will automatically sense when you're running low on filament and pause the print. I don't have a printer that does this, and I don't know how well it works, but it sounds like an incredibly useful feature to have, as it's often hard to judge how much filament is left on a roll, and there's nothing more frustrating that getting 4 days into a 5 day print job, and realizing you're going to be short by a couple of meters.
For resin printers, here are some of the more essential features to look for:
- The largest build area you can find (within your price range). This is the biggest shortcoming of resin printers, so you don't want to shortchange yourself anymore than absolutely necessary. At minimum, you should ensure your build area is at least as big as the Anycubic Photon or Elegoo Mars, which has a fairly standard build area of 115mm by 65.02mm by 154.94mm (or approximately 4.5" by 2.5" by 6.1")
- A minimum layer height of 0.02mm (20 microns) or lower. Most resin printers on the market will go down to 0.02mm as standard, but some larger models are not designed for fine detail work and have minimum layer heights of 0.10mm or 0.50mm, which is actually worse than you'll get off a filament printer. Layer height is the single most important factor in determining the overall quality of your prints, and the lower this number is, the smoother your diagonal/curved surfaces will look, and the easier the figure will be to paint.
Note that some high end printers can go down as low as 0.01mm per layer, which is impressive, but anything lower than
0.02mm is going to be largely superfluous unless you like gazing at your figures through a magnifying glass, and never intend to paint them.
- Does it come with it's own slicer software that allows you to import STL/OBJ files, and/or is the printer compatible with Chitubox? Different printers come with different tools, in general, most slicer software should accept STL files, but it's nice if it also allows you to import the commonly used OBJ format without having to convert in another program first. Chitubox is a free independent slicer software similar to CURA that works better than the proprietary software that comes with the AnyCubic Photon, and gives you more flexibility when it comes to adding/removing supports and setting print parameters.
What brands of 3D Printer do you recommend?
You're somewhat in luck here because the cheapest models on the market also happen to be among the best.
The vast majority of my 3D Printing group use the Creality Ender 3 filament printer.
It's cheap, effective, has a nice large build area, and does pretty much everything that the more expensive models can do for a fraction of the cost. It's also comparatively easy to get ahold of in the UK.
For fans who live in Australia, if you can't get an Ender, you might want to look into getting a Cocoon Touch. This printer is essentially a rebranded version of the Wanhao Duplicator i3 and the Monoprice Maker Select Plus, which is the printer that I own.
If you want to print at maximum resolution on a filament printer, you can also look into getting a Wanhao Duplicator 6 or the Monoprice Maker Ultimate. These are among a very small pool of filament printers (now discontinued) that can go down to 0.02mm (20 micron) layer height. However, the steep price tag ($499 new in box) and the fact that resin printers can print at the same resolution for a fraction of the cost, has largely rendered these "high end" filament printers irrelevant.
If you want to jump straight into the resin printing game, your two basic "starter" machines
are the Anycubic Photon and the Elegoo Mars. Different people will tell you one is better than the other but they're both essentially the same in terms of print area/resolution, which isn't surprising, considering they take the exact same replacement screen.
The Elegoo typically retails for about £30 cheaper, which makes it seem like the obvious choice, until you realize that it doesn't come pre-packaged with a bottle of resin, so they effectively come out to be the exact same starting price. (Note that while both companies manufacture their own resins, they can be used interchangably between machines, and there's no real difference in quality or smell. I usually by Elegoo since it's a couple of bucks cheaper in the US.)
The Photon does have a more active support community which is nice if you have printing or repair questions, though I've heard the Elegoo is slightly easier to use... probably because it comes bundled with Chitubox. Mind you, Chitubox is free and works on both printers, so there's absolutely no reason not to download it and use it if you happen to buy a Photon.
The two printers are so similar, which one you purchase should probably depend on one major factor: do you plan on putting this printer inside a cabinet for storage/UV protection? If you are, the Photon has a flip-top door, which means it requires less vertical clearance than Elegoo's lift off lid design.
Finally, if you want to go BIG there's a whole new generation of larger scale resin printers that rival FDM printers in terms of size. I happen to own a Phrozen Transform, the biggest home printer currently on the market with a build area of 290mm x 160mm x 400mm. Large enough to print an entire 5.5" scale Bessie or Whomobile in one chunk if I wanted to. One downside, it'll cost you over €2200.
What brands of filament/resin do you recommend?
For filament, if you can find it, go with PLA+ (which is sometimes called PLA Pro or Flex PLA, though as far as I can tell, they're all the same thing.) PLA+ is a composite material made from mixing standard PLA with the more flexible TPU filament. This results in a product that is stronger, cleaner, with better layer adhesion, improved bend and impact-resistance, and just better print quality all around.
It won't give you resin level quality but it will make small parts and surface details like the pincers
on the Kroton or buttons and control levers on the TARDIS console come out much crisper and less blobby. It's a little more expensive (about £5 more a roll) but well worth the extra cost in my book.
I typically buy my PLA+ from eSUN, who list it as PLA Pro and have a fairly decent color selection, or Paramount, who list it as Flex PLA, who I'm fond of for filament in general since their stuff isn't too expensive and they tell you the exact Pantone color the filament is supposed to match (ex: British Racing Car Green 3435c) so you always know what you're getting and can be reasonably certain that if you reorder several months later, you'll be getting the same color as what you bought previously, even if it came from a different batch.
For resin printing, as far as I'm concerned, there are only three brands worth paying attention to. Elegoo, AnyCubic, and Siraya Tech.
Elegoo and Anycubic resin are pratically the same, though they do have some slight color differences. Both brands are quite affordable, print well with minimal distortion, and have the least noticable odor of any resins on the market. In general, you should base your decisions on whichever one of them happens to be on sale at the time, or match your specific color needs. The only time I express a preference between the two is when I'm printing something transparent. I find the Anycubic Clear brand tends to be a little clearer and doesn't cloud up or yellow with time quite as much as the Elegoo.
Note that you can use Elegoo/Anycubic Grey, White, and Clear for just about anything and add additional resin pigment in as an additive, without having to buy additional colors which will save you some money in the long run.
When I need to add flexibility to my prints, I generally use Siraya Tech "Tenacious" resin as an additive. A roughly 50/50% mixture with Elegoo/Anycubic will allow small parts (like fingers) to move, while anything over 3mm in width will be rigid, but far less prone to impact damage. This does tend to make small parts slightly transparent, but since you'll typically be painting after printing anyways, that's usually not an issue.
What tools or add-on accesories do you recommend?
See the Tool Tips page, where I go into this in a lot more detail. But if you're talking bare minimum to get started...
For filament printers:
You need the printer itself, some filament, and a computer to run the free CURA slicer software on. You will need to pick up some spare print nozzles and teflon tubing, as these get worn out and clogged fairly quickly, as well as some long stainless stell nozzle cleaning bits. If you have a heated bed, a borosilicate glass plate the same size as your print bed is highly recommended, and if you live somewhere where you get occasional power spikes/brownouts it's a good idea to hook the printer up to a cheap uninterupted power supply/battery back-up, just so you don't lose an entire print job because the lights flickered for a few seconds.
For resin printers:
For resin printing, you need a whole bunch of accessories outside from the printer itself. The short list includes a UV cure light, various sized beakers for washing your parts in isopropyl alcohol or mineral spirits once you pull them off the machine. You'll also want a variety of tweezers for grabbing the items out of your alcohol bath, a steady supply of disposible gloves, alcohol wipes, and paper towels, some PVC chair mats to put down in front of your work area to make cleaning up resin spills easier, and a resin funnel (basically a metal funnel with a thin wire mesh) to string out resin chunks if you want to pour unused resin back into the bottle when you change colors or FEP liners in the machine.
Usually, you will also want some sort of cabinet where you can safely enclose the resin printer and all your bottles of resin away from dust, UV light, and pets/children.
If you're using the machine indoors, in an area where you or other people will be spending a lot of time, it is highly recommended that you give your cabinet external ventilation. My printing cabinet has a 4" hole in the back that I hooked up to a standard 4"dryer duct and two inline bathroom duct fans to pump fumes out through my office window.
If you search Thingiverse, you can often find special printable adaptors that will let you hook the exhaust vent of printer directly to a 4" dryer duct. I also keep some disposable charcoal moisture eliminator filters inside the cabinet (since it is connected to the outdoors) and a free-standing HEPA filter sitting on top of my build area next to my alcohol wash to hedge my bets against any fumes that might escape my exhaust fans.
What software was used to make these figures?
All my figures are built through a combination of TinkerCAD and Meshmixer.
Both are completely free.
How do I go about editing/modifying one of your figures myself?
My TinkerCAD links are now private since we were having issues with people printing figures and selling them on eBay.
If you want to edit one of my figures, you can download the files off of the My Desings page, and then either import them into TinkerCAD (if you do so, please make sure you keep the design private) or
edit them offline using any number of CAD programs. As long as you can find software that works with STL and/or OBJ files, you should be able to edit any of my designs. I frequently use Meshmixer myself, but your mileage may vary.
My 3D printing service says I need to [Blank] the figure before they can print it. How do I do that?
Depending on how you downloaded the files and how finicky your print service is going to be printing them, they may ask you to modify them in certain ways. If you ever get stuck, the best place to ask for advice is on the project's Facebook page, but here are some common ones I've come across.
- Separate the files -- The files should already be separated if you downloaded them using the Google Drive link.
- Merge the files -- This is a bit tricky, especially if the print service doesn't tell you what size print area they have. In this case, they're being lazy and want you to put all the parts together so that they can print all the pieces at the same time as a single job. This may cause problems as certain pieces should be printed at different infill percentages, which require separate print jobs. You might be better off just looking for a different print service, buf if you want to comply with their request, you'll need to use a free slicer program like Cura to load all the STL files (or as many as will fit in their print area) and then position them so that they'll fit within the required build area.
When you're done, click "Save Model" to resave the merged body parts as a single STL file.
- Hollow a model -- This is most commonly needed for resin printing. Typically the person doing the printing would do this at the slicing stage, but if they want you to do it beforehand, you'll need to download Chitubox and open each STL file individually, use the hollow icon to specify the wall thickness and then click "Start." Once done, you can resave the hollowed out STL file.
- Cut a model in half -- Sometimes larger models may need to be split to print in smaller print areas. There are several tools for doing this, but one of the easiest is by using the 3D Builder program that comes with Windows 10. After you import the model, select "Edit" and "Split" to open up a plane cut window. Make sure you select "Keep Both" then click "Split." This will give you two shapes on the right-hand side Items bar.
Click one of those objects and delete it, then go up to the file menu and click "Save As" to save the left (or right) hand shape as it's own file. Once it's saved, hit undo to get both pieces back, then delete the other object, and "Save As" the other part.
- Resize a model -- Sometimes, the person will recommend shrinking a model slightly so that it fits better on their build plate (or is cheaper because it'll use less plastic). While this will make it slightly less than true 5.5" scale the biggest concern here is articulation and room for specially sized components. For example, the TARDIS Console is a figure that people sometimes want to shrink by 5-10% so it'll fit on their build plate better, however, if you plan on inserting LEDs or a motor, those holes will now also be 5-10% smaller and will no longer fit. And potentially neither will the recommended size acrylic tubing for the central column.
If you want to go ahead and shrink anyways (or try blowing up to 1:6 or 12" scale) the easiest way to do that is through
Chitubox, which has a very easy grow/shrink button that will let you specift the percentage the item should be changed. Make sure you resave the STL file when done.
- Add or remove supports or heat barriers -- Most PLA filament printing versions of figures will have special supports or heat barriers (to prevent curling) pre-added for your convenience. If your print service wants you to remove or modify these for some reason, you're probably going to have to import the files back into TinkerCAD and edit them out manually, or use the SLA versions. This is probably a situation where you'll need to ask for advice is on the project's Facebook Group.
- Make a part thicker -- This is not usually something that can be done. Typically the printer person is worrying about overall print quality, as some pieces may be very close to the minimum threshhold for what will or won't print. You can always ask the Facebook Group for advice, but usually you just have to tell the printer to go ahead, and that you realize that part of the model may not print very well.
Is it okay if I print figures for my friends? Can I ask for money to cover materials/shipping?
Absolutely, within reason.
I'm well aware that a great number of fans out there don't have their own printers and rely on friends or print-to-order services to print for them, both of which are okay, since it's small number requests for personal use, and nothing that's likely to get anyone in trouble with the BBC. If money exchanges hands in this capacity for materials/time/labor/shipping, that's acceptable, as long as you aren't out advertising that you provide this as an ongoing service.
Basically, what I don't want to see is: Anyone actively drumming up business for themselves by saying "Hey fellow whovians! Give me money and I'll print you anything you want off this list" or printing out copies of my designs for the purpose of flogging them to other fans or putting them up for sale in a storefront like eBay or Etsy.
Do use common sense when deciding who you are going to print for.
If somebody asks you to make two or more of something... ask some follow-up questions, because if that person immediately goes and posts the other one on eBay, that will attract my attention just as assuredly as if you'd sold the item there yourself.
What about printing for raffle prizes, charity auctions, etc.?
That's a bit more of a grey area. I don't strictly have a problem with it, but it mainly depends on how many figures, and how the money is being collected. (Don't post figures on eBay or anywhere else public and then say, "Oh, I it's cool, I'm going to donate the proceeds to charity." since I have no way of verifying that this is true, and neither does the BBC.)
If you aren't sure, please message me on Facebook. And remember, if you auction something off or give it to a stranger, they may not be aware of my rules about no selling for profit.
Can I organize a "Group Buy" where a bunch of us pool out money and create a small commercially printed run of your figures.
Please message me on Facebook before doing this. If you are simply getting a few other people together to all print figures through the same print-to-order service at the same time, and nobody (other than the printing service) is making any commission or profit from the enterprise, then.... maybe. As long as you aren't out actively trolling for sign-ups and posting prices or preorder lists up on the internet where everyone can see them.
thinking more along the lines of a kickstarter or something like the 3D printed Star Trek figures that came out a while back, that were fully painted and packaged in a limited print run from a factory, absolutely not.
Can I modify your designs to create custom figures of my own? (ex: a Battle TARDIS or Zarbi Supreme!)
Absolutely, as long as you are not going to turn around and immediately sell that figure or part for profit.
The Creative Commons license on all my figures states that it's okay for others to remix, tweak, and build upom my work, as long as they do so non-commercially, credit me at the original artist, and that their creation is licensed under the exact same terms as my own.
There are grey areas about how much a design has to change before it becomes something completely different, but basically... if I can see that you've simply taken one of my designs and added a few extra bits to it, used one of my figures as a base for your milliput sculpt, or painted it a slightly different color, you're still going to get in trouble if I catch you selling it.
Can I use your models in my fan film, missing episode reconstruction, comic book, youtube video, puppet show, etc.?
Of course! It would be nice if you added a credit or footnote linking back to me and the project, but feel free to use these figures or the 3D models themselves in any creative way you see fit.
Note that these figures are designed to be printed and are not rigged for computer animation. You'd have to modify them pretty heavily if you intend to use them for that purpose.
I run a home printing business, and somebody wants me to print a figure for them. Can I do it and still charge them?
Yes. I realize that not everyone has a 3D printer of their own and that some of them will use print-to-order services that charge a fee and make a profit from these services. That is fine under the following conditions:
- It's not a job lot intended for resale. (If somebody asks you to print 25 Quarks, you can bet they are planning on selling them online, and while I can't stop you from doing so, know that it will probably spell the death of this project if word gets out.)
- You aren't printing the figures yourself "on spec" and then encouraging people to buy them from you. (That's just selling, even if you also print-to-order other stuff)
- You aren't printing figures and then displaying them on your website/facebook/storefront/shop window etc. for the purpose of attracting customers and letting them know that they can go through you to have these items printed.
- You don't post the figure or designs on a print to order website, or otherwise go around advertising your services as somebody who will print people Doctor Who figures for a price.
Note that some of my designs, like the TARDIS Consoles, Wirrn, and Servo Robot, are based off of 3D models that the original designers have for sale on TurboSquid, Shapeways, and possibly a few other places. We also now have our remixes and guest designs page for models created by other artists. They designed them, so they can do anything they want with them, but unless you've specifically talked to the creator and got permission to reproduce them, assume that any guest designs you find on this page are also not to be produced for profit.
I run a home custom figure/model making business. Can I charge money for painting/customizing one of your figures.
Possibly. It depends how aggressively you're promoting your customizing services. As with the home printing business scenario above, I'm probably going to be okay with it as long as:
- You are doing individual one or two-offs that you've arranged privately with a buyer.
These items should not appear "for sale" anywhere on the internet, and you shouldn't be out "trolling for business" using my designs as an example.
- You aren't producing customs based on these designs, and then encouraging people to buy them or similar items from you. (That's still selling.)
- You aren't using my 3D printed figures to create inverse molds and then selling resin cast versions of the same or slightly modified figure. (The design is still copyright, even if you make it out of a different substance)
- If you post photos/videos of finished or in-progress figures, there should be no mention of item prices, quantities you have available, sign-up/wait lists to have more made, or any other language indicating (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) how people should go about placing an order to purchase another similarly crafted item from you.
If I feel that you are abusing my designs to promote your home business, rather than simply showing off your artistic skills, then I will absolutely be telling you to stop. If there's any question about what you are planning on doing will break these rules, please message me on Facebook.
Why do you care if I sell figures based off your designs? It's a free country, I can do what I want.
Given some extremely unofficial conversations over the past few years, I feel like I'm on fairly good footing with the brass at Character Options, and they are both aware of and okay with this project continuing, given the self-imposed limitations on what figures I'm releasing and my respect for their license.
The BBC, however, have their own completely separate set of lawyers, who have been known to get downright draconian (or maybe that should be Ogronish) with their take-down notices... like targeting people making crocheted Ood hats and other obviously completely unofficial Doctor Who merch on eBay and Etsy. I understand from friends in the "biz" that the BBC are also aware of my project, and I do not wish to antagonize them or give them any excuse to send me a cease and decist notice.
Copyright law is a tricky thing, and while selling originally created props/models/artwork may be technically legal,
I'd rather not get into a fight with an organization I greatly admire. Which is why everything I produce is classified under Creative Commons license CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0 as being for non-commercial use only.
Aditionally, selling these figures is a genie that can never be put back in it's bottle.
You may think it's no big deal if somebody puts a couple of custom figures they printed up on eBay, but really good professional-quality customs frequently sell for quite a bit of money. And once someone sees somebody else selling a figure for £50, £60, or even £100 that they can print at home for about £7, they may decide to give it a go themselves.
Then the next person comes along and is even more unscrupulous and decides to market one of these figures as a Character Options prototype (which are resin printed and look very similar), raking in hundreds of pounds in profits, and it just keeps snowballing from there.
Selling bootleg Doctor Who figures will probably get *YOU* in trouble with the Beeb before they set their sights on me, but still... that's a can of worms I do not want opened.
The best way to avoid any unpleasantness and keep this a fun friendly project that everyone can enjoy for years come is to just respect my wishes as a creator and not be the jerk who ruins the party for everyone else.
Do you have a Patreon or is there some other way I can contribute to the cause?
I do not have a Patreon or any other sort of donation funding stream,
but following the project on Youtube, facebook and Instagram does stroke my ego. As does posting photos of finished figures you've made from my designs and giving this website a shout-out.
Also, it's helpful if fans of the project can be my extended eyes and ears when it comes to policing the various corners of the Doctor Who fan community to make sure nobody is out there selling figures based on my desings. Especially since most of you are 8 hours ahead of me and typically already at work and having your first coffee break by the time I'm going to bed.
I have a 3D model that I designed, can I share it on your site or have you make a figure from it?
If you have something that's already 3D printer ready, contact me on facebook or Instagram and I'll almost certainly be willing to put it up on the remixes and guest designs part of the site... provided it doesn't duplicate any figure already being commercially sold by Character Options or any of the other officially licensed vendors.
If you aren't sure, I'll be happy to at least take a look at it, and try to assess if it's something that can be adapted into a figure, provided it can be exported into a compatible STL or OBJ format that I can read.
Note that a lot of wireframes created in Maya or designed for 3D animation purposes are built in such a way that they resemble a 2-dimensional house of cards. They have no mass or internal structure to speak of, and tend to become empty hollow shells when converted into STL or OBJ format for printing. There are ways to fix this, but they are often time consuming, and I may not have the time to do so myself.
Additionally, all the detail in 3D printing comes from the underlying wireframe, not the skin that's wrapped around it. Characters designed in Maya, DAZ, Poser, and other
tools for animation purposes usually have extremely generic polygon meshes, with all the surface detail coming from the highly detailed skin wrapped around the outside, which doesn't help if the object needs to be printed in real space using a single color. Don't be offended if I tell you your mesh is simply not viable for 3D printing purposes.
I have an original costume, screen accurate replica, or high-detailed custom sculpt of a classic Doctor Who monster. Is there an easy way to 3D scan it so you can create a figure from it?
In theory, if I have a large number (typically over 100) smart phone pictures taken of a stationary object under neutral lighting conditions from every possible angle in a 360° spread (the object and it's surroundings can't move, only the person taking the photos) I can use a photogrammetry program like Zephyr or ReCap Photo to stitch these together into a 3D model that may or may not give me enough surface detail to start creating a figure.
Photogrammetry technology is still in its infancy, so I can't use it to magic up a figure instantly, but I have used it before to create basic body shapes and surface details that I would have a hard time creating from scratch otherwise.
The technology does seem to work better the larger the object is, and the more surface detail there is to capture. I may or may not be able to do anything with photos from a custom 5.5" scale figure no matter how lifelike it is, but if you're the proud owner of one of the original costumes, have a professional quality reproduction, or own one of the excellent full-scale Silurian or Draconian masks that were being sold in the 80's, I definitely want to talk to you.
Certainly if you can provide me with what I need to create a figure, I'll be happy to give you a shout-out on my design page, and depending on what you've got, may be willing to pay you for your time and effort with a custom printed figure or two.
What is your design process?
When setting out to make a figure, I begin by trying to track down as many high quality photos as I can, from as many angles as I can. My first stop is usually the Doctor Who Photo Research facebook group, since they've got lots of amazing images taken behind the scenes, for publicity, or at exhibitions like Longleat. I also usually watch the episode on DVD, or for missing episodes, either the Loose Cannon reconstruction or Telesnaps, depending on what's available.
Other than picking up the finer details of the costume itself, I'm also looking for specific information. I want to see how the monster moves, so I can plan my points of articulation. If it's a robot or creature that lights up, Is that something I can replicate by adding a LED light brick, or if it's big enough, motorization.
For black and white serials, actual color reference photos (not just colorized) are an amazing reference when I can get them. Remarkably, a number of classic series monsters were quite literally paraded around England in the 60's, so I'm frequently amazed at what turns up in photo archives.
I always try to find at least one shot where the monster is standing level with The Doctor, for sizing purposes. Since I have 5.5" scale action figures for all the classic Doctors, and I know each of the actors' heights, I can extrapolate how tall the monster should be based on how much taller/shorter they are. For episodes where this isn't possible (for example, I couldn't find a single good shot in The Web Planet of the 1st Doctor standing upright next to a Larvae Gun) I'll try to base my measurements off of other actors or stationary objects, and then best guess from there. (For the Larvae Gun, there was a good shot of Ian holding one vertically. William Russell is 6'0" and so is Colin Baker, so even though we don't have an Ian figure, I could use the 6th Doctor figure as a reference to make sure my test printing came out the correct size.)
Once I have reference photos, unless the figure is a blocky robot with nice straight edges, I usually have to start by importing a rough humanoid-shaped mesh into TinkerCAD, then begin sculpting a rough form of the proper body mass out of geometric shapes, before exporting the blobby "Michelin Man" model into MeshMixer where I can smooth it out and make it more organic looking. For complex surface details like fur, stone, and scales I will typically import textures from free (and free to use) models on Thingiverse or TurboSquid to build up the appropriate surfaces, and them reexport back into Meshmixer to clean up and hide any rough edges.
I'll then usually spend the next couple of weeks bouncing back and forth between TinkerCAD and MeshMixer until I have a solid unarticulated "statue" with arms outstretched in a T position.
Then comes the bane of my existence; adding articulation.
Even though I've created a number of premade Left/Right Positive/Negative
molds for knees/elbows, and shoulder/hip sockets, getting everything to work as intended often takes several rounds of prototyping, to get pieces in just the right position so that they bend correctly without being too tight, too loose, or in the wrong direction. This is the least fun part of the process, and why when I show off a brand new figure design, it usually stays in the Tinker state for several weeks, while I agonizingly make changes and print and reprint again and again.
How do you pick what figure to make next?
I do what I want... But there's usually a method to my madness.
I have my to-do list, but I also like to be challenged and push the envelope as much as possible.
Often, when working on one figure, I'll find an interesting technique that I can apply towards the next design. When building the Dalek Transmat, I thought "wouldn't it be cool if I could incorporate a bunch of fiberoptics, like the original prop?" That didn't happen, but while searching for small light sources, I stumbled across UniBlock light bricks, which were so cool, I incorporated them into my next 5 designs. When looking for sandstone textures for the Ogri, I found the rat that finally gave me a fur texture I could use for the Yeti, and (I thought) the Taran Wood Beast, though that one was eventually made out of a bits of a Dwarf's beard instead.)
And sometimes I'll have just watched a particular episode so it's fresh in my mind, or happen to have a full roll/bottle of white filament/resin in the machine, so I look around for something else on my to-do list that can be made from the same material.
Why don't you make....
As I said in the previous question, I do what I want.
This is my hobby, and if you really want figure X, you're more than welcome to take a stab at creating it yourself. I will occasionally post "choose the next figure" polls on the project's facebook page, but those will be from a pool of options that I select, based on whatever new technique I want to play with next.
My to-do list is massive, and pretty well encompasses all the figures I think I have a reasonable chance of creating at some point over the next several years. Some of these are comparatively easy, others could take months of work. Chances are, if a figure isn't on the to-do list, it isn't because I haven't thought of it, it's because it has some element that would make it unusually difficult to create in the 3D printable media.
Your [Blank] figure has been in Beta mode for a long time. Will it Ever be finished?
Figures do tend to languish in Beta for quite some time after they've been released. Beta means I've test printed it at least once and the pieces fit together correctly, but it may still require additional fine tuning. The arms/legs may be loose, require sanding down, or bend the wrong way, or one of the optional extras like LED lights or motors may not function in the current state.
Even if the figure works perfectly for me in resin, the alternate PLA version (which I rely on other people to test for me) may have issues I haven't accounted for.
Finished means I'm satisfied that I've done all I can to make the figure the best it can be, I've seen other people print successfully and post photos of the fully assembled figure, and nobody should have any issues printing it as long as their machine is functioning properly and they follow my instructions.
How many times do you have to print a prototype until it comes out right?
It depends. Once in a blue moon, I get real lucky, and it's only once. The Ogri came out perfect on the first try, but I think that's the only time that's ever happened... mainly because it had no moving parts.
Usually it's somewhere between 2 to 4. The more complicated the design, the more chances there are for things to go wrong. And then there are the designs from hell, like the Taran Wood Beast and Meglos, that should have been an over-and-done-with April Fools joke, but that stretched on for weeks because I just couldn't get a seemlingly simple part of the design to work without breaking. The big scale figures and vehicles, like the War Machine and Battle Damage Emperor Dalek are the worst though, since they take weeks to print, and one minor mistake can cost a lot of time and money.
How can I learn to design my own figures? Where do I start? Will you teach me?
I hope to add a new how-to section to the site explaining figure design tips in more detail at some point in the coming months.
But for now, the best place to start, if you've never done any 3D design before, is with TinkerCAD.
Start simple with a boxy robot, Sonic Screwdriver, costume piece, or something else that contains a lot of simple geometric shapes.
My first eleven figures (minus the Servo Robot) were built entirely in TinkerCAD with no other external software or imported shapes.
Focus on getting the fundamentals down before you dive into using a sculpting tool, which tends to be a much steeper and more intimidating learning curve.
Next, learn how to use the Import tool in TinkerCAD to import basic prefabricated
shapes from Thingiverse and other sites into your design.
If you want to try sculpting organic structures, I recommend using MeshMixer (it's free and easier to use than most other sculpting software) and start by importing a pre-made model from Thingiverse that you intend to modify, rather than completely from scratch.
If you have specific questions about a design you're working on, don't hesitate to ask the
3D Printing Doctor Who facebook group for assistance. There are over 1000 of us on there, many with varying degrees of sculpting/customizing knowledge. Depending on what software you're using, I may not be able to help you, but somebody else will.