What Does It Take To Produce A Set Of Figures....

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John Thomas8
Posts: 542
Joined: Fri Mar 01, 2013 4:39 am

What Does It Take To Produce A Set Of Figures....

Post by John Thomas8 »

....from scratch?

TMP usr Alxbates posted the following, here:

Hello M-----,

You're asking a bunch of different questions. I'll try to answer them all.

"How much would a set of custom minis run me" – well, that depends on a LOT of variables. How big are they? 6mm? 15mm? 28mm? 54mm? The price varies greatly depending upon the size and style. Are they fantasy? Sci-fi? Historical? Comedy or cartoons? Those can also affect the price. Will they be multi-part models? How flat or three-dimensional will they be?

Do you have concept art prepared?

You haven't given me enough information to give you an informed response, but here's a general outline.

As for whether the figures would be resin/plastic/or metal, well, that's sort of up to you. Certain figure types and basing styles lend themselves better to one type or another, and they all have benefits and drawbacks (Resin holds detail very well, is materials-cheap but labor-expensive, but very fragile. Plastic is hideously expensive to make molds for, but holds a decent amount of detail and the per-figure price is very very cheap. Metal is the most durable of the options, they hold detail better than plastic, if not as well as resin, but shipping them is relatively expensive as they're heavy, and the per-figure cost is rather high because of the cost of metal). If I knew what the figures were supposed to look like I could possibly suggest a casting material option, but without more information I can't really answer in more detail.

Let's just start with basic costs. I'll assume 5 figures, normal human in 28mm ("Warhammer Scale"), single piece figures, nothing too fancy regarding undercuts on the molds. Sculpting each figure should cost around $300 USD (but could be as cheap as $200 USD or as expensive as $600 USD per figure depending on the sculptor. Larger or more complicated figures will cost more.), so that's $1,500 USD in sculpting costs alone. You'd be able to get 5 figures on a mold, so that's only $50 USD for the Master mold, then another $50 USD for the production mold. Let's assume that I can get two of each figure onto the production mold, so I'll only have to spin the mold 250 times to get 500 miniatures. At $2 USD a spin in labor costs, that's another $500 USD in costs. I'll also assume that metal is cheap, and the materials cost is only .50c per figure (and that's CHEAP… not necessarily realistic). That's $250 USD in materials.

So, your bare minimum super cheapo possibility runs around:

$1,500 USD – sculpting costs
$100 USD – molds
$500 USD – casting labor
$250 USD – materials

That's $2,350 USD at a BARE minimum for five 28mm humans in metal. I frankly don't know enough about resin or plastic to even give you a guess. Your costs with metal figures could easily run up to 7 or 8000 dollars if the figures are larger, more complex, require extra molds, or if you just hire a top professional sculptor (which I am not).

As for painted… if I read your request correctly, you're asking me to personally paint 2000-2500 miniatures? My rates start at $15 USD an hour – and that's for simple figures that I enjoy painting. I charge more for complex or pain-in-the-ass stuff. I would charge something like $40,000 USD dollars (US dollars) at a minimum for a commission like that, and it would take me a year or more. Having that number of figures painted is *not* a job for a one-man operation like me, it's a job for a factory in China. Reaper Miniatures might be able to give you some information about that – they sell pre-painted figures.

Although if you've got the money and really like my work, I'd be happy to talk it over!

If you're looking to find a sculptor to work with, I suggest that you start with specific information ("I want miniatures made in ___ scale, here is detailed artwork for each figure"), and then ask on a public forum (like the 1listsculpting on Yahoo, Theminiaturespage.com, or Frothers UK) about sculptors who are looking for work. If there's a sculptor out there who you are already a fan of, they're pretty easy to contact – many are on Facebook or have their own websites. If they've done work for another company, you can always contact that company and ask to be put in contact. Sculptors rates vary a great deal depending on how good they are, how experienced they are, how busy they are, and whether or not they're interested in working on your figures (for example, someone who specializes in sculpting sci-fi Space Troopers may not be interested in making a set of Muppets for you… on the other hand, maybe they're sick of making sci-fi troopers and will be excited to do something different! It never hurts to ask)

Once you've got the sculpts worked out, then contact a casting company (I'll reccomend the one I use – Dark Platypus Studio, but the Rodman brothers have a good reputation with Fortress Figures, and Troll Forged Miniatures has been doing some interesting stuff with spincast plastic lately).

For getting that many figures painted, I don't really have much to tell you… I'd contact one of the companies that already makes pre-painted figures and ask them. There are painting services overseas that may be able to do that many at a reasonable rate (some in Sri Lanka, I think – check the "painting services" directory on The Miniatures Page, there should be more information there.)

Hope this at least points you in a few directions to look. Best of luck to you.

-Alex Bates
-Forge of Ice
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