Painting a HeroForge 3D Printed Miniature: A Gun Mage (Review)

Simply amazing! 3D printing has come a long way. The technology has invaded the hobby space, bolstering independent designers and makers, and has even raised ethical controversy in gaming communities (see here). 3D printing has changed how we perceive and craft unique pieces of work. Quite simply, 3D printing has begun to change the fundamental idea of what constitutes a miniature hobby.

In this article, I follow up on a previous post about HeroForge custom 3D printed miniatures.

In the time since I received the 3D printed miniatures from (I ordered 5 prints), my wife gave birth to twin boys.

This placed a bit of a dampener on my mini painting productivity. But, I figured I’d show the work-in-progress for one of the models. I was actually very pleased with how it came out.

Design your character from the ground up and see it in full 3D, and finally have a miniature that captures your vision.

Although this is not a detailed how-to-paint article, if you’d like a quick overview of my top line thinking on painting this model, please read on below.

Gun Mage (3D printed and Painted)

The first model is a gun mage that I designed within the HeroForge sculpting environment (see My previous article describes the process. If I had to name an inspiration for this miniature’s aesthetic, it would be my admiration for the Cygnar faction from the Iron Kingdom Universe (Privateer Press).

Painting a HeroForge 3D Printed Miniature: A Gun Mage (Quick Overview)
A gun mage in a dynamic pose

Allister Caine, a main character in the Warmachine/Hordes miniature game, is a powerful mage who combines magic and gunplay in combat.


Steampunk is metal and magic

The style of the original gun mage sculpt borrows from the steampunk art style. More specifically, ‘steampunk’ is a genre of science fiction termed “retro-futuristic”.

In a steampunk world, high technology is powered by steam-era machinery, rather than advanced technology. You will find a lot of brass and metallic gears, moving parts driven by pistons, hardwood surfacing and hand-wrought artistry.

Steampunk’s attraction is through its aesthetic and the presence of a multitude of steam era-defining materials. No plastic or synthetic polymers here.

Painting a HeroForge 3D Printed Miniature: A Gun Mage (Quick Overview)
Allister Caine – the inspiration for my HeroForge custom mini

Close-images of my 3D printed sculpt show very little 3D printed layering artifact. Layering of plastic material is common to many consumer level 3D printers.

I chose to print this HeroForge model with a premium black plastic material. Because the layers in this model were very thin, I was able to use 2-3 layers of Vallejo Surface Primer to smooth out the model’s surface.

Painting a HeroForge 3D Printed Miniature: A Gun Mage (Quick Overview)
Macro view shows very little 3D printing layering artifact. This was a huge factor in determining how easily this would paint up with more advanced techniques like glazing.

Speed Painting, Sorta.

For this model, I used Scale 75 paints exclusively. For me, these are the best paints for painting with layers and glazes. Scale 75 paints are one of the most viscous model paints you can buy. But, this makes the paint easy to mix and blend on a traditional ceramic palette (see what I use).

Because I didn’t have a lot of time, I kept my color palette simple and decided not to put in all the extra effort to blend every color transition. I wanted this to have a bit of character and feel a bit more like a comic book character.

Painting a HeroForge 3D Printed Miniature: A Gun Mage (Quick Overview)
I blocked in a mid tone, shadow, and highlight color on each major element.

The approach for painting this model was essentially a ‘speed paint’. I used my 3 rules for speed painting described here. I kept the palette simple, choosing warm and cool colors, and making sure to keep high contrast.

I brushed in a thin dark line between major bits of clothing. My dark lining also ensured that flesh colored parts of the model were easily distinguished from any other part of the model. To tie the model together, I carefully glazed on a green accent color. In general, this glazed accent color was placed between the darkest shadows and the mid-tone (also known as the twilight zone).

Painting a HeroForge 3D Printed Miniature: A Gun Mage (Quick Overview)
I added a green-ish accent color to tie it all together.

I’m not 100% sure how I’ll finish the base of the model, yet. I’m strongly considering a clear acrylic base. Litko makes a low cost bundle of them (buy on Amazon). The only thing holding me back going in this direction is the need to cut-off the miniature from its original 3D printed base. In hindsight, I should have removed the sculpt from the base before I painted the model. Either way, I’m happy how this paint job turned out.

Painting a HeroForge 3D Printed Miniature: A Gun Mage (Quick Overview)

Final Thoughts

For a 3D printed model, this was fairly straightforward. The print quality was superb. With a few thin coats of a surface primer, the build layers smoothed out.

The use of simple layering techniques without the need for a wet palette were enough for me get this to a satisfying quality.

Dark lining between the major elements help the model stand out, adding contrast across the entire miniature. I look forward to painting more of these 3D printed minis!

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