Many STLs will come already properly scaled, but it can often be hard to determine what scale they are if that information isn’t offered. In fact, often the scale given by the creator isn’t correct, so it’s always best to double check. It would suck to go to all the trouble of printing a miniature, painting it and then dropping it down on the table and it doesn’t fit the play area.
The best way to find the correct scale is to use a miniature scaler. The scaler I use is the Miniature Scaler by user Yoolis on Thingiverse:
This scaler has a ruler with two sides; one for 28mm scale and the other with 34mm scale. The rings at the bottom are an easy way to determine if your bases are correctly scaled.
Play with it until you have the scale you prefer. Perhaps even print multiple sizes to judge from. Many people like to print a scale size for play and a much larger size for display.
To scale your miniatures, simply drop the scaler into your slicer with your miniature file. Most player miniatures should have the top of the head at about the six foot mark. Obvious exceptions exist for races like Dwarves, Gnomes, etc. If your miniature is crouched over or kneeling, keep that in mind as well.
In the case of a miniature that isn’t standing straight up, it’s often best to scale based on the size of the base. If no base is attached, you can add a standing miniature to the slicer for comparison. Scale the standing miniature to the right size, then scale the other miniature until it seems appropriate.
If your base is attached to the miniature, be sure to compensate for the height it adds. This Tiefling Bard is scaled to 34mm. When the height of the base is deducted, she is a little under 6′ tall. On 28mm scale, she is over 7′ tall.
Additionally, if the base is attached, you will need to make sure it fits within the scale of the rings or you may experience problems during play. If you want your miniature to be taller, without being wider, you can scale only the height, but this will change the proportions of the model and it may look warped. If done in moderation, it can be a good way to get the effect you want.
An easy reference to scale a 34mm miniature to 28mm is to reduce the size to 85%. You may need to play with the scale to get the size you want, but 85% is a good baseline.
Some people play particularly tall or short versions of their characters, so have fun with it. One of the greatest things about printing your own miniatures is the customization options.
The scaler tops out at 25 feet for 34mm scale and 30 feet for 28mm scale. This helps to determine the correct height for larger monsters, giants and other large miniatures. (‘Large Miniatures’ always makes me chuckle.)
Scale is more important in some games than others, but it’s always best to try and get it as close as possible. Some of the folks at my local hobby store can be sticklers for scale and when your model doesn’t fit into an area it should, they will hold it against you. It always sucks when your unit is just a mm or two too large for a move.
Remember that even the scale of dragons, giants, robots and vehicles matters, so play it safe and scale everything correctly.
So, what if your large miniature comes in pieces? This is where comparison scaling comes in. The best way is to find a similarly scaled solid model and import it into the slicer. Then compare a prominent piece of your multi-part miniature to that model. The head or torso are good options.
When the comparative scale seems correct, make a note of the percentage. You will need to make sure you scale the rest of the pieces exactly the same, so they fit together after printing. In the image above, the Steam Dragon was scaled to 30% size to fit the scale needed. If all pieces of the Steam Dragon are scaled to 30%, it should fit together nicely.
Another way to comparative scale your large miniatures is to find images online of the model you’re trying to print and stand it next to a standard scaled miniature. Does a player character come to that dragon’s knee? Is that mech suit big enough to fit a pilot? Drag the miniature around to get a good idea before deciding on a final scale.
Hopefully this helps you sort out any scaling issues you may have. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. 🙂