Picking a 3D printer for printing terrain is no easy thing. There are so many options and the technical specs are bewildering before you have had one in your hands and tried it.
In this article, I try to cut through all the bull and tell you what you need to consider when getting a 3D printer for terrain and which printers you should actually consider for your specific use case.
This article is focused heavily on getting a good printer for terrain and for various reasons that is a plastic FDM printer and not a resin printer. If you are looking for something that can print high-quality miniatures for tabletop or wargaming in resin, look at our article about the best 3D printer for miniatures instead.
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What you should look for in a 3D printer for terrain
Price and properties of printing material
Terrain tends to be large and bulky. The material you use needs to be cheap as you will use a lot of it. Also, your terrain should be able to withstand some beating (as terrain is hard to store in a where it does not take some hits).
While printing terrain in pieces and gluing them together is possible, it is not fun. It is important to get a printer that can handle the size of the terrain you want to print.
Quality of components and ease of setup
Ease of use, reliability, and quality of prints
FDM printers have a lot of moving pieces and you want them to not break down and fail constantly. Also, having something that just works out of the box is the way to go for beginners
You want a 3D printer that you are not constantly battling with to output a usable print and you want something that does not need endless sanding for the piece to be able to be painted
The Bambu Lab P1P is the Best 3D Printer for Terrain for almost all people
- Very easy to use
- Extremely fine tuned out of the box
- Can print amazing quality at very high speeds
- Branded slicer that is actually good
- The Cloud integration has issues
- Ancient UI on the printer itself
- Build with proprietary parts
- Very noisy
I have been battling with FDM 3D printers for some years now and it is an experience I have never enjoyed. Tuning, calibration, and troubleshooting have been a constant in this market, even with the rise of “auto bed leveling” and other ease-of-use features.
The P1P from Bambu Lab is the first FDM printer where I have actually enjoyed the process of 3D printing terrain. That is largely because I spent the majority of my time (if not all of it) actually printing terrain instead of trying to print terrain. I love printing, I hate trying to print.
The P1P is a, compared to the cheap flood of printers, quite expensive FDM 3D Printer that is designed to work “out of the box”. It has a ton of mechanism to calibrate itself and the preset settings for the 0.4mm nozzle were insanely accurate – without me doing anything. The stock out-of-the-box experience on this “Core XY” FDM printer rivals anything I have printed on my lesser Cartesian FDM printers (even those where I have spent 50+ hours fine-tuning and calibrating).
With the ease of use also comes a slight decrease and how you can manage the printer, but if you really want to you can tinker a lot with it. But the P1P is not a tinkerer’s dream or a printer you should constantly look to “mod and tweak”, but that is for the better in my opinion (there are plenty of printers out there that require a degree in engineering to get working properly).
There are some concerns about proprietary parts and a cloud system (privacy concerns). This is basically the Apple of 3D printers, but this time that is my jam.
The bed is not monster-sized, but with the printing dimensions of 256 x 256 x 256mm will give enough space to print some sizeable pieces. It is not so small that you would constantly wish for something bigger, but there are some pieces of DnD terrain or Warhammer where I have to glue them together.
The printer is extremely fast and noisy (to the point where you can be a bit nervous the first time you see it fly). It is considered a “bare bones” printer. This just means that there is no enclosure, so printing exotic filament is not something you can do out of the box (but you can print an enclosure for it). It also means there is no way of doing multiple colours on a print (without buying an expensive expansion), but for terrain, you will be painting it anyway.
If you are looking for a new hobby and spend ages fiddling to get a suitable print, there are a dozen 3D printers that can suit you. If you on the other hand just want to press a button and print a cool terrain piece for your Warhammer table, the Bambu Lab P1P is likely what you need.
Elegoo Neptune 4 is the Best 3D Printer for Terrain if you are on a budget
I understand it. You are looking at our top pick and thinking “does it have to be this expensive printing terrain for miniatures?”. The answer is certainly no, it does not have to. But most of the time when buying something cheap, you are trading money for time. The more expensive printers can be time savers in many ways.
Lately, 3D printing manufacturers have tried to no only make cheap printers, but printers that are cheap and work out of the box, and are fast. It kinda works, but also sometimes it does not. If you want one of those, I would get the Elegoo Neptune 4.
In this budget category of easy-to-use FDM 3D printers for terrain, you sometimes get a printer that works great out of the box and sometimes it works very poorly. This is also why it can be hard to trust reviews of these products as there is a lot of variance in the “out of box experience”.
I reviewed the Anycubic Kobra 2 and sorta liked it, but then not really. I had to fight too much to get it to work smoothly. But I know people who have bought the exact same product and have gotten a completely different experience out of the box. So it is sadly a bit of a crapshoot here and I do not have full confidence that you will have a great experience buying any of these machines.
If you truly want to print terrain on a budget, but also want to print out of the box without doing a lot of tinkering, these are some options:
- Eleego Neptune 4, Neptune 4 Pro (slightly improved over non-pro), and Neptune 4 Max (bigger build plate).
- Anycubic Kobra 2 (and the rest of the Kobra 2 family)
Now if you are on a tighter budget and you are not worried about having auto-leveling or other features to help you out, there are a ton of cheap FDM printers. Just get an Ender 3 or some of the thousands of clones. I have been down that road and do not recommend it. Be prepared to spend a lot of time getting things working well.
Saturn 2 is the Best 3D Printer for Terrain if you want to print miniatures and terrain on the same printer
Mid-sized workhorse. If you want to print a lot of models or big models, it is perfect.
- Great resolution
- Surprisingly easy to use
- Plenty of build space
- Next-gen features missing
- A bit cumbersome
- Information material pretty bad
A lot of people want to print terrain and miniatures on the same printer. A reasonable idea, but also something that is extremely tricky. So there are a couple of reasons why I would not recommend printing terrain on a resin printer (and the reasons I have not done it even though I have a ton of resin printers):
- Resin is (most of the time) more expensive than PLA or other cheap filaments for FDM 3D printers. If you print a massive piece of terrain it is going to cost a ton. Sure, you can hollow your resin 3D prints but it comes with some massive downsides (fragile piece, possible toxic resin caught inside your print)
- The way FDM printers prints supports not only means it uses less material, but it also means that the pieces are very strong. Couple that with the general sturdiness of FDM materials compared to resin, and you have a much stronger piece of terrain. With resin you would have to store it very carefully. With PLA you can throw it around like you want
- Resin printers are very limited in bed size. The main issue is the Y axis, where even the “big” resin printers are limited to about 123mm. It can be very hard to fit a terrain piece on a resin printer (trust me, I tried). This means you have to cut it up in a slicer and glue it together afterwards. Even more work!
- The last element is the general drawback of resin 3D printers: it is messy, and require a lot of space and post-processing. But you get great quality from it!
For those reasons, I would not advise buying a resin 3D printer for terrain, just like I would not recommend getting an FDM plastic printer for miniatures. You could overcome the problem of bed size by buying something ridiculous like the Phrozen Mega 8k, but hey if you have that kind of money just get two printers…
Okay, I can feel you are not convinced here. So if you really want to buy a resin 3D printer for terrain, you need to get one of the bigger printers. The question then is if you want one on the cheaper side or a newer sexier model.
For a cheap and extremely good resin 3D printer for terrain, I would go with a Saturn 2. It keeps falling in price and the PPI and resolution of it is still more than enough. But hey, if you can get the Saturn 3 for almost the same price that is a bit better, but with sales the Saturn 2 is still quite a lot cheaper. Basically, any of the “big resin printers” will be good enough for you here so it is a question of balancing extra features and price. You can always take a look at our Best 3D printer for miniatures and find the section about the bigger printers.
Other great 3D printers for 3D printing terrain
While I still believe the Bambu Lab P1P is the best if you just want to print some terrain and not worry about anything else, you might want to know what else is out there.
The Creality K1 is very much the response from Creality to an FDM 3D printer market that is changing. The game is no longer about “who can make the cheapest printers”, but there is also a market for “why can make the best printer that works out of the box”. The Creality K1 has a ton of similarities with the P1P.
The Creality K1 is marketed as an entry-level device that is user-friendly for both beginners and experienced users. Like the P1P, it is easy to use and set up. The print quality is outstanding, capable of producing excellent models right out of the box. The K1 is also fast, just like the P1P. It also features a reliable bed leveling system, dual cooling fans, and a solid hotend that can squirt out enough filament to not slow the printer down too much. All this contributes to its ability to print quickly without compromising quality. I am mainly saying get the P1P because that is the one I have used myself, but going by review the K1 is just as capable.
Can you see I really like easy-to-use CoreXY 3D printers? The Ankermake M5C is another one of those. While a bit cheaper than other things we have talked about, it is also a bit smaller.
The Ankermake M5C is a more affordable and simplified version of the M5 3D printer, designed for fast printing speeds. This model is smaller than its predecessor and aims to provide a user-friendly experience for both newcomers and experienced users in 3D printing. The M5C comes with an all-metal hotend and a sophisticated 7×7 auto-leveling bed leveling system to ensure precision and ease of use.
Prusa is Prusa. Quality, extremely good support, but also pricey.
The Original Prusa MK4 is the latest iteration in the Prusa series, featuring a host of improvements such as a new extruder, LCD screen, filament sensor, and power supply. The MK4 is particularly liked for its user-friendly design and larger build volume, alongside enhancements in the extruder and heatbed, positioning it as a great printer. Designed with rapid prototyping in mind, it includes features such as auto bed leveling, hot-swappable nozzles, and custom firmware to prioritize both speed and quality in printing
Prusa makes amazing printers, but I have a hard time seeing the price point to be worth it now that Bambu Lab is crushing it with the P1P. Sure, if you are into prototyping and not terrain printing, this might be for you.