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Miniatures come in several different materials. I've collected the differences between them.

Plastic

Hard plastic

Hard Polystyrene

Soft plastic

Soft Polystyrene

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

PLA Filament

Resin

Metal

Lead

Pewter

White Metal

Materials

 

Plastic: It's a soft and light material.

 

Hard plastic: It's plastic. It is hard and it snaps if you try to bend it.

 

Hard Polystyrene: It's a hard plastic.

Check the Hard Polystyrene miniatures.

 

Soft plastic: It's plastic. It is soft and you can bend it. Soft plastic minis are usually made of Polystyrene or Polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Check the Soft plastic miniatures.

 

Soft Polystyrene: It is a soft plastic.

Check the Soft Polystyrene miniatures.

 

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC): It is a soft plastic.

Check the Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) miniatures.

 

PLA Filament: It is a 3D printer plastic filament.

To get rid of the printing lines of the miniature, you can use liquid epoxy, liquid resin, primer gesso, or filler.

Otherwise you can treat the model like it's made out of plastic.

Check the PLA Filament miniatures.

 

Resin: It's similar to plastic. The resin is usually poisonous, so you shouldn't file resin miniatures in your living space. Also, use a mask. Wash the working surface with a wet cloth. Wet sanding (using wet sandpaper) or underwater sanding also helps.

 

Metal: It's a hard and heavy material.

 

Lead: It's a poisonous metal. You should wash your hands after working with them.

It is said to be easier to work with than pewter.

 

Pewter: It's metal.

It is said to be more brittle than lead.

 

White Metal: It's metal.

 

Modelling

Plastic models are easier to cut off from sprues, and easier to work with.

Metal models usually need clippers to cut them up, and harder to saw and file them.

 

Gluing

Polystyrene models can be glued chemically using polystyrene cement, that gets a better bonding.

Metal and non-polystyrene plastic models have to be glued using cyano-acrylic superglue or liquid epoxy.

Heavy models often require pinning, and metal models tend to be heavier.

 

Painting

For metal miniatures you have to use primer, otherwise the acrylic paint will rub off.

Polystyrene miniatures don't need primer before painting them.

Some resin models are hydrophobic, those need non-water based primer, before acrylic paint is applied.

 

Model details

Nowadays there is no real difference between details, no matter what material is used.

 

Weight

Plastic and resin models are lighter than metal models of the same size.

Light weight models

Modelling: They are more safe from damage than heavier models. If the model is magnetized, it's easier to hold lighter parts.

Gaming: Light models can be knocked down easily during gaming. This can be remedied by using a base that is heavy, or big enough to hold the model in place. Metal washers can be glued under the base for added weight.

Heavy weight models

Modelling: Heavy models are in more danger if you drop them. Their weight makes them more prone to breaking. Even if they don't break, it's more probable that paint chips off from the model. If the model is magnetized, it's not easy to hold heavy parts.

Gaming: They tend to slide off from slopes. They are not easy to balance over terrain. If you have a large army of metal models, it can be tiring to haul them around for games.

 

Stripping

Metal models are easier to clean, as they are resistant to cleaning fluids.

Plastic and resin models might get damaged by the cleaning fluids.

 

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Sources & tutorials

Atom Smasher (from Tabletop Minions): Plastic Versus Metal Miniatures: Tutorial video about the differences between plastic and metal models.

Atom Smasher (from Tabletop Minions): Concerns About Resin Safety - Uncle Atom's Pro Tips: Tutorial video about using resin.

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What do you think of these miniature materials? What is your take on this? Do you have questions about them? Tell us in the comments!

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