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3D print-ready Files and Low-Poly Game-Ready Files.

What is the difference between a game ready file and a 3D print file?



For many years one has been able to buy game-assets from online stores such as CGTrader or TurboSquid.
These models come in a variety of formats but typically .obj, .fbx and .max
Having been designed for computer games, and not for 3D printing, the models that make up these are generally simplistic – consisting of as few “Parts” as possible so that when a game has lots of them operating within its’ code at one time, your graphics card doesn’t explode trying to render all of those parts.
Of course, basic models don’t look that wonderful so games take this “basic shape” (often referred to as “Low-Poly”) and lay over it a fancy 2D image or “texture”. The “texture” tends to have the majority of “detail” on it, but that detail is only 2D, not 3D.

Let’s look at some examples:

Here is a tank made by the excellent designer Stephane Chasseloupe:

Now that is a lovely looking tank, but let’s take a look at it with no texture on it:

As you can see the (now removed) texture provided the majority of the “fine detail”. Without the texture, the tank is in most places bare of fine surface details as well as most of the panelling.

In addition, things such as “circular shapes” (wheels, tyres, sensors) are actually rough sided shapes rather than true circles… and elements such as the tank-tracks are entirely plain:

Now bear in mind that none of that is bad for a model for a game – these are typically referred to as “low poly” and they are deliberately and correctly designed this way, however, as printable file for a 3D print model – not so good as we’ve lost all of the fine detail.

The above images give you a good idea of the vast difference between a “game asset/model” and how much detail is on the “mesh” as opposed to how much detail is on the “Texture”


But can I 3D print that anyway?


Most of these files are not 3D printable when purchased. You will have to do additional work for it to be printable – usually.
Some programs nowadays can auto-magically take something like the above and convert it into a printable version – however even when those work you are still left without any of the detail that simply does not exist in the “mesh” – and it needs to be added, piece by piece, by somebody.

How much detail do you add for a 3D model?

It varies – but in general, we at AW will add the detail that is “missing” from the 3D model but is on the Texture – see the next images for an idea:

After (top) and Before (bottom)
Before (top) and After (bottom)

What else changes?

The File format obviously changes – it becomes an .STL file which can be used by the majority of 3D printers.

This doesn’t sound much but “as-is” the vast majority of these game-asset files will not print, The individual components that make up the model are not tied together in a single “watertight mesh”, but are individual parts that roughly intersect one another without actually being joined together (this almost always causes printing issues) and also causes problems for automated programs that try to convert an existing game-mesh, into a print format.

Part of the job here at AW is to ensure that all of the parts are printable

In addition to that, the model is made into various separate parts – in the above five distinct parts: Hull, Turret, Left Gun, Right Gun, Hatch
Being in separate parts allows them to be printed separately (as opposed to a solid single-piece model) which allows for “pose-ability” as well as being able to fit parts onto smaller print-bed areas.

“Sizing” is also done; the parts are sized so that they correspond with a specific figure size (scale) and we also need to ensure that there isn’t “too much detail”. That may sound odd but there is no point having a model that has such fine detail on it that your 3D Printer cannot print that detail. Similarly, if your 3D printer *could* print that detail, there’s not much point in having that detail if it is so small that you cannot paint it!

Experience has taught us what size of detail can be both printed and painted and that comes into play form the very first moment one starts adding detail to the basic original mesh.

All in all around 20 -30 hours of work per model.

Fake News ‘Experts’

I now need to directly address some Fake News that a small group of people are pushing as *hidden facts* on a certain Facebook Group: namely that we cannot sell STL files of Stephane’s work.

Stephane’s original game files, sold on places such as CGTrader, come with a clause that you cannot re-sell those electronic files. (Those are the T&Cs on places like CGTrader/TurboSquid when you make a purchase.)
These people are pushing this as us “Illegally” going on to sell STL files in breach of those terms. For whatever reason these people are pushing this fake news they are quite simply ill-informed troublemakers.

The files on places such as CGTrader/TurboSquid remain the IP of the original artist(OA) – the OA can do whatever the heck they want with those files. Just because they sell those files on places like CGTrader does not mean they are bound by CGTrader rules “everywhere else”: That would be silly: One does not have to go to CGTrader for IP permissions, because it isn’t CGTrader who own the Intellectual Property Rights to those designs – they are simply a third-party trading post.

So, if like us,  you go to that Original Artist directly and get their permission to use those files directly (to make and sell .STLs) then you can do so.

As such, if you see the above sort of blatantly misrepresentative fake news being spouted by people, please point them to this article or quietly ignore them as being nothing other than ill-informed troublemakers.


If we are producing STL files to sell to you, those files will be being produced with the permission of everybody required to do so – That will be done in direct contact with that designer and not on a public forum, a badly informed Facebook Group or a third-party website.

You will always see us credit Original Artists, Concept Artists, Painters and 3D modellers because we do not present other people’s work as our own.

We most certainly will not sell you anything that we do not have the Rights to sell to you.