Hero Forge – How to make custom minis

Hero Forge lets you make custom tabletop RPG miniatures in staggering detail – here’s a tutorial to help you make the most of the online character designer

Hero Forge Kobold digital miniature holding two barrels

When looking to create a unique character miniature, many RPGers turn to Hero Forge. Because, sometimes, generic tabletop RPG minis just don’t cut it. An officially licensed D&D Tiefling miniature might remind your party members where you are on the map, but where’s the flair? Where’s the personality? Where’s the animal familiar or signature weapon that makes your beloved character so iconic?

Hero Forge is an online character designer that lets you create customised tabletop RPG miniatures from the comfort of your browser. It’s free to create the digital D&D character of your dreams, but Hero Forge also offers pro design tools – and the option to buy or 3D print a physical copy of your creations.

Hero Forge gives you a staggering number of preset customisation options, with new content added every Tuesday. There are also a bunch of advanced features that mean you can tweak the most minute details on your mini. These seemingly limitless character creation options will delight some, but they may intimidate others. Where on earth is a Hero Forge newbie supposed to start?

The answer – a Hero Forge tutorial. Below you’ll find a breakdown of the character designer’s core features – customising, posing, adding a splash of colour, and bringing your character to a real-life RPG table. We’ve also summarised some of the application’s advanced features for those looking to take their design to the next level.

Here’s how to make custom Hero Forge minis:

Hero Forge miniature on Body customisation page

Getting started on Hero Forge

The first thing you’ll need to do on Hero Forge is create a free account. You can jump straight into character creation without signing up, but having an account means you can save your character designs. This’ll be a big help if you want to work on multiple designs at once – or you’re the kind of person that relishes taking the time to make sure every detail is perfect.

Now you’re all signed up, let’s talk about how to navigate Hero Forge. You can name, save, share, and start new miniatures in the ‘Hero’ toolbar at the top of the screen. The left-hand menu takes you through each stage of customising your mini, and the right-hand menu shows the pre-set options you can choose from.

The left mouse button rotates your viewpoint, the right mouse button pans, and the middle mouse button zooms in and out. Hero Forge has also created a handy HotKeys tutorial (see below) to help speed up your design work. Some of the HotKeys will be obvious – Ctrl + Z still undoes mistakes – but there are others you might not intuitively notice. 

Customising your Hero Forge miniature

There are six key features on your mini you can customise – their species, head, body, clothing, gear, and the stage they stand upon. Starting with species, you’ll notice your options aren’t just limited to the classic Pathfinder and DnD races. You’re offered two body type options for a wide variety of system-agnostic species.

At this stage, you can hit the dice button next to a species’ name to totally randomise their appearance. If you’d like a bit more creative control, though, you’ll want to move straight onto the next stage of character creation.

You can customise every aspect of your mini’s head – from the face right down to the teeth and eyebrows. There are plenty of fantasy-style extras to be added to your character’s torso too. Hero Forge lets you add additional arms, wings, tails, shells and spikes, and even prosthetics to your miniature. Your character’s height, weight, and body type are fully customisable, and clicking the cog wheel in the ‘measure’ tab allows you to compare your character’s height with standard fantasy characters.

Adding clothes to your character is fairly straightforward, but there’s a neat extra step to consider when adding clothing to your mini’s chest and legs. Clothing can be layered in Hero Forge. This means you can have a pair of Druid Pants in an ‘under’ layer, and a chainmail skirt can be added to the ‘over’ layer and shown on top. The same goes for tops – you have ‘under’, ‘over’, and ‘neck’ layers to play with here.

Hero Forge offers so many different kinds of gear and stage items that the tabs come with a search bar to help you narrow things down. Every item that can be held has two options, so you can choose whether your character wields their sword in the left or right hand. Some handheld items also have a symbol that lets your character hold the item in both hands. 

Posing your Hero Forge miniature

Now you’ve chosen your character’s basic features, it’s time to strike the perfect pose. There are plenty of pre-generated body poses to choose from, and sliders let you give your mini’s eyes and face a bit more personality.

Then there are the advanced options. Every feature you’ve added to a character can be moved in some way – you can even move the mini itself around on its base. The ‘twist’, ‘bend’, and ‘rotate’ sliders are most common, and each of these moves a feature in a different direction.

Some parts of your model, like hair or tails, will have multiple points that can be rotated and tweaked. And if sliders aren’t your thing, click on the triangle shape that appears next to a rotation point in the right-hand menu. This brings up a red visual aid on your mini. Click and hold, and you have two different ways to adjust a feature. 

Adding colour to your Hero Forge miniature

Every seasoned mini lover knows that painting miniatures is one of the most important parts of the process. Hero Forge knows this too, so there’s an in-depth colour section to make your mini more vibrant.

The quickest way to add colour to your Hero Forge miniature is to choose a preset skin colour and theme. You can also add multiple layers of Decals to your mini’s body, face, hair, and weapon – this is how you add everything from scars to dirt to blood splatters.

The gear icons in the right-hand menu are your go-to for customising a mini’s colour scheme – there are different gears for Body, Theme, and individual Decal items which all offer different colour swatches for you to choose from. The Paints menu allows you to choose individual paints (sorted by texture) and apply them to whatever part of the mini you wish – just hover over the desired area and click to apply the colour. Three handy tools also appear at the bottom of the screen, and these let you paint, fill, or select a colour from your mini you’d like to use again.

The Mix menu lets you get more specific with the colours that are already on your mini, allowing you to choose more exact hues. You can hit the gear icon here to choose the low, mid, and high shades you want too. Scroll down through the right-hand menu to add roughness, fuzz, glow, and even transparent elements to your mini. 

Finishing up your Hero Forge miniature

Once you’re happy with your Hero Forge mini, you’ve got a few options. The Hero tab at the top of the screen lets you screenshot and share an image of your mini, so you can download an image that’s ready to use. This is super handy if you’re playing a virtual tabletop game using something like Roll20, as you’ve got a ready-made digital representation of your character.

Pro members of Hero Forge can also create custom tokens that are specifically designed to be used on virtual tabletops. They can also create complex scenes with multiple minis with Hero Forge’s scene maker.

Hero Forge will print your minis for you, either in base plastic, premium plastic, bronze, or colour-printed plastic. A full product pricing list can be found on Hero Forge’s website. To save you some time, the cheapest option is to go with base plastic, which starts at a price of $19.99 / £18.38.

Bronze minis will set you back the most at $99.99 / £92.03. Don’t forget to take shipping into account if you’re thinking of buying – outside of the US, it can get a bit more pricey. You can also pay $7.99 / £7.35 to access the STL Digital Download files for your mini. This allows you to create the mini at home with a 3D printer.