It’s time we had a talk about how I price my props, and whether or not that’s fair…
One of the BIGGEST complaints I get about my store, aside from the fact that I don’t distribute my models, is “your prices are too high.”
I wanted to address this head-on, because let’s be honest. It’s annoying seeing it everywhere. I mean everywhere. On Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and, of course, TikTok.
Firstly, let me start out by saying this: Darny3D is a business. It’s my only source of income, it’s how I keep a roof over my head and food on my plate. Most times, I don’t even have enough to buy things I wanna buy. Sure, I have competitors on Etsy and they can be cheaper in certain cases. But their products aren’t as refined, detailed or finished to a standard that I would be happy selling them at.
Let’s get into how I price my prints.
I have a formula for working out the cost of my prints, and the price I should sell them at. Like my commissions, I charge the following:
- 3D Model Design: £6.50 per-hour
- Resin 3D Printing: £4.50 per-hour
- Plastic 3D Printing: £3.50 per-hour
- Post-processing: £10 per-hour
There’s also additional mark-up for any filament costs, any possible failures (and there are a few), as well as the cost of running the machines themselves. They use electricity, and I gotta pay that.
Let’s break that down.
3D Model Design
This is, by far, the longest and most challenging part of the process. I spend hours, days and even weeks building a model from scratch. This includes getting the basic shape correct, working out the scale so it’s 1:1, adding in details, making the prop functional, any changes that need to be made, etc.
Some props don’t take as long. Others, like my Jäger ADS, took months. It’s dependent on what it is I’m modelling and, let’s be completely honest here, it’s not an easy thing to do.
In the same respect, I do manage to model in parts and change things on the design that makes printing them easier. For example, I used to have a separate part on my Valkyrie Black Eye’s which I’ve now consolidated into one single part, reducing the print time by 15 minutes.
Resin 3D Printing
I use my resin 3D printer for jobs that require a bit more detail than my plastic printers can manage. It’s slower than traditional 3D printing, and uses materials that are more expensive (e.g. the resin I use is £30 a bottle, compared to £19 for a 1kg roll of filament. The bottle will likely last less than the filament). The caveat with resin 3D printing is it takes so much more time to print something, and there’s a lot of cleanup. Resin is toxic. I have to wash all the prints in 99% isopropyl alcohol, then cure them with UV light to make them safe to touch. There’s an inherent danger that I’ll get hurt using it.
Plastic 3D Printing
You all know this kind of printing. Plastic filament goes in one end, and a prop comes out the other. What you don’t realise is how power-hungry 3D printers can be. They have to heat a bed to 60C, and the nozzle to 210C, for the entire length of the print. They use a lot of electricity, and that has to be factored into the cost of the prop so I can pay those bills.
The plastic itself, too, costs money. I won’t ever use a cheap brand of plastic for a few reasons; poor quality, bad colour, delamination, moisture retention. Poor quality, cheap filament can ruin a print very easily so I stick with named and reputable brands like EYONE and AMAZ3D – check them out, they’re seriously good.
But failures also happen. Prints can delaminate (the plastic doesn’t bond together), the first layer can slide off the plate, heck even a clogged nozzle can tank a long print. I’ve had 36 hour prints fail because of issues. It’s why I factor in a 10% failure rate on my print pricing calculations.
This is the tough part here. Post-processing is cleaning up the print once it comes off of the printer; removing any support materials, sanding down any rough edges, etc. Then it’s the cost of assembling the various pieces together. Adding electronics. Sanding the pieces so they’re smooth and uniform. Painting, too, takes a long time.
While I do use power tools to help me sand, even then it can take many hours. You’ve gotta take precautions not to melt the plastic, then work your way meticulously through the different grits until you reach a smooth and uniform surface with no layer lines.
All these things are essential, and make my props look as good as they do. I could very easily cheap out and just give you the raw, unsanded and unpainted prints. But they’d look terrible, and I have always prided myself on the detail that I’ve been able to capture and replicate in my work.
All of these are factors in how I work out my costs. Jäger’s ADS took over 45 hours to print (47.3 to be precise), and there was a lot of post-processing, assembly, and parts to make it what it is today. All of this took hard work and time.
3D printing isn’t quick. It’s a test of patience, a waiting game. You turn hours into usable objects. But, as the age-old adage goes: time is money.
I have always tried to keep my prices low and fair. But there comes a point where it isn’t fair to me. I still have bills to pay, I still have to put food on my table. I still need to purchase supplies for my job to continue making the things I do. Plus, with the pandemic going on there have been NO conventions for cosplayers to attend. I have been insanely lucky to have weathered it without going out of business.
If a prop costs me £80 to make, I’m not seeing much return, if any, if you demand I price it at £85. It’s not reasonable, and it’s not fair.
To everybody who already understood and supported this, thank you. To everybody who was questioning or criticising my prices, I hope this helps you understand a little and sympathise.