The complete guide to miniature size and miniature scale
Zombie figures of different miniature scales and miniature proportions
This article is a definitive guide to miniature scale (model scale) and miniature proportions. I try to explain things like relative scale, absolute scale, realistic proportions, heroic scale, 28mm miniatures.
Many beginners and even some veteran miniature collectors are confused when it comes to the topic of miniature scales. Knowing the modeling scale and proportions of a miniature figure before buying is important if you have an established collection you'd like to expand. Determining miniature size and model scale is often hard, as even the producing companies use confusing scale references. The miniature proportions also mix up the differences between miniatures of the same modeling scale.
While browsing through websites of companies that produce miniatures I often run into articles that are either trying to explain miniature scales the wrong way or complain that their customers demand to know what scale and size their products are, and don't understand why would they like to know a properly determined scale.
In the Comparison image gallery, I've gathered comparison photos of miniature models from various ranges and companies, so you can check their size and proportions, compared to other models. You can find a lot more comparison photos in the Miniature Database articles about the respective models you'd like to see.
The size of the miniature depends on the miniature scale. Beyond the scale of the miniature, there's also the proportion of the model that can change the look of the miniature. There are multiple kinds of scales and proportions used miniatures and toys.
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Miniature scales (model scales)
What is miniature scale?
Definition: Miniature scale determines the size of the miniature model, compared to a chosen reference.
Based on the way the creators choose reference, there are two basic kinds of miniature scales used: relative scale and absolute scale. There's also a hybrid of them, that I call relative "absolute" scale.
Relative scale for miniature models
Definition: The relative scale of miniatures is a modeling scale that compares the size of the model to the size of a real life object. This ratio will show how many times the model is smaller than the original size. For example, 1/72 means that the size of the miniature is the 1/72th of the size of the original.
If the models are produced with a relative scale in mind, the miniatures will be in scale with each other, that's why they are often called 'scale models'.
Popular modeling scales: 1:100 scale, 1:72 scale, 1:56 scale, 1:48 scale, 1:35 scale etc.
For further information, and listing of often used relative scales: Relative scales
There are companies that use relative scale, but happen to call their miniatures in a style that recalls absolute scaling - for example, if the average 1:56 human soldier is 28mm high up to their eye level, than they call their range 28mm, despite producing models that are shorter or taller. See: Relative "absolute" scale
Some manufacturers happen to apply different relative miniature scales to the dimensions of vehicles, so the size of their vehicle matches the tastes of the gamers better. This means that while the model is said to belong to a scale, that might only mean that the height or length belongs to that scale. This habit is due to the basing of models, as the size of the base makes the models seem significantly higher compared to the vehicles, as there's also a gamer habit to leave the vehicles unbased. See: Vehicle sizes and miniatures with bases
Despite having a seemingly fixed relative scale, the size of the models can differ wildly from the expected size, due to manufacturing issues - the moulding process and the shrinking of the material can cause differences from the expectations.
Relative scales with "millimeters to feet" or "inches to feet" calculations
Definition: Millimeters to feet scale gives a size in millimeters for the miniature model that will be compared to one feet of size on the original model. For example "1mm scale" means that 1 mm on the model will equal to 1 feet on the original. So, a "1 mm scale" model is actually a 1:305 scale model. "2 mm scale" is 1:152.5 scale, "3 mm scale" is 1:101.6 scale, "3,5 mm scale" is 1:87.1 scale. "7mm scale" is 1:43.5 scale.
Another approach is to compare a fraction of an inch to one feet of the original model. For example, "quarter inch scale" means that 0.25 inch equals 1 feet of the original model, making it an 1:48 (38mm) scale model. "Tenth inch scale" is 1:120 scale.
How are miniature scales calculated? / How do you calculate miniature scale?
To calculate miniature scales, you have to compare the size of the original object to the miniature model.
Step #1: Measure (or guess) the size of original object. For humans, you can use the average height of the era. For warriors, keep in mind that they are usually above than average height people. For objects, you can use reference guides (or search engines) to find their size.
Step #2: Choose a scale factor.
Step #3: Divide the size of the original object with the chosen scale factor.
For example, if the original object of a 1:60 model is a modern human soldier, we can assume that it is 180 cm high. When you divide 180 by 60, it is going to be 3 cm (30 mm) high. As you'll see later, a 30mm high model might be still called a "28mm miniature", if they measure the height up to eye level.
How do you determine miniature scale? / How do you find the scale of a model?
To be able to determine the scale of your miniature, first you need to know the size of the miniature and the size of the original object.
Step #1: Measure the size of the miniature model.
Step #2: Measure (or guess) the size of the original object. For humans, you can use the average height of the era. For warriors, keep in mind that they are usually above than average height people. For objects, you can use reference guides (or search engines) to find their size.
Step #3: Divide the size of the original object with the size of the miniature model. That will give you the scale factor.
For example, if the original object is a modern human soldier (we can assume it is 180 cm high), and the model is 30 mm (3 cm) high, we divide 180 with 3. The result is going to be 60 - thus, the miniature is a 1:60 scale model.
Most of the problem comes from the fact that it's hard to determine the exact size of the original model, that's why we usually use averages for the base of measurement. Another problem comes from the pose of the miniature, especially for dynamic poses, as it's hard to measure how high would the model be if it were standing upright.
What are the scale sizes for models?
Miniatures and models are made in a very wide range of scales. The most popular modeling scales: 1:100 scale, 1:72 scale, 1:56 scale, 1:48 scale, 1:35 scale. For tiny models: 1:300 scale, 1:144 scale. For dolls and action figures: 1:18 scale (3 3/4 inch), 1:6 scale. For model railways 1:160 (N gauge), 1:148 (British N gauge), 1:120 (TT gauge), 1:48 scale (US 0 gauge), 1:43,5 (0 gauge).
Some modeling scales are chosen because they are easy to measure. For example, 1:100 scale and 1:50 scale are popular among architectural modelers who use the metric system.
For a more complete list, see our article about relative scales.
What is scale creep?
Scale creep is when the same range of models get bigger and bigger over the years of production. Larger models were easier to produce correctly, especially in the past millenium, bigger details come out better, and larger surfaces are easier to paint. When a company sees that people are still buying the larger models, that's an incentive for them to continue making larger ones.
Absolute scale for miniature models
Definition: The absolute scale is not a proper modeling scale. They set up a size of the miniature and try to make every miniature the same size or at least have an average with the size they've set up. Even with a supposedly absolute scale there can be some variations - dwarves can be somewhat smaller and giants can be somewhat taller.
|Absolute scale: Very different miniature scales for the same game - War of the Ring from Ares Games
image © Ares Games
Examples: 25mm, 28mm, 32mm etc. A 28mm miniature means that the size of the miniature will be 28mm from the feet of the mini to the chosen reference point.
Misconceptions: The given size is not the size of an average human as a base for scale reference - that would make it a relative scale model. No matter what the size of the original model would be, all of them are resized to fit the given absolute scale size, so every single model for an absolute scale miniature line can belong to different relative scales.
That is why in the Warhammer 40,000 range, a puny Administratum worker, a musclebound jungle fighter, a giant space marine and an even bigger, heavily armoured terminator miniature are all basically the same size. The original game had an abstract representation of the battlefield, and it had no intention to use the size of the miniatures in relation to the game area - it was the base of the mini that was important as it was representing an area controlled by the figure. The vehicles and buildings were even smaller in relative scale compared to the soldiers.
Reference points for absolute scale miniatures
Different sculptors may use different reference points when referring to miniature sizes.
Size to top of the figure: The reference point is the absolute top of the miniature, including headwear.
Size to top of head: The absolute scale is set up to the top of the head (or the highest part) of the miniature. This reference point is used so different headwear wouldn't change the relative scale of similar miniatures.
Size to eye-level: The absolute scale is set up to the eye-level of the miniature. The supposed purpose of this is it's not easy to know the exact top of the head, if there's a helmet or cap on the model, but the eye is usually visible.
Relative "absolute" scale for miniature models
Definition: The relative "absolute" scale is a hybrid of relative scale and absolute scale. This is an often used miniature scale, but not a proper modeling scale. Some manufacturer use absolute scale references as modeling scales that refer to an average size of an average human, instead of calculating the exact relative scale. However these miniatures differ in size, lower models have smaller miniatures, while larger ones are higher.
Most of the "28mm scale" or "32mm scale" human models out there are actually 1:56 scale ones. 28mm scale in this case refers to the eyeline of the miniature, while 32mm refers to the top of their heads. There are also manufacturers who state they produce 32mm scale miniatures, but they measure the 32mm up to eye level, so these miniatures are 35mm high to the top of their heads.
Miniature scale and size chart: Relative scales of absolute scale miniatures
|Height||1:72 scale||1:64 scale||1:61||1:58||1:56 scale||1:50 scale||1:48 scale||1:35 scale||1:32|
|210cm||very tall human (40k space marine)||top of head||29.1mm||32.8mm||34.4mm||36.2mm||37.5mm||42mm||43.8mm||60mm||65.6mm|
|eye level - realistic||27.1mm||30.7mm||32.2mm||33.9mm||34.9mm||39.4mm||41mm||56.2mm||61.5mm|
|eye level - heroic||27.6mm||31.2mm||32.7mm||34.4mm||35.6mm||39.9mm||41.6mm||57mm||62.3mm|
|180cm||modern human male soldier||top of head||25mm||28.1mm||29.5mm||31mm||32.1mm||36mm||37.5mm||51mm||56mm|
|eye level - realistic||23.4mm||26.3mm||27.4mm||28.8mm||30mm||33.5mm||34.9mm||47.4mm||52mm|
|eye level - heroic||23.7mm||26.7mm||28mm||29.5mm||30.4mm||34.2mm||35.6mm||48.4mm||53.2mm|
|170cm||average human male (0AD-1900s)||top of head||23.6mm||26.6mm||28mm||29.5mm||30.4mm||34mm||35.5mm||48.5mm||53mm|
|eye level - realistic||22.1mm||24.9mm||26mm||27.4mm||28.3mm||31.6mm||33mm||45.1mm||49.3mm|
|eye level - heroic||22.4mm||25.3mm||26.6mm||28mm||28.8mm||32.3mm||33.7mm||46mm||50.3mm|
|160cm||top of head||22.2mm||25mm||26mm||27.5mm||28,5mm||32mm||33mm||46mm||50mm|
|eye level - realistic||20.8mm||23.4mm||24.4mm||25.8mm||26.7mm||30mm||31mm||43.1mm||46.9mm|
|eye level - heroic||21.1mm||23.7mm||24.7mm||26.1mm||27.1mm||30.4mm||31.3mm||43.7mm||47.5mm|
Realistic eye level is at 91,5-95% (93.3%) of the height of a regular male human. Heroic scale eye level is usually at 95%, but it can vary due to the level of exeggaration.
Example: If the character is 180cm high, and in heroic scale they measure 28mm up to eye level, it means they are 1:61 scale minis. If the character is 170cm high, then they are 1:58 scale miniatures. If the model depicts soldiers, they are likely to be greater in height than the average people around them.
Poses for models
Not all models are standing totally upright.
Standing at ease: 95% height
Sitting: 80% height
28mm scale miniatures
28mm scale or 28mm miniature is a phrase often used for wargaming models that are usually 28mm-35mm tall, and belong to 1:50-1:61 modeling scale.
What does 28mm scale mean? / What is 28mm scale? / What is a 28mm scale miniature? / What do you need to know about 28mm miniatures?
A 28mm scale miniature is designed in a way, where the average sized human is an absolute scale model that is 28mm tall up to the chosen reference point. That reference point is often the top of the head, but most companies use the eye level as the reference point.
How big is 28mm? What size is a 28mm miniature?
28mm is slightly bigger than 1 inch, it's 1.1 inch actually. The actual size of the 28mm miniature can be anything between 1 to 1.4 inches.
How tall are 28mm miniatures? / How tall is a 25/28mm human? / How tall is a 28mm model?
The height of a 28mm miniature might sound trivial, but it depends on several factors, so - as you can see on the table - it can be somewhere between 28-30mm, or even taller. I've seen 35mm high models being called 28mm miniatures.
What scale are 28mm miniatures? / What is the scale of 28mm miniatures? / What scale are 28mm figures?
A 28mm miniature can belong to different relative scales, but - as seen on the table above - it is most likely somewhere around 1:56-1:61 scale, depending on the height of the person depicted, and the chosen reference point. If the original person is 170 cm tall, and the chosen reference point is the top of the head, than a 28mm miniature is going to be 28mm tall, making it a 1:61 scale model. If the chosen reference point is the eye level, than the 28mm miniature is 30mm tall, making it a 1:56 scale model. If the chosen reference point is the eye level, but the model is made with heroic scale proportions, than the 28mm miniature is going to be 29,5mm tall, making it a 1:56 scale model.
All of these are only true, if the company that makes the model actually cares about model scales and miniature sizes. "28mm scale" is often used for any kind of miniatures with an average size between 28mm-35mm. I've seen people considering 1:50 scale models, that are 35mm tall as 28mm scale miniatures.
What is heroic 28mm?
A heroic 28mm miniature is a 28mm miniature, with heroic scale proportions. This means that the model is 28mm to the eye or to the top of its head, and the proportions are far from realistic, the face is distorted, and the hands and feet are overly large.
What railroad scale is 28mm? / What model train scale is 28mm? / What train scale is closest to 28mm? / What gauge is a 28mm miniature?
28mm miniatures are somewhere between 1:50 scale to 1:64 scale. If you'd like to use model trains that are close to this, I'd recommend the 0 gauge (1:43 to 1:48 scale), these are the most accessible. Z0 gauge (1:60 scale) also works but that range is more limited and expensive. S gauge models are 1:64 scale, and they could work fine for 1:64 scale models (for example, the Space Marines from Games Workshop), but if you compare the 1:64 train to the 1:64 model on its base, the train will look smaller than in reality. So, it wouldn't hurt if you get a slightly larger train than the scale you are aiming for.
What is the best vehicle scale for 28mm?
The best vehicle scale for 28mm depends on the proportions of your miniature. For realistic models, 1:50-1:64 could work fine. For heroic scale models, larger scales (1:43-1:56) probably look better. If you don't base your vehicles like your figures, you might probably need slightly larger vehicles, to compensate for the taller figures.
What is the best building scale for 28mm?
The best building scale for 28mm is 1:50-1:64. For building scales, it's usually the doors that indicate the scale of the model. The wider the base on your figures, the larger the scale you'll need for your building. An average door is 2 meters tall, so an average human can fit under it easily. An 1:64 scale door of that size is 31.25 mm, so an average (30mm tall) 28mm scale model fits under that easily. However, when you add a 5mm base, that model is suddenly 35mm tall, raising the building scale you need to 1:57. If the proportion of the model is heroic scale, even larger scales might look good.
Is Warhammer 28mm or 32mm?
According to Games Workshop, their Warhammer and Warhammer 40K range is 28mm. This doesn't mean much though, as the height of their models varies even between one army, and it also varies by the age of the sculpts.
What' s the difference between 25mm and 28mm?
The difference between 25mm and 28mm is 3 mms, about 1/10 of an inch. Also, current (1990+) 25mm figures have usually realistic proportions, while many 28mm ranges have heroic scale proportions.
Is 1:72 scale the same as 28mm?
No, 1:72 scale is not the same as 28mm. 1:72 miniatures, vehicles and buildings look tiny compared to 28mm miniatures.
Is 1:48 scale the same as 28mm?
No, 1:48 scale is not the same as 28mm, but human-sized 28mm models are similar to 1:48 figures. 1:48 vehicles and buildings could be used for relative 28mm scale models.
Is 1:35 scale the same as 28mm?
No, 1:35 scale is not the same as 28mm, 1:35 models would be too large for 28mm figures. However, 1:35 accessories and weapons might look okay for relative 28mm scale models with heroic scale proportions.
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What is miniature proportion?
Definition: The miniature proportion determines the look of the miniature. Miniatures with realistic proportions look like the original object that has been resized, but there are other, more abstracts approaches for depicting the models.
Realistic proportions for miniatures
The miniature looks like a scaled down copy of the original model. The head of the miniature is about 1/7 or 1/8 of the size of the whole miniature. The eye-level is on the middle-line of the head.
Examples: most historical miniatures (Italeri, Perry Miniatures, Zvezda etc), Mantic Games, Corvus Belli
Even today, there are some restrictions on the manufacturing of some realistic details. The moulding process, the material of the model, these can have an effect on how realistic a miniature can be. The smaller the miniature, the less proportionate will it be compared to the real life model. There might be a time when an 1/300 scale human model will have every detail right even in its 6mm size.
True scale: Models with realistic proportions are sometimes called "true scale" models, meaning they are true to the original model, without any exaggerations or distortions. The phrase is also used for miniature ranges that use different scales for different types of models (for example 1:72 scale for infantry, 1:100 scale for vehicles), in this regard, "true scale" means that the collector uses the same scale for all of his models.
Heroic scale proportions for miniatures
The miniature looks similar to the original model, but every body part is exeggarated to make the miniature wider. The head of the miniature is about 1/6 of the size of the whole miniature. The face takes up a larger part of the head, the eye-level is usually up to 2/3 instead of the 1/2 line compared to the head. The hands, feet and weapons are bigger (about 2-3 times as thick as they would normally be). Heroic scale was created to make minis easier to paint, and to make it easier to produce models with the technology of the time. According to Reaper Miniatures company, the term "heroic scale" was first used in 1999 by Ed Pugh of Reaper Miniatures to describe the look of their Dark Heaven Legend miniatures in one of their publications, although the phrase might have been used even before that.
The "heroic scale" proportions of a miniatures are not to be confused with the "heroic proportions" used in drawings. There it means that the figure has a relatively small head (1/9-1/10 of the height or even smaller) with a very muscular body.
Realistic (red outline) and heroic scale
image © Games Workshop
modified by Kadmon
Red line is where the eye should be on a realistic figure.
The usual proportions of a heroic scale mini are: head: 1 head, body: 2 heads, pelvis area: 1 head, legs: 2 heads.
The body is 50% wider than a realistically proportioned miniature.
The out of proportion nature of the miniature can cause confusion if an absolute size is used to eye-level, as the eye-level of a heroic miniature is higher than the eye-level of a realistic proportions miniature.
Players who got used to Heroic scale might see Realistic proportion model of the same miniature scale ridiculously tiny, and can find it hard to paint them because of the smaller details, as they got used to large, easily accessible areas to paint.
Heroic scale equipment and weapons are usually 3 times as thick as their normal proportioned counterparts. It's partly due to make them to hold hard detail, and partly to make them fit the overall looks of the range. For 1:56 scale Heroic scale miniatures, modellers often use 1:48 scale or even 1:35 scale weapons, as they look more in scale with them.
Heroic scale vehicles have exeggarated, more pronounced details. The tracks or wheels are wider, the doors are thicker. To get hard detail, the rivets are unusually big. Heroic scale vehicles are mostly made by Games Workshop and other companies that create unlicenced copies of their ranges. If you'd like to use realistic scale vehicle models with your heroic scale army, I recommmend you to use larger scale versions of smaller vehicles, to get closer to heroic scale proportions. For example, if you'd like to have a transport that can take 10 of your 1:56 scale infantry, you could search for a 1:48 scale transporter that could carry 5-6 people. For Primaris Space Marines, you could use 1:35 scale vehicles.
Examples: Warhammer range & Warhammer 40,000 range (Games Workshop and every company that copies their designs, like Anvil Industry, Kromlech, or Spellcrow), Privateer Press, Target Games
The miniature is similar to the original model, but the legs are thinner, as if you are looking at the miniature from a higher position. The top-down position makes them look higher if you look at them from the top. Seeing from the front they look like they couldn't support the body of the miniature. This is probably done to make the miniature look higher than it is, without making the miniature itself bigger. From a higher viewpoint it looks like the creature is so large, that the legs look tiny due to perspective distortion. For top-down proportioned human-like models I consider the length of their legs to be about as long as their body to calculate their miniature scale.
I think it works all right for the boardgames, especially for single giants but I don't like the use of them for mass combat games.
|image © Fantasy Flight Games||image © Mantic Games|
|Top-down miniature proportions|
Examples: Kings of War large humanoids (Mantic Games), Descent giants (Fantasy Flight Games), Zombicide large humanoids (CoolMiniOrNot Games)
For model railway miniature trains there is a very wide variety of scales. Beyond the realistic proportiions, there are some other proportions used, with their own labels (British N, British TT, US H0 etc), that slightly distort the size of the model compared to the original. Model train scale labels are based on model track gauge (the distance between the tracks of the model train track), but while the size of the track is fixed, several different scales of models and different proportions can fit on those model railway tracks. The distance between the rails differ in several countries, and that makes it harder to create a unified model train scale for the different track gauges.
Train track sizes
1,435 mm standard-gauge tracks: Used in Europe, North America, Australia, China, the Japanese Shinkansen, and some other places.
1,520 mm Russian gauge tracks: Used in Russia.
1,067 mm gauge tracks: Used in Japanese private railways.
Some of the most popular model train gauges
N gauge: 9 mm distance between tracks. It's 1:160 scale for 1,435 mm standard-gauge tracks. The N stands for "Nine millimeter". British N gauge models use 1:148 scale trains, making the models slightly smaller than the 1:160 scale used for the tracks and scenery. Japanese N gauge models use 1:150 scale trains for the 1,067 mm gauge track models, but 1:160 for the Shinkansen trains.
TT gauge: 12 mm distance between tracks. It's 1:120 scale for 1,435 mm standard-gauge tracks. The TT stands for "TableTop". British TT gauge models use 1:101.6 scale trains.
H0 gauge: 16,5 mm distance between tracks. It's 1:87 scale for 1,435 mm standard-gauge tracks. The H0 stands for "Half 0", meaning it's 0 gauge scaled down by half. Some call it HO gauge, with an O instead of the zero. The US H0 gauge uses 1:87.1 scale.
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Matching the scales of miniature figures and miniature scenery
If you have a collection of miniatures and you intend to expand them with miniatures from other ranges, all you have to do check the model scale and model proportions. If the miniature scales and proportions match, most of the time you can be sure they will fit your collection, especially if they are relative scale, realistic proportion models. It's a bit tricky with absolute scale, and especially with absolute scale heroic models, so take a closer look when you intend to buy such minis.
Scenery and vehicles would seem to follow the previous method, however you have to take the miniature bases into consideration.
For example, if you have 1:56 scale 28mm miniature models, you might think that the 1:56 scale watchtower, or 1:56 scale castle will be great for you. However, your minis are often based on 25 mm or even larger bases, and those won't fit in a 20mm square tower, and they can topple from the 15mm walkways of the castle. This is because many realistic scale model scenery pieces are created with real world terrain as a reference, and they don't take wargame bases into consideration. So take care, or prepare for conversions.
Most scenery pieces look all right even if you get somewhat different miniature scales, especially if they don't contain parts that show their scale - for example doors betray the scale of a building, but otherwise most buildings are really similar in every scale. If you intend to get scenery that will take active part in your games - doorways that you can put miniatures into, windows that can put miniatures behind, hallways that you can get miniatures into -, always make sure you can do these before getting a scenery set, or prepare for a modelling project to bend the scenery to your wishes.
I often use some H0 gauge model train buildings, that are 1:87 scale, with 1:56 scale 28mm miniatures. For example H0 bridges can be used as small bridges intended for humans. H0 historical buildings (churches, castles) often has large doors and windows, and they won't look out of place with a 28mm miniature.
If you intend to use the scenery as rubble or wreckage, you are more free to use any close scales to fit your needs. For example if you have 1:64 miniatures, even 1:50 vehicles might be good as background wreckage (especially if you take the wheels off, and wreck the vehicle to hide the overall shape).
If you use non-relative scale models, like Warhammer or Warhammer 40,000, take care that the vehicles are not in the same scale as the miniatures, and this proportional difference is more pronounced in their early ('80-90s) models.
If you use your scenery for games, you might need to consider that when you choose your model. The base sizes of your collection dictate your needs. For example, stairs should be able to hold your miniatures, so it's better if they can hold a one base. Doors should allow your to put a based miniature in. Walkways should allow you to put at least one base on them, but it's better if they are wide enough to allow two of those. Towers should be able to hold at least one base. Many realistically scaled models don't let you do that, because their priority is the realistic look instead of gaming usefulness.