Getting Started with Photogrammetry – Part 5 – Tabletop Simulator

Turn your physical models into digital 3D models in this guide to photogrammetry. This fifth article covers importing your model into Tabletop Simulator.

We’re there. Right at the finish line. One small jaunt and it’ll be done. After all the work we did cleaning the model in Blender, we have a comparatively tiny amount of work to go. All that’s left is importing your 3D model in Tabletop Simulator.

Once you’ve finished and want to begin working on your next model, just refer back to the first article and follow the same steps as before. Each time you run through this process of turning your physical models into 3D models and import them into Tabletop Simulator, it gets easier and quicker. Before long you’ll be able to play an entire game in Tabletop Simulator using nothing but your own models!

Tabletop Simulator

Welcome to endgame of building your model, and the beginninggame of you being able to use that model in-game.

Get a Model for the Base

As I mentioned last time, there are various ways of getting a 3D model for your base. If you followed the steps before, then you should have a 3D model of your base in your project directory. If not no worries, 3D models for bases are easy to find all over the internet, and Tabletop Simulator’s Workshop is a great resource for this. There are loads of user-created content to pick from, and you’ll find plenty be searching around for things like “round base models“.

Photogrammetry - Base WOW
The single most exciting screenshot in this entire series. RIVETING!

Above I have a 25mm base for my Umbra Legates. Exciting content right here. Assuming you got your base from a mod in the Steam Workshop, then from the main menu, click Create >  Single Player > Workshop > the mod you subscribed to > Load. You can either follow the rest of the steps in this article inside that mod, or you can copy-paste the base’s model into a clean, empty TTS instance. You can also right click and hit Save Object to easily create additional copies of the base without loading the mod.

Import Your Model

Now that we have the model for our base, we need to import our own 3D model. At the top of the screen, click Objects > Components > Custom. And then click and drag MODEL to the table. You’ll see a Custom Model popup.

Photogrammetry - Custom Model
Photogrammetry – Custom Model. Credit: Pendulin

Click the folder icon next to the Model/Mesh textbox, and select the obj file you cleaned up in Blender, named something like “<your model>-final.obj”. If you get asked whether you want to upload it to Steam Cloud, click Local for now. You won’t be able to use the model in multiplayer games, but once you’ve confirmed it works, then just run through these steps again, selecting Cloud the second time through.

For Collider, you have options. You can leave it blank if you want Tabletop Simulator to give your model a generic hitbox that isn’t too accurate. Or you can select the same obj as you put in Model/Mesh for a much more accurate hitbox. Adding a custom mesh collider probably causes TTS to use a bit more memory and processing power, but I’ve never noticed an issue. Another option is to select the obj file for your base and not the model itself. This lets your model clip through other models so long as the bases aren’t touching. This can be really handy with spindly bits like antennae or long weapons.

For Diffuse/Image, select the jpg file that 3DF Zephyr generated, it should be in your project directory. You won’t be able to miss this this image, as it will be a giant square of textured nonsense. Again, click Local unless you are doing your second pass through these instructions, in which case select Cloud.

For Type, select Figurine. And then go to the Material tab and change it to Cardboard. Then click Import.

Photogrammetry - Imported model
In Tabletop Simulator, now properly scaled, oriented, and polished

To rotate your model, hover over it and press Rotate Left (q) and Rotate Right (e). You can pick it up and move it around with left click. Give the model a quick eyeball to make sure it looks like it’s the correct size for the base.

Align the Model to the Base

Now that we have two objects in Tabletop Simulator, we want to line them so that the model is properly standing on its base.

Photogrammetry - Transformed
Line ’em up, knock ’em down. Actually no, just line them up. Please don’t knock them down

Using the Grab (F1) tool, pick up the model and place it roughly on the center of the base. Then use the Move Gizmo (F8) tool (in the above screenshot it’s the selected tool on the left), along with the movement arrows at the center of your model, to precisely move your model so it’s standing on the center of the base.

Be sure to check the model from all angles, including top-down, to make sure the model is aligned properly. If you find it’s not sitting properly on the base, you can make fine rotation and z-axis adjustments with the Move Gizmo.

Link the Base

We’ve got something that looks like a single object now, but we need it to behave like a single object as well. We can do that in Tabletop Simulator with Combine (F6).

Photogrammetry - Linking
Click object, hold cursor and drag down until base is selected, release cursor

Using the Combine tool can be a little weird, but here’s the step-by-step. Click and hold your model, then drag the cursor down until the base also becomes highlighted. You might need to adjust the camera angle to get this to work. Once the base is highlighted, let go of the cursor, and the objects are now successfully linked. Go ahead and use the Grab Tool (F1) to pick up the model and make sure it stays attached to the base.

If you accidentally linked the wrong object, or just want to unlink the two, then using the Combine tool, click and hold your model, then drag the cursor to any location where it’s not highlighting a second object, and release.

Color the Base

Coloring your model’s base is entirely optional, but I’ll include the instructions in case you want to spice it up. Depending on how you got the model for your base, there might be specific steps you have to go through to apply a color to it. However, if you get your hands on a well designed, generic base, you just need to set the Color Tint on the linked model to color the base.

Photogrammetry - Linking
Leave no base un”painted”

Right-click the model, select Color Tint, and then select whatever color you like. When you click Apply, you should see the that color be applied to the base while your model remains unchanged.

Upload to Steam Cloud

If you want to use this model solely for solo gaming, then you’re done at this point. However, assuming you want to use this model in multiplayer games, you’ll need to upload your model to the Steam Cloud. As mentioned previously, you’ll need to go back to run through the Import Your Model steps again, except this time click Cloud instead of Local. Granted that you could have clicked Upload the first time around, but if you made errors and need to reimport the model, then you’ll wind up with old garbage models cluttering up your Steam Cloud.

Name and Save

Right-click the model, and at the bottom you’ll see Name and Description text boxes. Go ahead and fill those out with whatever information you want. Name appears in a tooltip when your cursor hovers over the model, and Description appears beneath that when you linger the cursor on a model for a second or so.

Photogrammetry - Finished
Yes, Mr Shasvastii. It’s over now.

One last step is to save the model so you can easily use it in any game. Right-click the model, then click Save Object. Give it a name and press Save. Now whenever you are in Tabletop Simulator, you can create a copy of your model clicking Objects > Saved Objects, then selecting your model, and dragging it to the table.


Wrapping Things Up

And that’s it, that’s all the steps to go from physical model to digital version you can use in Tabletop Simulator. It took us a long time to get here, but the more you go through these steps, the easier it gets. I’ve scanned dozens of models following this process and am extremely happy with the results.

That being said, photogrammetry is more of an art than a science. These steps are only the ones I personally follow, and your workflow may look entirely different. I’m no expert and can only tell you what works for me.

Though I’ve written this extensive guide on how to digitize your models, there are doubtlessly many tools and optimizations left to be discovered. If you find tips, tricks, or techniques that work well for you then be sure to share them. In addition to the comments below, Goonhammer’s Patreon Discord server is extremely active and there are always cool people there trying to improve their hobby game and build cool stuff.


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