If you’re looking for the best 3D printers on the market, chances are you’re feeling a little overwhelmed – especially if you have very little previous experience with the hobby. While it certainly sounds like something from a futuristic sci-fi universe, 3D printing has actually been around for several years now, and it’s improving at a startling rate, so the ‘best’ printer will actually entirely depend on what you need one for.
3D printers are fantastic for a range of nerdy hobbies like the best tabletop RPGs (allowing you to create your own miniatures or terrain) or cosplay, where you can print lifelike replicas of props, armor, and even large weapons like blasters and swords. However, given the size difference between applications, you’ll need to know more about the printers themselves before you buy one as they have their respective strengths and weaknesses. That’s where we come in.
Printers typically come in two varieties: filament and resin, though the technology behind these can also vary. A general rule of thumb is that filament printers are better equipped to handle larger models thanks to their build capacity, albeit at a lower quality than resin, while resin-based printers can achieve much higher levels of detail but on a small scale.
The type of printer you’ll need will vary depending on what you want to use it for in that case, with LARP or cosplay enthusiasts more likely to use a filament-style printer for props and prototyping, while figurine collectors or tabletop gamers will find a resin-based machine suits their needs more. We have an FAQ at the bottom of the page that goes into greater detail, so we highly suggest you read it if you’re undecided. Because while printing is a fun and creative hobby, it also can be rather dangerous…
Speaking of which, remember to always set up your 3D printer in a space where it won’t get knocked or fall over, and handle resin with care. We suggest buying some disposable gloves and a respirator rated for fumes, and always set up resin printers in a well-ventilated space.
If that hasn’t deterred you then read on to find our top picks for 3D printers across every budget and application.
The best FDM 3D printers
The AnyCubic Vyper isn’t the largest or even the most capable 3D printer on the market, but it’s our top choice as the best option for most people thanks to its easy-to-use features. You’re getting automatic bed leveling, which is an absolute gamechanger, especially if you’ve used older 3D printers that require you to manually level them. It saves a bunch of time and confusion, and best of all, it’s very reliable so you can simply set up the machine, allow it to level itself, and then start printing.
Anycubic also provides a decent selection of handy accessories such as filament cutters and a bed scraper that can be stored directly within the machine itself thanks to a built-in drawer located at the front.
Overall, this is easy to use for first-timers, and while the profile that it comes with for the Cura slicing software needs a little bit of work, it’s also a good choice for seasoned hobbyists and professionals too as it can achieve high detail and quality. Basically? It’s one of the best 3D printers you can get no matter your experience-level.
The Original Prusa MINI+ is probably the most recognizable printer on this list, having gained a huge online following. While it’s technically an entry-level printer, it has the flexibility of using a decent selection of filaments, including PLA, PETG, ASA, ABS, and more thanks to its superior thermal sensor (as many specialized filaments have stricter temperature requirements), and it comes in both kit form and as a pre-built option.
There’s a Network LAN port and USB port for simple connectivity and a user-friendly interface as well, and if you’re completely new to the 3D printing hobby, then you’ll find more support and user experience online regarding this machine than most other offerings on the market.
Okay, so what about if you need to print some LARP armor or helmets? Perhaps even a prop sword or two? The AnyCubic Kobra Max is huge FDM 3D printer that’s destined to be a cosplayer’s best friend thanks to its immense build capacity, which not only allows you to print a full-sized helmet in one piece, but also means you’re less likely to have to segment larger models in slicing software to fit onto the machine, which takes out some of the technical requirements to printing.
Its sheer size could be an issue for some as it’s not going to fit onto a standard desk, but if you have a table or large workbench, then the massive dimensions are absolutely worth it and it becomes one of the best 3D printers. In fact, our only other complaint is that it can accommodate larger nozzles but doesn’t ship with any, which would be a fantastic addition as these larger nozzles can shave some time off your prints if you’re not too worried about layer lines.
Some hobbies stray into other areas of creative hardware, so the Snapmaker 2.0 combines an FDM 3D printer with a CNC and Laser cutter into a single machine. While this sounds dangerous, all three use very similar mechanics and providing you have a safe place to set it up, such as a garage or workshop, it’s perfectly safe and extremely convenient.
Swapping between the three heads and beds required to switch between the three settings is time-consuming, but if you only have space for a single machine or have low-output expectations, then it’s not too much of an issue, though you will also need to buy its enclosure separately if you need the machine to be covered.
If you need a budget-friendly printer to get you started then look no further than the Creality Ender 3 V2. Its cheap price means you’re not getting a lot of features, but you do get a built-in drawer for accessories as well as a removable LCD control panel should you need to… well, remove it for some reason.
Creality is also a trusted name within the 3D printing community, so if you’re looking for a cheap printer with some reliable information and user experiences, this is the machine that manages to balance affordability with reliability. Better yet, it often goes on sale for under $300, so while it gets easily beaten out in terms of quality by more expensive rival offerings, you really can’t beat its quality for the price.
The best resin 3D printers
The Elegoo Saturn is a mid-sized printer that we think balances affordability, performance, and size perfectly to provide the ultimate Jack-of-all-trades experience, especially for those who are new to 3D printing. It has a generous build plate that can accommodate plenty of miniatures and models, and it can churn them out at a fairly fast and reliable pace so you don’t have to wait too long for some high-quality models.
The placement of its USB port is a pain if you need access to the sides of the machine, but that’s one of our only complaints for the Saturn. Its 4K resolution is more than enough to achieve detail for most print jobs, and its larger size makes it better suited to larger models than a more compact machine. It’s essentially won out over the competition by being great at everything and not having a particular niche, but that provides a great deal of flexibility. And for most folks, that’s enough to enjoy being a part of the 3D printing hobby.
Sure, resin-based printers are already well known for being great at capturing tiny detail, but few printers manage it as well as the Phrozen Sonic Mini 8K. As the name might imply, this tiny powerhouse is capable of printing at an 8K resolution, which is perfect for fans of tabletop games such as Dungeons and Dragons or Warhammer (though not in an official capacity of course).
This is fantastic for printing miniatures and other detailed models at a minute scale, and the small size of the machine means it can be right at home on just about any shelf or desk, providing there’s decent ventilation. It lacks a built-in filter and it’s fairly expensive, but you’re paying for quality so we wouldn’t consider it overpriced considering the detail it can achieve.
The Anycubic Photon Mono X 6K is going to offer the best of both worlds, with a huge build plate to fit plenty of miniatures on, and a 6K resolution for extreme detail. This is slightly unusual as most resin-based printers tend to be on the smaller side if they offer a high resolution, so if you have a mixed bag of hobbies and interest, the Photon Mono X 6K should be able to cope with just about any project you throw at it.
We think it’s especially good for people that want to print their own decorative models on a larger scale than traditional tabletop miniatures, so if you’re a fan of collectibles for your favorite characters but not so much of a fan of the high price tags they come with, this should pay for itself after a few complete projects.
The Anycubic Photon Mono X 6K fans can get pretty noisy as they have to work hard to keep the machine cool during operation, but providing it’s behind a closed door (as it should be for safety anyway), you’ll only hear a muffled whirring.
The Elegoo Mars 2 Pro is compact compared to many of the other options on this list of the best 3D printers, but its small size could be attractive to folks who want to jump into experimenting with resin-based printing but don’t have a lot of space for large machines. While small, it’s still a very capable machine and one of the most affordable options on our list, which just goes to show that you don’t need to drop a massive stack of cash to get started with the hobby.
You’re getting a built-in air filter to remove most of that nasty resin smell (though we do still suggest keeping your workspace well ventilated) and easy to use controls, though the resin tank is side-mounted and requires sliding in and out of place, so you need to take additional care when removing the tank for cleaning and general maintenance.
If you have a sizable budget then the Formlabs Form 3 is basically the Bugatti of the commercial 3D printing world. It’s eye-wateringly expensive which makes it unsuitable for most hobbyist users looking to buy one of the best 3D printers, but it provides a lot of useful features, such as a self-filling resin tank, customizable resin shades, and remote printing and monitoring capabilities.
This should be the machine on your list if you plan on starting a small business around 3D printing as it’s a sizable investment, but one that pays for itself when you take into consideration the additional support that Formlabs provides, especially as there’s little to no maintenance required for its upkeep.
What kind of 3D printer do I need?
On a basic level, printers can be broken down into two groups: FDM and resin. While each of these can have variable technology behind them, they effectively operate in the same way. FDM stands for ‘Fused deposition modeling’ and uses a motor to squeeze melted filament onto a moving bed, building your print layer-by-layer.
Filaments are available in a range of different materials, from standard ABS or PLA (polylactic acid) plastic, up to more niche materials such as wood pulp for sustainability, foam for flexibility and weight, and even sturdy carbon fibre if you wanted to try your hand at building a battle bot. This type of printer should be on your radar if you want to create props, cosplays, or larger models as it’s better equipped at handling large prints, though you may see some layer lines on the finished models.
Resin-based printers on the other hand, have a build plate that lowers into a vat of UV reactive liquid resin, with a screen underneath the tank that flashes UV light to build the model, again, layer-by layer. There are several styles of resin curing technology used, such as SLA (Stereolithography), MSLA (Masked Stereolithography) and DLP (Digital Light Process), though functionally they’ll all use UV light to cure your print in liquid resin, and that comes with its own set of problems.
Resin is a toxic substance and should be handled with care, so you’ll need protective equipment such as gloves, a respirator and a well-ventilated room in which to set up, and the size of your models is restricted by the tank size, but the trade-off is that models printed with resin are much, much more detailed than anything you can get on an FDM machine. This is good for tabletop miniatures or small, highly detailed prototyping.
For more, don’t forget to check out the best gaming laptops and the best gaming PCs. As for some tabletop recommendations, be sure to take a look at these highly-recommended Dungeons and Dragons books.