3D Printing Materials Guide

There are so many materials you can choose from when it comes to 3D printing that it’s often tough to decide on the right one. But do not fear! Tinkercad’s Materials Guide is here! Our easy-to-read guide will help you select the perfect material based on a few important factors, like type, minimum thickness, texture and the all-important cost. Whether you’re looking to 3D print a prototype or a unique 3D gift, our Materials Guide will help guide you through the process!

NYLON: (Polyamide)

  • Also called White, strong & flexible / Durable plastic / White plastic
  • Strong and flexible plastic
  • 1mm minimum wall thickness
  • Naturally white, but you can get it colored
  • About 10 layers per 1mm
  • Made from powder
  • Alumide = Polyamide + Aluminum
  • Interlocking, moving parts possible (chain)

ABS: (Home printers)

  • Strong plastic like legos are
  • Made from spaghetti like filament
  • Many color options
  • About 3 layers per 1mm
  • 1mm minimum wall thickness

RESIN: (Multiple options)

  • Also called White-, Black-, Transparent detail / White detail resin / High detail-, Transparent-, Paintable Resin
  • Rigid and a bit delicate
  • Liquid Photopolymer cured with UV light
  • White, black & transparent most typical colors
  • About 10 layers per 1mm
  • 1mm minimum wall thickness


  • Very strong material
  • Made with multiple steps or from powder directly
  • Coloring options like gold and bronze plating
  • About 6 layers per 1mm
  • 3mm minimum wall thickness


  • Strong materials
  • Made from wax and then casted
  • About 10 layers per 1mm
  • 0.5mm minimum wall thickness


  • Strongest material
  • Direct metal laser sintering
  • About 30 layers per 1mm
  • 0.2mm minimum wall thickness


  • Rigid & delicate
  • First ceramic is printed then surface is glazed
  • Ceramic white, glaze typically white
  • About 6 layers per 1mm
  • 3mm minimum wall thickness


  • Also called Sandstone / Rainbow ceramics / Multicolor
  • Rigid & delicateMade from powder
  • Naturally white, but you can get it with colors
  • About 10 layers per 1mm
  • 2mm minimum wall thickness

Download the Tinkercad Materials Guide.

Is there a material you’d like to see in the Tinkercad Materials Guide?
Let us know: team@tinkercad.com.


    • I think there need to be a material that isn’t toxic at all. I know most of these can be put through a process that can make them safe to use for kids toys, but wouldn’t it be better to have a material specifically designed for this purpose? Does it exist already? thanks

    • @Tina: That’s a good question. I would suggest to make toys from PLA or ABS, because both are filament based. It’s like spaghetti which is melted + legos for example are made from ABS. PLA is corn based, so that would make it even better. If you have access to some “home printer”, these are also the most affordable options. Nylon probably would be otherwise fine, but it’s made from powder. When product is made from powder, it will loose some tiny powder pieces when used. Ceramic is the only food-safe material, but on the other hand not safe as a toy.
      This material guide is just to get some basic understanding about the most used 3D printable materials. If you want to know more details, I’d suggest to check from 3D printing service material guides more:
      Shapeways: http://www.shapeways.com/materials
      i.Materialise: http://i.materialise.com/materials

    • ABS isn’t bad, but if you’re worried about making toys for someone that might put it in their mouth you MUST MUST MUST put it through an acetone vapor bath first to prevent and delamination. My left hand is printed ABS, and the one finger that we forgot to put through the bath started peeling apart after a while.

      PLA is less toxic (corn starch based) but more prone to breaking in thin areas. I couldn’t say one way or another on how easily it delaminates or not.

      Resin I think depends on the type. Some might be toxic, others they use in dentistry. (my two front teeth are half plastic)

  1. Actually, I’ve just got my Replicator2 in january in since than it’s been printing continuously:) I guess that the FDM technology is getting better every week, with the new desktop 3D printers you can print with a layer height of less than 0.1mm which produces beautiful and smooth curved surfaces as well. Check out my blog about my experiments and timelapse videos about my 3D printing experiences and parametric design;)
    Btw I’m having some issues updating my Firmware to the new one. I’ve already installed MakerWare 2.0, but when I want to update my Firmware from the Makerware menu, I always get the message “Error: task failed”. Any suggestions?

  2. Have you ever thought about adding a little bit more than just your
    articles? I mean, what you say is fundamental and all.
    Nevertheless think of if you added some great images or video
    clips to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with images and clips,
    this blog could certainly be one of the very best in its niche.
    Very good blog!

  3. Can your files be exported or migrated to be made into an injection mold format. Say, if something we made could be produced by Protomold.com? Thank you.

    • Hi Wade –
      It looks like Protomold can work with an STL file – which you can export from Tinkercad. I’d check with Protomold for more specifics.

      • Only First Cut can work with an .STL file. Protomold needs .igs, .stp, sldprt, .prt, sat,.dwg We are trying to send to both 3d printing then send the same object to protomold. It would be nice to see a design before sending out for injection.

  4. Just what I was thinking. How about printing a mold, using PVA (which dissolves in water), and then pouring in whatever would work, such as rubber or possibly even metal. I just got this little book – “How to Cast Small Metal and Rubber Parts”, and although it deals mainly with traditional mold-making techniques, it lists some materials that would work with PVA I would think.

    Since PVA has a low enough melting point to allow it to be 3D printed, I would suspect that some sort of air curing material would be in order.

  5. Hello, do you have a Tinkercad tool (or plans to make one) that will take a solid object and give you a hollow shell of that object, for printing with Shapeways or other powder printers? I get how to do that with a cube, etc, but for more complex, non-convex shapes I can’t figure out how to do this.

      • Thank you very much, that was very helpful! However A3DP doesn’t let me put a hole in the object to let printing powder from Shapeways come out – it would be great to have a “make ready for Shapeways” button that would hollow to the minimum thickness and then make escape holes. Long story of trying unsuccessfully to use Tinkercad, MeshLab, 123D Design online and desktop, and Sketchup to add that hole but such a simple thing… arrgh! 🙂

        I like to print things on my own filament-deposition machine but for the really good models I want to be able to send them to Shapeways.

      • Thanks Laura,

        That’s a great point – I’ll forward it as a feature suggestion. Meanwhile, I’ve spent the last 10 minutes staring into space trying to figure out how you could do it..! I’ll keep you posted.


  6. in TinkerCAD, can’t one just create a small cylender hole a little longer then the surfae thickness,, and combine it with the surface where a hole is desired. Or am I missing something.

    • You can, but Tinkercad sometimes converts a hollow model to a solid one. So you make the hole like you said but now there is no “thickness”, just a solid model! Very frustrating. I would love to have a button in Tinkercad that takes a solid model and returns a shell of it, to whatever thickness you specify – and then we could just punch cylinder holes as needed.

  7. Hi, buying a 3d printer for the first time next month, dont want to spend a fortune as a first time user, any reccommendations?? I have seen that Da Vinci 2.0, this seemed a good one because fo dual printing, but I am dubious about how much material is going to be used, with this printer you have to go to the supplier of the product, would I not be better getting a printer that I can use a spool of material?? Sorry about long question 🙂

  8. This is a really good post. Very helpful to us people who dont really understand the process behind 3D printing. This helps me realize that I can use any kind of brother toner cartridge in printing my output. This is a good technological advancement in the printing industry.

    Source: http://www.inkjetsuperstore.com

  9. What material would be the best theoretically for 3D printing Dice? Since they’re going to be handled, tumbled, and basically whacked several times. Excluding metals as an option here. Which of the plastic-like materials would be best?

    • ABS or PLA would be fine, though they wouldn’t have much weight. The Resin-based materials would give a little more heft, and could even be a little flexible so that they bounce.

  10. I would consider HIPS natural. I’ve printed thick, solid items with this material, and they’ve come out smooth and no sign of deformation. If you want to emboss the spots, I would indent them. Using a transparent material would also be interesting.

  11. I’m not suee exactly why but this site is loading very sllw for
    me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a issue on my end?
    I’ll check back later on and see if the problem still exists.

  12. Is there a UV-stabilized plastic that will work in home printers? I’ve found one supplier, but their stock only works in their own line of industrial-scale machines.

    • James, I would use ABS (same material as Lego blocks) rather than PLA (plant-based), which may degrade. If you’re using a 3D print service, I think the metals would be okay but they would know more about their materials.
      Let us know what you find out!

  13. Hi just found about 3D printing would like to know if I want to make figurines of myself which comes out exactly same color in a kind of powder. Which kindof 3D printer would be suitable and which material is used for that kind of figurines

  14. Gertrude: A company that can do what you ask is Shapeways. They have the ability to print, in what they call “sandstone”, multiple colors. Their “Sad Little Keannu” and “Grumpy Cat” are priceless – and at the same time not that expensive. To design your own for them to print will take learning the technique to both sculpt a 3D model, and how to apply the color scheme. To buy the equipment to print that yourself would be very expensive.

  15. i i have designed a clip to attach to a seat belt webbing so that a specific item can be placed on the passengers lap tethered to the clip so that it does not slide forward under heaving braking or even an accident, i have had this clip 3d printed using a polymer material however it snaps when pressure is applied when it is attached to the seatbelt and i try and apply a forward force to it to similar the force under heavy braking or an accident. Is the metal compound option the better alternative compared to polymer or abs so that i can test the clip. Given the considerable cost of having a mold created mass production injection molding i am looking for an interum solution that can be used in the real work application without them bnreaking. My current 3d printed clips took 40 minutes per clip to print (that should give you some idea of their size only about 2 inches, 50mm wide) just wondering the different in cost of having them printed in polymer / abs v’s a more stronger material

  16. Hi Andrew,

    Great post. I’m interested in setting 3d printer based business in South India. Could you help me with good printer brands which I can use all types of materials.

    Thank you.

  17. Amazing Blogpost! There are so many materials we can choose from when it comes to 3D printing that it is often tough to decide on the right one. The materials guide you have provided has helped me a lot.

  18. Hi
    I’m hoping to print earphone covers. Firstly is this possible, if so, which material would be best suited for this.

  19. ABS isn’t awful, however in the event that you’re stressed over making toys for somebody that may place it in their mouth you MUST put it through a CH3)2CO vapor shower initially to avert and delamination. My left hand is printed ABS, and the one finger that we neglected to put through the shower began peeling separated before long.

    PLA is less harmful (corn starch based) yet more inclined to softening up thin regions. I couldn’t state somehow on how effectively it delaminates or not.

    Sap I think relies on upon the sort. Some may be poisonous, others they use in dentistry. (my two front teeth are half plastic)

  20. This page is very helpful.

    Now I know I need ‘NYLON: (Polyamide)’. And if this is correct, I may not need to make silicone molds from the 3D prototype, but instead, print all the molds I need with Nylon material and make my custom cold process soaps directly to the 3D prints

    I am actually surprised many local 3D printers in Los Angeles do not want to educate newcomers to 3D printing scene. I supplied my .STL file and a Preview image of what I need and kept getting the round around. Eventhough I was clear I do not care what material is used, as long as the de-embossing from my soap mold is legible. I received outrageous quotes. All pushing me to go with ‘Resin’, the most expensive!

    If anyone of you can do this for me and ship to Los Angeles, CA please contact me at orders@mysticbluepillows.com


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