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20 Best 3D Printing Software Tools (Most are Free)

3D Printing Software

Looking for 3D printer software? Here are the 20 best 3D printing software tools from beginners to pros. Most of them are free.

Don’t miss: 34 Best Sites for Free STL Files and 3D Printer Files/Models

This article is about finding the best 3D printing software for every stage of your workflow. Which 3D printing software is best for preparing 3D models to print? How about designing 3D print models from scratch? What if you’re an absolute beginner?

Have no fear, we’ve answered all of these questions, together with details on proficiency levels and where they can be downloaded. And best of all, the majority of them are totally free and open source.

Have we missed your favorite 3D printing software? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll add them in a future update.

Best 3D Printing Software: Overview

You can sort and search through these 3D printing software tools by name, function, level of proficiency, price, and system. For example, search for “Mac” and then click on “Software” to get an alphabetical list of 3D printing software for Mac. You can click on any name in the list to jump to the detailed description of the 3D printing software. Last but not least, you can skip this overview and jump directly to the detailed list of the best 3D printing software tools below.

Software Function Level Price System
Cura Slicer, 3D Printer Host Beginners Free PC, Mac, Linux
CraftWare Slicer, 3D Printer Host Beginners Free PC, Mac
123D Catch 3D Design, CAD Beginners Free PC, Android, iOS, Windows Phone
3D Slash 3D Design, CAD Beginners Free PC, Mac, Linux, Web Browser
TinkerCAD 3D Design, CAD Beginners Free Web Browser
3DTin 3D Design, CAD Beginners Free Web Browser
Sculptris 3D Design, CAD Beginners Free PC, Mac
ViewSTL STL viewer Beginners Free Web Browser
Netfabb Basic Slicer, STL Checker, STL Repair Intermediate Free PC, Mac, Linux
Repetier Slicer, 3D Printer Host Intermediate Free PC, Mac, Linux
FreeCAD 3D Design, CAD Intermediate Free PC, Mac, Linux
SketchUp 3D Design, CAD Intermediate Free PC, Mac, Linux
3D-Tool Free Viewer STL Viewer, STL Checker Intermediate Free, Pro: $695 PC
Meshfix STL Checker, STL Repair Intermediate Free Web Browser
Simplify3D Slicer, 3D Printer Host Professional $149 PC, Mac, Linux
Slic3r Slicer Professional Free PC, Mac, Linux
Blender 3D Design, CAD Professional Free PC, Mac, Linux
MeshLab STL Editor, STL Repair Professional Free PC, Mac, Linux
Meshmixer STL Checker, STL Repair, STL Editor Professional Free PC, Mac
OctoPrint 3D Printer Host Professional Free PC, Mac, Linux

Best 3D Printing Software #1: Cura

slicer software

For Beginners who need Slicer Software to prepare STL files for 3D Printing

3D print models are typically distributed in a file format called STL. 3D printer slicer software is needed to convert an STL file into G-code, language which can be understood by a 3D printer. It’s called a slicer because that’s literally what it does; it chops up the 3D model into thousands of flat 2D layers that the 3D printer can fabricate as a physical object.

Cura is the standard slicer software for all Ultimaker 3D printers, but it can also be used with most other 3D printers, including RepRap, Makerbot, Printrbot, Lulzbot, and Witbox. It’s fully open source and can be extended via a plugin system.

This 3D printing software is very easy to use and allows you to manage the most important 3D print settings in a clear interface. Start in “Basic” mode for rapid onboarding, where you can choose reconfigured printer quality settings. When you need more precise control over the print quality settings, switch to over “Expert” mode.

You can also use Cura as 3D printer host software for direct control over your machine, but the 3D printer needs to be connected to the PC for the duration.

Download: Cura

Price: Free

System: PC, Mac, Linux

Learn More: ALL3DP has a Cura tutorial that guides you through all the steps when slicing a 3D model for your 3D printer.

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Best 3D Printing Software #2: CraftWare

CraftWare

For Beginners who need Slicer Software to prepare STL files for 3D Printing

Another 3D printer slicer software developed in-house by a 3D printer manufacturer — in this instance Hungarian startup CraftUnique — to support their crowdfunded CraftBot 3D printer. However, it can be used by other 3D printers, too.

Like Cura, the CraftWare application can be switched between “easy” and “expert” modes, depending on how confident you’re feeling. It’s a zippy application, with some outstanding GCode visualization, where each feature is represented as a different color. But the real standout feature is individual support management. To our knowledge, this is only available elsewhere in the paid application Simplify3D.

However, please note that this 3D printing software is still in Beta, so bugs can still occur in day-to-day use.

Download: CraftWare

Price: Free

System: PC, Mac

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Best 3D Printing Software #3: 123D Catch

Best 3D printing software for beginners: 123D Catch

For Beginners who want to create 3D Print Models

123D Catch is a free app for Windows PCs, smartphones, and tablets that allows you to take photos of an object and convert them into a 3D model. You can shoot the photos using your smartphone/tablet, or a digital camera.

The way it works is that you take multiple photos of the object from different angles and positions — the more the better — and then your device will create a 3D model composite.

123D Catch is more of a fun application than professional 3D printing software, but with a bit of tinkering it is possible to get good results, especially when paired with an STL editor like MeshLab or Meshmixer.

Download: Autodesk 123D Catch

Price: Free

System: PC, Android, iOS, Windows Phone

Learn More: ALL3DP 123D Catch review.

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Best 3D Printing Software #4: 3D Slash

3D printing software: 3D Slash

For Beginners who want to Design 3D Print Models

Here we have a 3D printing software that’s both wonderfully easy to use and refreshingly different. With 3D Slash, you design 3D models using a simple building-block concept.

Either start with a huge block and remove small cubes using tools such as a hammer or a drill, like a virtual stone-cutter, or begin with an empty workspace and build your model by adding cubes or shapes. You can also add colors and use images as templates.

Other features include a logo and a 3D text maker. The logo maker imports an image and creates a 3D model while the text maker allows you to enter and format text and turn it into 3D text.

Highly recommended!

Download: 3dslash.net

Price: Free

System: PC, Mac, Linux, Web Browser

Learn More: ALL3DP review of 3D Slash plus a 3D Slash tutorial that takes you from beginner to expert.

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Best 3D Printing Software #5: TinkerCAD

3D printing software for beginners: TinkerCAD

For Beginners who want to Design 3D Print Models

TinkerCAD is an online computer-aided design (CAD) software for 3D printing that is a good entry point for beginners. However, its feature set is limited compared to Blender, FreeCAD and SketchUp, so many users switch over to a more powerful tool later.

Similar to 3D Slash, you can build your model from basic shapes. Unlike 3D Slash, however, TinkerCAD allows you to create geometrical (vector) shapes in 2D and convert them into 3D models.

Visit: Autodesk TinkerCAD

Price: Free

Systems: Web Browser

Learn More: Tutorial on how to create a 3D printable name plate in TinkerCAD.

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Best 3D Printing Software #6: 3DTin

3dtin_mariokart

For Beginners who want to Design 3D Print Models

3DTin is another online 3D printing software that is easy and intuitive, and perfect for complete beginners to design 3D print models. All you need is a Chrome or Firefox web browser with WebGL enabled.

Choose 3D shapes from a huge library of templates and add them to your sketch. All sketches are stored in the cloud, and freely accessible so long as you adhere to the Creative Commons license, and can be exported in STL and OBJ file formats.

Visit: 3DTin

Price: Free

Systems: Web Browser

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Best 3D Printing Software #7: Sculptris

sculptris

For Beginners who want to Create 3D Print Models

Sculptris is a virtual sculpting tool, with a core focus on the concept of modeling clay. This is a fantastic 3D printing software if your primary goal is to create statuettes. For example, a bust of your favorite character from video games or comics books. Sculptris is completely free, and positions itself as a gateway to the more sophisticated (and expensive) ZBrush tool.

Download: Pixologic Sculptris

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac

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Best 3D Printing Software #8: ViewSTL

3D printing software for beginners: ViewSTL

For Beginners who want to View STL Files

ViewSTL is the easiest way to preview an STL file. Just open the web page and drag your STL file onto the dotted field, and away you go.

The online STL viewer allows you to display the model in one of three views: flat shading (for quick viewing), smooth shading (to get a high-quality display), or wireframe.

Visit: ViewSTL

Price: Free

Systems: Web browser

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Best 3D Printing Software #9: Netfabb Basic

Netfabb Basic

For Intermediate Users who need Slicer Software to prepare STL files for 3D Printing.

Netfabb Basic is 3D printer slicer software with some nice features, where you can analyze, repair and edit STL files before you get to the slicing stage.

This is a good choice if you need something more than just slicer software, and you want to be able to quickly repair STL files without having to learn to use additional tools like MeshLab or Meshmixer.

And don’t let the “Basic“ in the name fool you; Netfabb Basic is actually very powerful 3D printing software. It’s only “basic” in the sense when compared to the €1,500 Netfabb Professional edition!

Download: netfabb.de

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

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Best 3D Printing Software #10: Repetier

repetier

For Intermediate Users who need Slicer Software to prepare STL files for 3D Printing.

If you’re ready to graduate to the next level of 3D printer slicer software but want to stay within an open source framework, then Repetier is a compelling option. This is the great-grandaddy of 3D printing software and the favored choice within the RepRap maker community.

Now, the thing to note is that this application straddles the intermediate to advanced user spectrum. Pitched as an all-in-one solution, it offers multi-extruder support (up to 16 extruders!), mutli-slicer support via plugins, and support for virtually any FDM 3D printer on the market. Be prepared to do a lot of tinkering!

Moreover, Repetier Host also offers remote access features, via Repetier Server, so you can access and control your 3D printer from anywhere via a browser on your PC, tablet or smartphone.

Download: Repetier

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

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Best 3D Printing Software #11: FreeCAD

Our company name as a 3D model built in FreeCAD

For Intermediate Users who want to Design 3D Print Models

FreeCAD is a CAD software that’s rich in features, and a great resource for developing your design skills. The more technical description is that it’s a parametric 3D modeler, which allows you to easily modify your design by going back into your model history and editing its parameters.

Download: freecadweb.org

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

Learn More: ALL3DP has an extensive step-by-step tutorial on how to use FreeCAD, plus a tutorial on how to create 3D printable text or nameplates.

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Best 3D Printing Software #12: SketchUp

Image 3. Pull the surface upward to convert the circle to a cylinder

For Intermediate Users who want to Design 3D Print Models

SketchUp is a perfect mix of simplicity and functionality, with a user-friendly interface and relatively flat learning curve, which makes it the ideal 3D printing software to design 3D print models.

The SketchUp Make edition is free and has everything you need for 3D modeling, so long as you download the free STL export module and install it. There’s also a professional edition for architects, interior designers and engineers

Download: sketchup.com

Price: Free (SketchUp Make), $695 (SketchUp Pro).

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

Learn More: ALL3DP has an extensive beginner’s tutorial on how to use Sketchup, plus a tutorial on how to create 3D text.

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Best 3D Printing Software #13: 3D-Tool Free Viewer

3D printing software for beginners: 3D-Tool

For Intermediate Users who want to View and Check STL Files

3D-Tool Free Viewer is a sophisticated STL viewer that also allows you to check the structural integrity and printability of your file. The “Cross-Section” feature, for example, lets you take a look inside the model and check the wall thickness. Very useful when you want to check your STL file for showstopping errors before you start 3D printing.

Download: 3D-Tool

Price: Free

Systems: PC

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Best 3D Printing Software #14: Meshfix

meshfix

For Intermediate Users who want to Check STL Files

MeshFix is an open source 3D file repair tool that corrects various defects in meshes, such as holes, non-manifold elements and self-intersections. Unfortunately, MeshFix is only available for Windows.

Visit: Sourceforge

Price: Free

System: Windows

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Best 3D Printing Software #15: Simplify3D

3D printing software: Simplify3D

For Professional Users who need Slicer Software to prepare STL files for 3D printing

Simplify3D is so much more than just slicer software; it’s the Swiss Army Knife of 3D printing. This versatile 3D printing software checks the model for problems, repairs them, shows a preview of the fabrication process (ideal for spotting potential problems) and then slices the model.

This 3D printer slicer software offers a greater choice of infill patterns than its competitors. And for models that need support structures, Simplify3D automatically creates support structures and gives you full control over their placement. For dual extruder 3D printers, the Dual Extrusion Wizard helps you 3D print support structures in a different material, for instance, a dissolvable filament to make removing the support easier.

Simplify3D supports 90% of all current desktop 3D printers on the market and is compatible with the Marlin, Sprinter, Repetier, XYZprinting, FlashForge, Sailfish and MakerBot firmware. You can also use Simplify3D as 3D printer host software for direct control over your machine, but the 3D printer needs to be connected to the PC for the duration.

Download: simplify3d.com

Price: $149

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

Learn More: ALL3DP’s review on Simplify3D

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Best 3D Printing Software #16: Slic3r

slic3r

For Professional Users who need Slicer Software to prepare STL files for 3D printing

Slic3r is open source slicer software with a reputation for adding bleeding edge features not found anywhere else. The current version of the 3D printing software includes multiple views so users can better preview how their models will 3D print.

There’s also an incredible new honeycomb infill that’s created in three dimensions: the first time that an infill pattern that can be varied across layers instead of repeating the same pattern. This can greatly increase the strength of the internal infill and your final print.

Another feature is direct integration with Octoprint. When files are sliced on the user’s desktop, they can now be uploaded directly to the user’s Octoprint box with the click of a button.

Download: Slic3r

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

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Best 3D Printing Software #17: Blender

3D printing design software

ForProfessional Users who want to Design 3D Models for 3D Printing

Blender is a popular computer-aided design (CAD) software with a steep learning curve. It’s really not the best choice for newbies, but it’s an ideal for when your skills have fully developed and you need more sophisticated 3D modeling software for 3D printing.

In a nutshell, Blender is one of the most powerful tools you can use. It has a very helpful community and a huge amount of tutorials. And it’s open source, so people are often writing extensions for it to make it even better and more capable.

Download: blender.org

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

Learn More: How to create a 3D printable nameplate in Blender.

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Best 3D Printing Software #18: MeshLab

3D printing software for beginners: Meshlab

For Professional Users who want to Edit STL Files for 3D Printing

MeshLab is an advanced STL editor. It allows you to delete parts of your 3D model, to merge two models into one, and to repair holes. When you need 3D printing software to change the 3D print model or make some repair jobs, MeshLab is a solid option.

Download: MeshLab page on Sourceforge

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

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Best 3D Printing Software #19: Meshmixer

3D printing software for beginners: Meshmixer

For Professional Users who want to Edit STL Files for 3D Printing

Meshmixer is super advanced 3D printing software for viewing, checking, editing AND repairing STL files. It’s especially good for spotting potential problems and automatically repairing them. For example, highlighting paper-thin walls that might cause problems when 3D printing. It’s part of the Autodesk 3D printer software family, so it should play nice with tools like TinkerCAD.

Download: Autodesk Meshmixer

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac

Learn More: Meshmixer tutorial on checking and repairing STL files before 3D printing.

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Best 3D Printing Software #20: OctoPrint

3D printer software

For Professional Users who want to Control their 3D Printer Wirelessly

Octoprint is a “pure ” 3D printer host software that allows you to start, pause or interrupt 3D printing jobs. Combined with a wi-fi enabled device like the Raspberry Pi, it’s perfect for monitoring the 3D printing process remotely via an internet connection.

Octoprint accepts G-code from virtually any 3D printer slicer software and incorporates the gCodeVisualizer that allows you to visualize G-code files before and during 3D printing.

If you want to banish your 3D printer from your desktop and to control it wirelessly, Octoprint is the best 3D printer software currently available.

Download: octoprint.org

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

Learn More: Detailed video tutorial on getting started with Octoprint

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