Have you ever taken hours to create your own cosplay prop with cardstock and a mix of fiberglass and resin? Or used wood glue to piece your cosplay armor together? Well I have too. While fun it is very time-intensive and needs a little bit of DIY ingenuity.
Now, there’s a more efficient way to create your next costume and props. Enter the 3D printer!
While any 3D printer will get the job done there are specific considerations for printing cosplay costumes and accessories that’ll guarantee your costume design turns into reality.
After more than 10 hours of tinkering and research let’s take a look at some of the best 3d printers for cosplay. We’re also going to take a look at some features you should think about and why 3d printing is so great for cosplay.
Table of Contents
Top 3D Printers For Cosplay For 2020
I’ve taken a close look at 6 of the best printers for cosplaying. I’ll highlight the key points that you care about, and explain why they’re a good pick. Consider the specs carefully to make sure the printer can do what you want it to.
1. Prusa i3 MK3S (Best Overall)
2. Monoprice Maker Select PLUS (Best Budget Pick)
3. Creality CR-10S (Largest Volume & Best Value)
4. Dremel Digilab 3D45 (Best For Beginner)
5. Lulzbot TAZ 6 (Best High-End)
6. QIDI TECH X-Max (Best For Prototypes)
Build volume: 250 x 210 x 200 mm | Layer Resolution: 50 micron | Filament diameter: 1.75 mm | Print Speed: 100 mm/s
This is arguably the best 3d printer period. If you’re new to 3d printing then this is the machine to get.
The folks at Prusa funnel their time and money into making a clean, reliable, and powerful machine. In 2016, Prusa i3 was the most used 3d printer in the world. Yes, you read that right. Their machine has a ton of knock-off brands, and even more companies who use the i3 as the skeleton for their own 3d printer. A printer that the entire world loves and competitors want to emulate? What makes it so special?
It has a huge build volume, and it’s really affordable. On top of that, it has great resolution and respectable print speed. When it comes to cosplay this is a dream come true. Prusa is also integrated into a slicing program called Slic3r. For people unfamiliar with this jargon, it means that Prusa is driving a Porsche. Slic3r is the best slicing program on the market. This makes printing on the i3 MK3S that much easier. When you purchase this machine you can either buy a kit that you assemble, or you can buy a pre-assembled version.
In my experience, it’s necessary to build your own printer at some point if you’re going to be serious about 3D printing. You get intimate knowledge about how the machine works and how to troubleshoot it. When your i3 MK3S is assembled and ready to go, you’ll have a robust system with very little that can go wrong. There are no unnecessary components or under-designed pieces. The best part is, the machine is completely open-source. This means if something breaks, you can 3d print a replacement part!
If you’re a nerd like me, you can check out the science and features of the printer here.
Build volume: 200 x 200 x 180 mm | Layer Resolution: 100 micron | Filament diameter: 1.75 mm | Print Speed: 150 mm/s
Another great pick for cosplaying, the Monoprice Maker Select PLUS has a ton of great selling points. The most notable being that it’s built from the mighty Prusa i3 MK2S. Since it uses the same drives and skeleton, it’s naturally a reliable unit.
This model comes with a touchscreen which makes it really easy to use – just follow the written instructions! It’s also really rare for a budget printer to have a touchscreen, so that’s a huge plus for the PLUS. The aluminum heated bed has also meant you can print using a ton of different filaments.
Sure, the build volume is on the small end compared to the others on this list. But it’s still a decent size. The price tag is a huge bonus for this unit. It’s one of the less expensive options you’ll find. My friends tell me that their setup took them less than an hour from the box to their first print. It comes with an instruction manual to help you along the way. As far as cosplayers are concerned, this is a good pick because it’s easy to use, is friendly on your wallet, and delivers great prints with little troubleshooting needed.
Build volume: 300 x 300 x 400 mm | Layer Resolution: 400 micron | Print Speed: 200 mm/s
Creality always has a printer in the running whenever you’re looking at DIY options. Cosplaying is no exception. This is a budget-friendly printer with a lot of punch. Let’s address the elephant in the room. This printer’s build volume is so massive you could probably print an elephant on it! The only issue is you’re selling build volume for resolution. The print resolution isn’t great on this printer.
This doesn’t matter if you’re just printing large items and don’t care about how smooth the final product is. Keep in mind, you can always sand a piece to make it look more rounded. The next thing to keep in mind is how fast this printer is. In fact, it’s one of the fastest in its space.
If you are looking to print big items quickly and don’t care about the smoothness, take a closer look at the Creality CR-10S. Also, speaking from experience, keep in mind that Creality printers usually have some stubborn traits. Bed leveling and bed adhesion can be a problem, and there will be some troubleshooting that goes into the printer. Owning this 3d printer will teach you a lot of 3d printing.
Of course, we’re talking about a printer that’s really inexpensive. If they were to design and work out these issues, the price tag would totally go up – so no complaints here!
Build volume: 250 x 150 x 170 mm | Layer Resolution: 50 micron | Filament diameter: 1.75 mm
Another solid pick to 3d print cosplay is the Dremel Digilab 3D45. Yes, that Dremel. The company that makes the Dremel rotary tool is leading the way in the 21st century with their 3d printer. Its build volume is the smallest on this list, so keep that in mind if you want to tackle big projects.
The design is also fully enclosed and looks pretty futuristic. The fact that it’s enclosed means that you will hold temperature better, and you can print ABS without the risk of breathing in the fumes.
In fact, it actually has carbon filters for the exhaust air so it’s safe to use in small, unventilated rooms. The big benefit of using this printer is how easy it is. One of the most user-friendly printers, especially in this space. It has a camera to monitor your print, a big touch screen, the bed nearly levels itself, and the interface is so smooth. This is one of those printers that you plug in, toy around with for a few minutes, then it’s set.
When you want to make a print, you essentially just hit “go” and leave the room. Yeah, it’s really that easy. If you use one of Dremel’s filaments, the machine will recognize what kind of material it is and automatically change all of the settings. The machine is actually marketed as a classroom printer, so that should tell you how user-friendly and easy-to-use it is. If you’re willing to pay a little extra to get rid of the headaches of troubleshooting, look no further.
Build volume: 280 x 280 x 250 mm | Layer Resolution: 50 micron | Filament diameter: 3.0 / 2.85 mm | Print Speed: 200 mm/s
Lulzbot is a brand that has a whole line of printers that are workhorses. Of course, the TAZ 6 is no exception. The first printer I ever used was a Lulzbot and it had a lasting impact on me. Like every other printer in their catalog, the TAZ 6 is hardworking and dependable. The printer itself has a minimalistic design that just makes sense.
The side-mounted filament is fed right into the hotend so there’s less that can go wrong. It has an open bed so you can troubleshoot and fix problems quickly. It boasts very simple linear rails with servo steppers that won’t quit. This all means that the design is top-notch and very little can break or go wrong.
If you remember the earlier section where we praised the Prusa i3 MK23 slicer software, this Lulzbot has the exact opposite comment. The TAZ 6 slicer software is one of the worst in the industry. Now – this won’t ruin your prints or make it any harder to use the machine. There will just be issues if you plan on designing your own parts for 3d printing.
The print bed is ideal, and it’s like a flytrap for the prints. In fact, I actually broke parts trying to remove them from the print bed (before I learned about the wonders of a scraper). The nozzle will clean itself which means you will get great prints over and over again. The bed will automatically calibrate and adjust to eliminate any human errors associated with leveling.
The screen is clean and easy to read. The other good thing is it uses the more common filament diameter of 2.85 mm (sometimes called 3mm). This is a personal preference, but I’ve always liked 2.85 mm for a number of reasons.
The best thing about TAZ 6 is it has a huge print volume. Additionally, it has great resolution and incredibly high print speed. Check, check, and check. Anyone who wants the best 3d printer for cosplay will realize this is an incredible option, as long as you can live with the price tag.
Build volume: 300 x 250 x 300 mm | Layer Resolution: 100 micron | Filament diameter: 1.75 mm | Print Speed: 50mm/s
Little-known 3d printer company QIDI TECH hit a home run with this printer, the X-Max. These guys put a lot of effort into R&D and they like challenging the industry and pushing new changes. The X-Max has a lot going for it, starting with its badass name. No numbers, not a super long name, not a code for anything. From their “X” series printers, this one pushes it to the max.
The build volume is huge, and the resolution is pretty respectable. For cosplay enthusiasts, this is good news. The price for this guy is comparable to the Dremel Digilab 3D45 reviewed earlier in the article. In fact, they even look similar. A super sleek enclosed printer with futuristic lines. The X-Max has a cool 5” touchscreen that makes life easy. It also has lit up text that says “X-Max” so you’ll never forget which printer you’re using. This printer also allows for WiFi connection.
That means you can start a print from anywhere in the world, as long as you have a connection to WiFi. This is not a common feature for other printers, and it’s one of the best additions to a printer if you’re lazy like me, or always on the move. I mentioned they love new features, this printer was the first that I know of that offers interchangeable extruders and a dual-zone print bed.
One extruder and one half of the print bed are designed for low-temperature and flexible filaments. The other is designed for high-temperature and abrasive filaments. This is incredible if you like toying around with different filaments. If you’re not a fan of totally enclosed printers, this one is pretty easy to “drop the top” to turn it into an open printer.
3D Printing For Cosplay
Without a machine shop or a woodshop, how are you supposed to put together a cosplay? Makeup, an outfit, and some foam can only get you so far. People have started to catch on that 3d printing is a great choice for this area. But why? Cosplay is all about dressing and acting the part. You want to feel like the character you’re portraying. Have you ever realized that when you’re dressed like a businessperson you feel like a businessperson?
So how do you dress like Bucky, the Winter Soldier? You just take off your arm and get a hold of a nifty cybernetic prosthetic, right? Well, that’s one option. The other option is 3d printing.
3d printing is great for cosplaying because there’s so much flexibility with what you can print. Different colors, different materials, not to mention different geometries. The basics of 3d printing have always been if you can design it and your printer is big enough, you can make it. But not every printer is made alike.
Let’s take a look at what features matter when you’re picking the best 3d printer for cosplay purposes.
Features Of A 3D Printer To Consider For Cosplaying
3d printers have about a hundred different features you can focus on. Through trial and error, I learned which ones are important for different projects. For cosplaying, there are two really important features: Build volume, and resolution. There are also a dozen other features that are going to come in handy. Let’s take a look at what I mean.
The build volume of a 3d printer is how big of a part you can print. In other words, what’s the biggest cuboid (3d rectangle) you can print? 3d printer companies are polite, though. They realize we aren’t all math whizzes, so they give us the build volume in 3 dimensions.
A printer’s spec sheet might read something like “Build volume: 10 inches x 8 inches x 6 inches”. If you’re following along at home, this means you can print a cuboid that’s 10 inches wide, 8 inches long, and 6 inches tall. That’s the biggest shape.
If you want to print a part that’s 11 x 10 x 10, then this printer will not work for you. Of course, there are ways to design around this constraint, but let’s not overcomplicate things, okay? To recap; the best feature of your 3d printer for cosplay? Your printer’s build volume needs to be big enough to print the part you want. Your Winter Soldier cosplay might wind up looking like a T-Rex if your printer is undersized.
The next most important 3d printer feature for cosplaying is resolution. Now, this concept is more technical but let’s keep it simple. 3d printers have a specific resolution. Compare this to the resolution of a picture you might see online. We can all agree that a 480p picture looks a lot different than a 4K picture. Just like the pixels in that picture, a 3d printer has limits to its resolution.
A 3d printer with high resolution can print a beautifully rounded sphere. A 3d printer with low resolution will print a sphere that looks like it came from Minecraft. For more professional-looking cosplays, you’re going to want to lean towards the higher-resolution printers. They will create more rounded and realistic-looking shapes and curves. This matters a lot. I mean, unless you’re cosplaying as a Creeper, I guess.
The problem with high resolution? High sticker price. Of course. But the difference between high and low printer resolution is the difference between a Groot cosplay and a Plank cosplay. There’s a bit of a balancing act to find a printer with a quality resolution at a reasonable price. Don’t worry, this is going to show up in product reviews later.
There are a ton of different types of filaments you can use on a 3d printer. For reference, “filament” is another word for the type of material you can print with. Common filaments are PLA, ABS, and Nylon – but there are so many more! Did you know there’s a wood-grain PLA filament that actually looks like wood when the print is finished? Imagine how your Groot cosplay will look when you use that bad boy.
There’s also a glow-in-the-dark line of filaments that would be great for a Cheshire Cat cosplay. Or carbon-fiber-infused filaments for your Genji cosplay. You can start to imagine all the different options as you scroll a list of filament types.
The problem is that some printers can’t print certain filament types. It all comes down to how hot the hot-end, or extruder, can get. A higher max temp for an extruder means you can print more types of filaments. If your printer limits the type of filaments you can use, it also limits the types of cosplay you can perform.
Ease Of Use
The last consideration is how easy the printer is to use. This is a little harder to quantify and the specs won’t tell you a good story of how easy it is to use the printer. You can learn more about how easy a printer is to use by talking to people who own the printer, reading reviews online, or using the printer on your own.
Ultimately, you want a printer that’s easy to use so you’re not spending unnecessary time troubleshooting and fixing the printer.
There’s a lot to think about here. You’re a cosplayer and you want to 3d print your own props and costumes. Look at all the choices you have! First, you have to consider what size items you’ll be printing. The build volume will limit how big you can go. Your Hulk cosplay won’t be so Incredible if all of the pieces have to be shrunk down to fit your printer.
The next important feature is the resolution. If you’re making a lot of rounded and curved features, you’ll want to go for a printer with a low number for its resolution value. Finally, you’ll want to take a look at how easy the printer is to use, and how many different types of filaments you can print using it.
Of course, you also have to make sure the printer fits in your budget. At the end of the day, anyone of these printers is great for 3d printing cosplay, and you’ll be happy with any of the options you pick.