“I’m not paying $10 bucks to use my own 3D printer!”You, after sinking way too much money in your new hobby.
You’ve spent hundreds of dollars on a 3D printer, a stack of filament and few worthy upgrades… so you probably don’t want to hear about spending MORE money on STL files. After all…aren’t they free at Thingiverse?
Yes. Yes they are.
There are literally M I L L I O N S of legit free STL files on the internet if you know where to look. In fact, we covered really good free sites like Thingiverse & Thangs on a previous post. Go have a look, I’ll wait.
There’s nothing wrong with free files–most of the time. But when you download a free file you’re taking a chance that the model wasn’t tested or the designer is just a newbie themselves who hasn’t learned about overhangs and print tolerances.
If you find a model on Thingiverse with NO photo of the print — only the blue computer render– there’s a very good chance it’s going to cause heartache. Why? Designers want to show how good their prints work out and they’ll upload real photos of their finished work.
It’s doubtful a model with just a blue computer image was ever printed in real life.
Take this frog I found for free on Thingiverse. I’ve printed the original frog (without the hat) and it’s a gorgeous model. This low res hat is going to need supports…all over the poor frog’s face.
Printing models created by professional artists — people who know how 3D printers really work — is so much easier.
Professional Files don’t have to Cost an Arm & a Leg
Its not hard to find designer made models for free. Thingiverse and Thangs are full of fantastic hobby level artists who want to share their work the community. You can also find pro level 3D designers who use free samples to advertise their shops & Patreon sites.
So How Much do STL files cost?
Every designer is different, so the price of STL files varies. I’ve seen files anywhere from a 99 cents to $150. Ok, the high priced model was actually for a suit of cosplay armor. But there’s no ceiling on STL prices. I would say that $5 for a well made STL file is pretty reasonable.
A lot of designers have Patreon sites, where you can pay a monthly subscription fee and access their whole catalog of models. When you find an artist you really like, you can save a lot of money by becoming a supporter and downloading several of their files at a discount.
Where do you find Pro 3D Designers?
The Best 3D Print Designers
The best 3D prints come from excellent 3D files. Here's my favorite 3D designers who always provide flawless digital models.
Chaos Core Tech
Chaos Core Tech is Chelsey and Garrett Kearney, a husband & wife team who produce amazing designs -- many of which are free of charge on Thangs.com. They're known for creating popular designs that follow trends, like a Doge Coin dog and Stay Puff Marshmallow babies.
They have a popular Youtube channel where they show off their design process from computer to paint. They also have videos to teach you the basics of Tinkercad and Fusion 360.
Want even more? Check out their Patreon and get exclusive designs!
Clockspring is known for clever "print in place" containers with hinges and lids. These files are super easy to print and make organizing your doo-dads fun!
Find all his models on MyMiniFactory -- many are free! He also has a great deal for his Patreon supporters where you can access all his files for $8 a month.
Wekster is know for his large collection of adorable Mini Dudes. He also makes scary masks and busts of heroes and villain's.
He has a large assortment of prints to buy or get for free on MyMiniFactory. To unlock his whole collection, you'll want to support him at Patreon.
Fotis Mint creates artfully rendered sculptures of heroes and monsters. His detailed files will need a little more effort on your part -- some will need supports added. Pay attention to the Printing Details, because some of his figures can only be replicated with a resin printer.
Fotis has a shop at MyMiniFactory where he offers files for free or a reasonable price. You can also support him on Patreon where he has an exclusive collection just for supporters, as well as access to all his files for a monthly fee.
Loubie3D has been part of the 3D community since 2012. She's know for her models of dragons, animals and fantasy creatures--one of her dragons is used as a background image on the Prusa site.
Louise3D's designs are beautifully detailed and best of all, often require no support. Check out her free & paid files at Cults3D, or her new Patreon for early access to her work.
Nick Dimelow AKA Bugman_140 creates a lot of fun holiday themed prints, from Easter Eggs to Christmas ornaments -- but his collection also has cool vases and drink holders. Some of his most interesting files are multi color prints that can be done on a single extruder.
All of Bugman's files are listed for free, but you can buy him a coffee buy clicking the donation button. Check him out on PrusaPrint.com.
agepbiz is known for his amazing articulated toys and life sized LEGO models. You've probably seen his surprise eggs with tiny toy trucks and planes tucked inside. Make sure your printer is well calibrated because each vehicle has moving parts.
Find his free files just about anywhere files are stored and check out his YouTube channel to see his design process.
Abbymath is a high school math teacher who sprinkles a bit of math magic in a lot of her print designs. She's know for some interesting geometric prints and tiny Tessellation puzzle prints. Check out her files at Cults3d.
Natalie of 3DPrintBunny is still pretty new to 3D printing, but her flat models are clever and easy to print. She's known for shadow box prints, keychains and various holidays "in a box".
Check out her files at Cults3D
Fixumdude is a smaller designer who makes really neat "flat pack" files that are easy to print and fun to assemble. Check out his files (they're all free!) at Cults3D.