3D printing is a fun, rewarding hobby that can easily double as a side hustle. If you've been wanting to give 3D printing a try, maybe you've been considering buying a machine, these are the projects for you.
If you want to wait on purchasing a machine, oftentimes libraries and colleges will have machines that you can use or rent to see if 3D printing is something you want to invest more time and money into.
What Is 3D printing?
What is 3D printing? 3D printing is a type of manufacturing where a CAD/STL file, essentially a blueprint, can be used to manufacture a 3D model of something.
Using the blueprints, the material is added, layer by layer to ultimately build what the schematics dictate.
You can use your own blueprints or you can purchase 3D model blueprints online.
As with any skill, 3D printing comes with a learning curve. As you start out, talk with an expert or use other learning materials and resources to help you figure out exactly how to work your particular machine.
Once you have a handle on how to work your machine, here are a few of our go-to 3D printing projects for beginners.
Practical Makes Perfect
There's something uniquely satisfying about creating something that you will use in your everyday life.
When it comes to 3D printing, some of the best projects that you can start with are quick, simple, and practical.
One project that we recommend starting with is something like a soap holder. You can find files online that will do the design for a soap holder, or you can make your own.
A soap holder is different than a soap dispenser, a soap dispenser would be a much more difficult project to tackle.
So starting with the soap holder is nice and easy. We like a 3D-printed soap holder with good grooves on it to hold the soap in place, and a little bit of curve to hold the soap in the middle.
A project like this won't be very expensive to tackle, so if you need to try it one or two times, you've got a little bit of a buffer.
Along these lines, printing a razor holder to mount to the shower wall is another quick, simple project that you could tackle.
You could also 3D print a dish to hold a set of sponges, or a larger tray to act as a catch-all on a bathroom or kitchen counter.
Other practical 3D printing projects we like for beginners include a toothbrush holder, a keychain to make your key ring easier to dig out from the bottom of a purse, or a door wedge to keep your doors open.
You could also tackle a spoon rest for dirty spoons while you're cooking, napkin rings which are especially helpful during the holiday season, or you could 3D print a small basket for hair ties and bobby pins.
You can find pre-made schematics for all of these things online already, or you can make the plans yourself.
Bring It Home
Printing home decor items is also an option for beginners. 3D printing a simple planter with a saucer base is a good project for beginners to tackle.
This project is fun because there are so many patterns available online, which means you can pick a planter that fits your personal style and doesn't feel basic or boring.
It's uniquely exciting to plant a plant in your own planter, trust us.
If a planter isn't your speed, you can always try tackling a picture frame. 3D printing a picture frame is a quick and simple project that allows for creativity and customization.
Simple vases, mugs, or cups are also easy 3D printing projects to start with. You can also try your hand at 3D printing a box to fill with keepsakes or a candle holder.
Another fun project to try is 3D-printed wall art. You can pick from thousands of cool designs or create your own personal design.
We've seen this type of wall art printed to imitate neon signs or even printed to look like single-line drawings. Your options are pretty endless with a 3D printer.
If you're interested in 3D printing as a side hustle, this might be a good option for you.
Once you've tackled a few beginner home decor projects, try 3D printing a bust. One of our all-time favorite 3D printing projects is a 3D-printed bust.
We purchased a 3D-printed bust of Theodore Roosevelt, and then used a friend's 3D printer to print another one. A little random, but a lot of fun.
After the bust was printed, we mixed a little baking soda with some basic paint to paint over the bus and give it a stone-like texture. This is a hack that you can use on a lot of your 3D printing projects.
One of the major benefits that even beginners can take advantage of in 3D printing is the ability to fix what is broken.
Maybe you have a dresser that needs new knobs in order to work properly. 3D print new knobs for your dresser.
Maybe you have a tube of toothpaste or a condiment bottle in your fridge that is missing a lid. Go ahead and print a new lid.
Maybe you have a bunch of papers that need to find a more effective way than a staple to stick together. 3D print binder rings.
Sometimes it can be a little bit tricky trying to 3D print two the specifications of something that already exists, but this is a great part of the learning experience that comes with 3D printing.
Simple fixer projects are certainly possible for beginners. They just require a little bit of patience and a lot of focus.
As you become more advanced as a 3D printer, you can start 3D printing things like the back of a remote that's missing or a light switch cover. But start small and work your way up.
Knick-knacks get a bad reputation, but we firmly believe that there is a time and a place when knick-knacks are essential.
One of our favorite knick-knacks to 3D print are tape cutters or wrapping paper cutters. If you wrap gifts more than just during the holiday season, chances are you've tried to purchase one of these for yourself.
Store-bought ones don't always work, though.
3D printing gives you the opportunity to improve upon a current design. Tape Cutters and wrapping paper Cutters don't always work well from the store, but they can work well when you troubleshoot the design on your own.
Put on your best inventors cap and figure out a way to make the design more effective. it's hard work, but it's also really rewarding work.
Other fun knick-knacks that beginners can easily 3D print include coin holders, Toothpaste tube squeezers, guitar picks, and phone stands.
Make It Mini
One of the coolest 3D printed projects we've ever seen was a tiny toaster made to hold SD cards. It's a good example of just how exciting and fun 3D printing can be.
We love the idea that you can take something basic, make it mini, and change up what it's used for, and then you have a really fun, really cute project.
For example, you could print a tiny 3D shoe, and then attach a magnet so that you have fun shoe magnets all over your fridge. It's quirky, it's simple, and it's great practice to get you familiar with a 3D printer.
You could also print the miniature of your dog and combine it with a chip clip so that you have a doggie chip clip to keep your pet's food bag closed.
Other fun Mini items that we've seen beginner 3D printers make include a phone charger holder that looks like a snake, a tiny piano that was actually an AirPods holder, and a hamster that was actually a candy jar.
The sky is the limit with a project like this. Take your time, and be patient, especially if you are creating your own template for the project.
Knowing from the get-go that you may have to try this project once or twice before you get it right can help set appropriate expectations from the start.
You can also print gifts for friends and family with your 3D printer. And while this is handy during the holiday season, you can print gifts all year round for birthdays and other celebrations.
Printing a chess set is one of our favorite gift ideas. It takes a little bit longer than some of the other beginner projects on our list, but the end result is definitely worth it.
If you are gifting somebody who collects chess sets or just loves chess in general, this is a gift that is really personal and very special.
If printing a chest that sounds a little bit overwhelming, we understand, and you can start with stickers instead. The pieces are less intricate, but it's still a really great gift.
Another fun gift that you can 3D print yourself is a custom name sign. Similar to the wall art we discussed before, you can print a family name in a cool font for the wall. It's a gift that's very personal and well-received.
If you need a great gift for little kids, a crayon or marker holder is a super simple gift that you can 3D print for the intended recipient. Throw in a pack of markers or crayons, and you are set.
Fidget spinners and fidget toys are also easy to 3D print, they’re the perfect project for beginners, and they're a really great gift for kids and teens.
You can customize the kind of fidget toy that you print for the recipient, making the gift a big win.
Your bookish friends and family love 3D-printed gifts too. Print cool custom bookmarks that don't damage the pages or a small memento from their favorite book.
The gifts don't have to be lavish or over the top, but even at a beginner's level, you can certainly print something unique and meaningful.
If the person you are gifting has a favorite fandom, you can always 3D print them something from that fandom for a gift that feels really sincere.
A friend of ours is a big Star Wars fan, and another friend 3D printed Star Wars-inspired mouthwash cups for them. Totally random, but a huge hit.
Similarly, that same friend 3D printed a greek mythology bust planter for us last summer because it combines lots of things that we love, and it will always be one of our most treasured gifts.
After Your Print It
After you print your 3D design, you can further customize it during the finishing process.
By mixing one part baking soda with two parts acrylic paint, you can paint your 3D designs to give them a textured look. Add a little Modpodge for some extra staying power.
You can use metallic spray paint to give your project a metal finish. We love the copper and gold spray paints, but you can also get them in black and silver.
A clear coat of sealant will help your metallic spray paint stick long-term.
Rubnbuff is another great product you can use to finish off your projects. Available in tons of colors, this product gives your 3D models an antiqued look.
There are dozens of other ways you can finish off your 3D print project, which is great because it means you can completely customize it from start to finish.