What is Resolution in 3D Printing?

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Updated February 10, 2023

If you’ve just bought your first 3D printer, you may wonder what is 3D printer resolution. These premium printers create 3D models using melted plastics or resin. Just like regular 2D printers, the resolution here refers to the size of each pixel that makes up the 3D object. A 3D pixel is the smallest distance a nozzle can move between each dot of deposited printing material. Keep reading to find out more.


  • Print resolution in 3D printing refers to the size of individual physical pixels that make up the printed object.
  • Unlike traditional 2D printers, 3D printing technologies track resolution along three metrics, the Z-axis, the X-axis, and the Y-axis.
  • The resolution, layer height, and layer thickness are also impacted by the size of the extrusion nozzle, the temperature of the print bed, and related factors during the printing process.

What is 3D Printer Resolution?

Before trying to determine what filament to use for 3D printing, a good grasp of printer resolution is necessary. As previously stated, 3D printer resolution is not that dissimilar to the resolutions found with regular printers if you are still learning all about 3D printing or how to 3D print faster.

Insider Tip

Experiment with different temperature settings to see how the settings impact the resolution of the printed objects.

In 2D printing, a pixel is basically the smallest element in a digital picture that can be displayed, and resolution refers to the number of pixels it takes to complete the image. Similarly, 3D printer resolution refers to the smallest movement a nozzle can make after it deposits a drop of melted filament on the printer bed as it builds an object.

Standard printers only keep track of two resolution metrics, even if you are comparing the Canon Pixma TR4520 vs the TR8520. Conversely, 3D printers create in three dimensions, so there are three resolution metrics to account for. There is a Z-axis resolution in addition to the figures that determine the resolution on the X-axis and Y-axis.

This is extremely important to know, for example, if you want the best 3D printer for miniatures. Resolution information is also important when shopping for a new printer or when conducting an important review, like contrasting the AnyCubic Mega Zero 2.0 vs the Mega S.

What Impacts the Resolution?

No matter the maximum resolution of your printer and extrusion system, the end result will ultimately be determined by certain outside factors.


Of course, the printer’s specs help determine the maximum resolution. Many printers even allow you to change up the resolution settings to accommodate certain prints.


If your print bed and nozzle temperatures are not set correctly, it will impact the maximum resolution available to you. Make sure to set the temperature before every print job to ensure the best chance at a perfect print with the perfect resolution.

STAT: Technology has been in a resolution war for decades. Televisions recently quadrupled pixel counts from HD to 4K and are poised to do it again soon to 8K. (source)

Nozzle Size

The size of the nozzle that extrudes the heated filament onto the print bed ultimately decides the resolution, no matter the settings. The resolution will not be able to exceed the size of this nozzle in either direction, so have plenty of replacement nozzles on hand of different sizes to suit different print jobs.

3D Printing Resolution FAQs

Are smaller layer thicknesses always better?

Not necessarily. Thinner layers make for slower 3D printing speeds and create fragile objects if you account for every single layer, cell type, and pixel size.

How does resolution affect build quality?

Resolution impacts build quality in the form of layer thickness. Thinner layers offer a higher resolution at the expense of durability, print speed, and minimum feature size, among other printing parameters.

How can you test 3D printer resolution?

There are several benchmark software suites out there that take layer thickness and layer height into account when measuring 3D printing resolution. Otherwise, you can print out test objects and keep an eye on print quality, vertical resolution, and horizontal resolution.
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