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The best 3D pens in 2022: model and design in 3D

The best 3D pens; as represented by a person using a 3D pen
(Image credit: Getty Images / Westend61)

The best 3D pens enable you to 'draw' in three dimensions using heated plastic filament, and we love them. They can be used to create impressive 3D art or models and toys; or they can be used practically to decorate your favourite things.

3D pens work in similar way to a glue gun. You press a button and they push out a type of liquid plastic, such as ABS or PLA, which quickly cools in the air and turns solid. One way of making art with them is to 'draw' a model from scratch. Another is to add decoration to an existing model, or another object. Alternatively, you could draw a series of flat shapes, then join them together to create 3D ones. 

But which model should you buy? In this article, we've found you the best 3D pen for children, the best 3D pen for adults, the best 3D pen for beginners, and other great options. We start our list with the best 3D pens in the USA; otherwise, you can skip ahead to the best 3D pens in the UK.

Once you've chosen your 3D pen, get inspired by our guide to 3D art. And to go further with 3D, check out our guides to the 3D printers and the best 3D modelling software too.

The best 3D pens: available now

The best 3D pens: frequent questions

Do 3D pens really work?

Yes, 3D pens really work, if what you want to do is create a 3D model by hand. If you want to create a 3D model based on a pre-existing design, though, you need a 3D printer

A 3D pen uses the same type of heating element to melt filament that you get in a 3D printer. But while the latter is controlled by software, a 3D pen you control entirely yourself, much like using a glue gun, so you can get truly expressive. Once the filament leaves the filter, it cools rapidly, and hardens into whatever shape you have formed it into.

What is a 3D pen used for?

You can use a 3D pen to draw on any flat surface. But, as the name suggests, the real beauty of a 3D pen is that it allows you to draw in mid-air, using plastic filament, and create three-dimensional structures that then solidify. Alternatively, you can draw over an existing object to enhance it. 

Who uses 3D pens?

Anyone can use a 3D pen, but they're commonly used by hobbyists, artists, makers, fashion designers and home furnishing designers in creative projects. They're also used by engineers and DIYers to solve practical problems, by teachers in education, and by kids for fun projects.

What 3D pen should I buy?

The best 3D pen available today is the MYNT3D 3D Pen Pro (opens in new tab). It's light and ergonomically designed, making it easy to hold and use, whether you're a newbie or an experienced hand. An adjustable feed helps you stay in control, and you can increase the temperature in increments. It's USB powered and you can use a wide range of filaments.

What's the best 3D pen for children?

The best 3D pen for children is the 3Doodler Start+ Essentials (2021) (opens in new tab), which is suitable for kids from six and up. The controls are simple, and everything's been subjected to the strictest safety testing. There are no hot parts on the pen and its Eco-Plastic filament is non-toxic, BPA-free, and completely biodegradable in household compost. It typically takes about 45 days for the plastic to break down.

What's the best 3D pen for beginners?

In our view, the best 3D pen for beginners is the 3Doodler Create+ (opens in new tab), because it's so easy to use. Just plug in the pen, insert your plastic, wait for it to heat up, then you can doodle in three dimensions. The extruded heated plastic hardens almost instantly, so you can draw 3D structures, freehand or on stencils. This 3D pen comes with different colours of plastics, which are all safe and non-toxic, and an activity guide book to get you started. 

Are 3D pens environmentally damaging?

If you want to avoid harming the environment with your 3D pen, then the plastic we recommend using is PLA, which is short for Poly Lactic Acid. A polyester derived from renewable biomass, typically from fermented plant starch such as corn, cassava, sugarcane or sugar beet pulp, this type of plastic is both biogradable and sustainable. To be specific, it typically takes around six to 12 months to break down, while for most plastics it takes hundreds of years.

The other type of plastic commonly used in 3D pens, ABS, is not so great for the environment. Short for Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, ABS is petroleum-based and non-biodegradable. It's both bad for the environment and more toxic to humans than PLA.

What's the best cheap 3D pen in the US?

If you're tight on cash and in the US, you can get a very decent 3D pen for not much money, in the form of the MYNT3D Super 3D Pen (opens in new tab). Despite being just $39.99 at time of writing, it's an excellent 3D pen, with a stepless speed slider that lets you regulate flow for optimal control of material while you're drawing. You also get a ultrasonic sealed nozzle which virtually nearly clog-proof.

What's the best cheap 3D pen in the UK?

If you're in the UK, your best bet for a cheap 3D pen right now is the Nikand 3D Pen (opens in new tab). Suitable for both adults and kids, it costs just £39.95 at time of writing, and is a nice pen that's easy to hold and use. It also comes with an OLED screen, support for PCL and PLA plastic filaments, and the ability to control speed of filament extrusion.

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Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. Author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Great TED Talks: Creativity (opens in new tab), published by Pavilion Books, Tom was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. Today, he is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq and its sister sites Digital Camera World, and Tech Radar. He also writes for Creative Boom and works on content marketing projects. 

With contributions from