Getting better prints – The ultimate first layer

There are a lot of variables involved in 3D printing.  Assuming you have the printer setup correctly and there are no loose parts to worry about, getting great prints depends on many different configuration parameters.

The most common workflow for 3D Printing involves these basic steps:

  • Design and export, or download, an .STL file
  • Load the .STL file in a slicing software (Cura, Repetier Host, Slic3r, Prontrface, etc)
  • Configure your desired quality settings (layer height, shells, infill, etc)
  • Print

However, let’s say for discussion, you’re not getting ideal results..

Getting an optimal first layer is important to your print because it is the foundation.  If it doesn’t stick properly to the bed, you’re print is going to come out awful.

The settings involved can be very confusing.  I’ll go over some very basic settings.

Layer height

This is the overall “print quality” and determines how smooth the walls of your print will appear.  The typical settings range from .1mm to .3mm and higher for really rough draft type stuff.


This determines the amount of “stuffing” your printed part will get.  A general rule is more than 33% is a waste.  Very strong parts can be made with 33% infill.  For basic things like Yoda heads or non-structural parts, you can get away with 15% or even less.

Shells or Perimeters


In the above image, I’ve drawn three red lines that line up with what are called the “shells” or perimeters of the print.  This setting in Cura/Repetier Host specifies this in mm value.  You divide this by the nozzle diameter (mine is .4mm) and you get the number of shells.  This basically is the “wall thickness” of your print.  You normally will not want this less than 3 times your nozzle diameter.


Top/Bottom Thickness

This is related to your layer height, and determines the number of top and bottom solid layers.  I have mine set to 3 (3x .4mm = 1.2mm)

For most printing, you’ll want solid top and bottoms.  For Vase printing, depending on your STL file, you might want to uncheck Solid Top to have a hollow top.  Also for Vase printing, you’ll want zero infill.  Then you just set your shells to your desired wall thickness.



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