3D Printing Filament Guide 2017: ABS vs PLA vs many materials

The next wave in the prosumer FFF 3D printing evolution isn’t about 3D printers, it’s about the plastic filament used to make 3D prints. This is a comprehensive list of available filament, plus a guide with tips on how to choose the right filament for your next creative project.

Special Effects Filament

Special Effects PLA

Because PLA is used a lot for decorative purposes, it’s offered in a lot of different colors. But also with special effects. Here are a few:

  • Glow-in-the-Dark PLA
    Charge it with a light source, switch of the lights et voila: your print lights up at night!
Glow in the Dark PLA
I printed this Glow-in-the-Dark Super Mario Boo for my Leapfrog Creatr Review. It’s available from many suppliers and in different colors as well, including blue and pink. I used ColorFabb GlowFill for the print above.
  • Photochromatic PLA
    Changes color when exposed to UV-light, like sunlight.
Available in White-to-Blue PLA and White-to-Red PLA
  • Temperature Sensitive PLA
    This also changes color, but does so based on the temperature. Available in Temperature Sensitive Blue-to-White PLA and other colors.
  • Sparky PLA
    Contains glitters, obviously.
This filament is sold by MakerBot

Special Effects ABS

ABS is generally available in less colors than PLA, but I found one that might interesting.

  • Temperature Sensitive ABS.

    Available in Blue-to-White, Purple-to-Pink and Grey-to-White from 3D2print.

PLA Blends

As you might have read in my Builder Dual Feed Review, different colors of PLA can be mixed to create new colors and even gradients. But PLA can also be mixed with… pretty much everything! Some blends change it’s appearance and other change it’s characteristics. Lets check them out!

  • PLA + PHA
    Earlier I mentioned that while PLA is the easiest material for 3D Printing, it’s also very brittle. Dutch Filament manufacturer Colorfabb improved on this and developed its own unique blend of PLA/PHA which results in a tougher and less brittle PLA 3d printing filament. PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) is like PLA a bio-polyester, so the blend is still 100% biodegradeable.
  • PLA + Wood
    Contains of wood fibers. When printing your studio will actually smell like a wood workshop! They’re available from different manufacturers and they differ in color and wood source.
    3D Printed
    Helicopter printed by 3D Magic with woodFill from ColorFabb which contains Pine Wood and is quite light.
    laywood owls
    Laywoo-D3 (Laywood) contains Cherry Wood and is a little darker than woodFill.
    Easywood Coconut
    Easywood Coconut contains 40% grinded coconut fibres and is obviously quite dark.


  • PLA + Bamboo
    Contains 20% of bamboo fibers. Other than most wood-filament (except Laywoo-D3), bamboo filament prints brighter or darker depending on the temperature. By varying at different stages in the print – which can be done with software like Simplify3D – you can create interesting effects. Below are some prints I made for with ColorFabb BambooFill (Review)
  • PLA + Brick
    Contains milled chalk fragments and makes your prints look like sandstone.
    Brick filament is available from different suppliers under different names, but the best-known is LayBrick.


  • PLA + Bronze
    Because this filament contains actual bronze particles, it can be polished. But it will also corrode like a bronze statue! I made the 3D Print below with ColorFabb bronzeFill (Review). The image below is a 3D print I made after polishing, a salt and vinegar treatment plus a few weeks in my garden:
  • PLA + Copper
    Different metal, different effect!
    A great combination of polished ColorFabb bronzeFill (front) and copperFill (back) by Mass Portal.


  • PLA + Brass Printing with a composite of PLA and Brass makes for a gold-like effect!colorfabb-brassfill-3d-printing-filament-2
  • PLA + Stainless Steel
    Stainless Steel PLA is of course the best material to 3D Print the famous Terminator Skull. Proto Pasta manufactures a great Polishable Stainless Steel PLA.

    Stainless Steel PLA is of course the best material to 3D Print the famous Terminator Skull. In the photo above (by , the top part is polished.
    In the photo above (by John Biehler) , the top part is polished.

  • PLA + Iron
    The great thing about Iron is that it’s magnetic! Below is an unpolished print I made with Proto Pasta Magnetic Iron. On top is a small White Board Magnet.

Modified ABS

  • Smart ABS
    There aren’t a lot of special kinds of ABS, but Smart ABS (also known als Pro ABS) is said to offer better layer bonding and 30% less warping-causing shrinkage. Because ABS is mainly used for functional parts, Smart ABS doesn’t come in a lot of colors.
  • Bendable ABS
    When it comes to flexibility, this material sits somewhere in the middle between ABS and Flexible Filament (more on that later). Bendlay, as it’s called, seems to be a modified ABS that’s both clear and very bendable. It’s said to be 200% more bendable than than ABS and doesn’t generate white stretch marks while bending.
    Squeezing a cylinder printed with Bendlay


High-Strength Materials

  • PET
    PET (also known as PolyEthylene Terephthalate). In its original state is a colorless and crystal clear material, but it’s also available in many colors. PET is a fairly stiff and very lightweight material, which is very strong and impact-resistant. My personal favorite material for everyday 3D prints is InnoPET, because it’s just as easy to print with as PLA, but is a lot stronger. I designed and printed this door hook extender which is still intact after more than a year:
  • PETT
    Poly (ethylene-co-trimethylene terephthalate), or PETT, is a PET copolymer. A well-known example is Taulman T-Glase. It’s printed at a higher temperature and delivers exceptionally strong prints.

    PET filament's are available from various suppliers. One well-know one is Taulman T-Glase
    T-Glase is also known for it’s great transparency, especially when printed at larger layer heights. It’s also available in colors.

  • PETG
    PETG is short for poly (ethylen Terephthalateco-1, 4-cylclohexylenedimethylene terephthalate) and is also a PET copolymer. It claims to have the strength of ABS, while printing as easy as PLA.
  • Nylon
    When a 3D print requires to be very strong, Nylon is a good option. It usually prints in white and is available in different formulas. Taulman, for instance, makes Nylon 618Nylon 645 and Bridge Nylon, which apparently has great bridging capabilities. Nylons print at a relatively high temperature (245 – 250 degrees Celsius) but – contrary to what you might think – print odorless.
    Nylon is used a lot for mechanical parts.
    Nylon is used a lot for mechanical parts.


  • XT Copolyester
    ColorFabb XT is a polymer is specifically designed for 3D printing: it’s tough, print’s odorless, BPA free and FDA food-contact compliant. It’s available a crystal clear neutral version and an increasing amount of colors, like this orange color which I used to print an ultra-strong beer bottle carrier:
  • XT + Carbon
    ColorFabb also produced XT-CF20 — a blend of XT and 20% Carbon Fibers which makes it strong, flexible and gives a nice matte finish when printed.