The Ultimate Guide to Cura – The Most Popular 3D Printing Slicer

Cura is one of the most popular open-source slicers for 3D printing. A slicer is a software that converts 3D models into instructions that a 3D printer can understand. Cura is developed by Ultimaker and has a huge user base with over 4 million downloads.

Cura is beloved for its easy-to-use interface, powerful features, and broad hardware compatibility. It works with most desktop FDM/FFF printers and allows you to achieve high-quality prints once configured properly.

In this ultimate guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Cura – from basic setup and configuration to tips for slicing and troubleshooting.


What is Cura and How Does it Work?

Cura is a free, open-source slicer software developed by Ultimaker. Slicers take 3D models and convert them into G-Code – instructions that tell a 3D printer how to move, extrude material, and construct the object layer-by-layer.

The process of using a slicer is often called “slicing”. When you slice a model in Cura, it analyzes the 3D model geometry and figures out how to divide it into layers. It then calculates the toolpaths for each layer, adds supports if needed, generates infill, and applies any other settings you’ve specified.

The output is a G-Code file that can be read by your 3D printer firmware to actually print the object. Cura integrate seamlessly with Ultimaker printers, but also supports most other desktop 3D printers.

Some key advantages of Cura:

  • Free and open source – anyone can use, modify, or distribute Cura
  • Easy to use interface for beginners, but powerful advanced features
  • Works with most major desktop 3D printing hardware
  • Active development and user community support

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Key Features of Cura

Here are some of the core features that make Cura a versatile slicing software:


Extensive Hardware Support

Cura has preset profiles for hundreds of different 3D printers covering popular brands like Creality, Prusa, Ultimaker, Anycubic, Artillery and more. This makes the initial setup very easy – just choose your printer model and start slicing.

Advanced users can further customize the profiles by tweaking temperature, retraction, speed and other settings for their specific machine. Cura has got you covered whether you have an entry-level or high-end printer.


Intuitive Slicing Interface

The slicer interface is designed to be simple and intuitive for new users. Once you load a 3D model, you can easily navigate around it, place it on the bed, and access all the slicing parameters on the right.

Cura uses color coding to distinguish between printed parts, supports, build plate, etc. This makes it very easy to visualize how your print will look before actually printing.


Extensive Slicing Options

Despite the simple interface, Cura gives you granular control over every aspect of slicing through expert settings. You can dial in detailed settings for:

  • Layer height, line width, wall thickness
  • Infill %, pattern, overlapping
  • Support type, density, offset
  • Cooling fan control
  • Speed and acceleration
  • Retraction, combing, coasting
  • And much more

This level of control allows you to optimize prints and get the best quality results.

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Custom Supports and Build Plates

Cura makes it easy to add custom supports through an interactive interface. Just click to add or remove supports in specific areas.

You can also model custom build plates and set their textures/colors for a realistic visualization.


Multi-Extruder Support

For dual extruder printers, Cura allows you to assign different materials to each extruder. You can choose which parts print with which extruder and even print water-soluble supports.


Post-Processing Scripts

Cura has a post-processing engine that lets you modify the G-Code through scripts for things like:

  • Custom G-Code commands
  • Pausing at certain heights
  • Tweaking temperature or speed
  • And more

This allows advanced customization of the print process.


And Much More…

Other notable Cura features include tree supports, mesh fixes, gradual infill steps, experimental settings, and a thriving plugin ecosystem that expands functionality.


Getting Started with Cura

If you’ve just installed Cura for the first time, follow this basic guide to get started:


Step 1: Download and Install Cura

Go to and download the latest version of Cura for your operating system. The installation process is straightforward – just follow the steps to set up Cura on your computer.


Step 2: Add Your 3D Printer

Once Cura launches, it will ask you to add your 3D printer. Search for your printer or choose the manufacturer and model from the built-in list. Many common printers are already pre-configured in Cura.

If you don’t see your printer, choose a similar model profile to get started. You can fine-tune and customize the profile later.



Step 3: Configure Basic Settings

Head to the Settings menu and walk through the different setting categories to configure your printer profile. Important settings include:

  • Printer and Bed Shape/Size
  • Nozzle Diameter
  • Filament Material and Diameter
  • Print Speeds
  • Temperatures for the Nozzle, Bed, and Cooling Fans
  • Retraction Distance and Speed

Refer to your printer documentation and calibrate accordingly. Take your time to dial in the optimal settings.



Step 4: Load and Auto-Arrange Model

Click the “Open File” button and browse to your .STL or .OBJ 3D model file. Cura will load the model on the build plate and automatically position it optimally.

Make sure the model orientation looks good and there’s no part sticking off the build plate. You can also manually move and rotate the model if needed.


Step 5: Adjust Slicing Settings

On the right pane, you’ll see all the slicing settings you can tweak for your print. The default “Recommended” profile is a good starting point.

Some settings you may want to adjust for the specific model include:

  • Layer Height: Lower for finer details
  • Infill % and Pattern: Balance strength vs. print time
  • Supports: Enable if overhangs need support material


Step 6: Save G-Code and Start Print

Once slicing is done, click the “Save to Removable Drive” button to save the G-Code file. Copy this file from your computer to the printer’s SD card or USB drive.

On the printer, select the G-Code file to start the print! The model will now be brought to life layer-by-layer.

Those are the basics – you’re now ready to start 3D printing with Cura! Next let’s look at how to take slicing to the next level.

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Advanced Cura Slicing Tips and Tricks

With your initial prints out of the way, here are some pro tips for optimizing slicing in Cura even further:


Fine-Tune the Profile for Your Specific Printer

No two 3D printers are exactly alike – there are always small differences. Take the time to calibrate flow rate, temperature, retraction, etc. and save a custom profile for your printer. This will improve reliability and print quality.


Adjust Cooling Settings for Overhangs and Bridging

Increase cooling fan speeds and enable “Print Cooling” to get better overhangs and bridges on your prints. But don’t cool too quickly on intricate tall prints or you can get layer separation.


Optimize Print Speed and Acceleration

Faster speeds can reduce print times but watch for ringing, oozing, and lost steps on your printer. Find the optimal speed for different geometry like walls, infill, supports, small features, etc.


Use the Right Infill Pattern and Density

Light, irregular infill patterns like gyroid give the best strength-to-weight ratio. Density can be reduced for faster prints as long as the model maintains structural rigidity.


Enable “Combing” to Avoid Blobs

This reduces stringing and oozing during travel moves by avoiding crossing over existing extrusion as much as possible. Keep an eye out for any missing top layers as a side effect.


Adjust Support Settings for Easy Removal

choose “Tree” supports for easier removal. Increase overhang angle, reduce density, and enable build plate adhesion to prevent supports sticking too much.


Materials like TPU require more heat retention and pressure to extrude smoothly.

There are lots more tricks – slicing settings can require extensive tweaking to really optimize them!


Top Plugins and Add-Ons for Cura

One of Cura’s strengths is the huge collection of plugins developed by the community. Here are some of the most popular plugins worth checking out:


Calibration Shapes Generator

Adds buttons to easily generate calibration/test models like cubes, bridges, overhang tests and more without leaving Cura.


Custom Supports

Lets you manually place and orient rod/linear supports for specific areas that may need unique support.


Nozzle Offset Settings

Allows separately configuring nozzle offsets for multi-extruder machines with non-centered nozzle setups. Eliminates offset artifacts.


PrusaSlicer Profiles Importer

Import profiles from PrusaSlicer as Cura profile bundles for easy migration between the two slicers.


Post Processing Scripts

Enables running advanced scripts written in Python for post-processing G-Code such as tweaking output, adding commands, etc.


arc welder

Compresses curve based G-Code into faster/smaller linear moves. Helps optimize file size and print speeds.


Cura Thumbnails

Shows thumbnail images for recognized models when browsing files to print within Cura. Helpful for identifying models.


Custom FDM Supports

Create more customizable support structures based on trees or linear patterns. Lots of option for tuning overhang angles, blocker objects etc.

There are many other handy plugins – browse the Cura Marketplace and Pierce’s Plugins to expand your slicing capabilities!

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Common Slicing Issues and Troubleshooting

Here are some common slicing problems people run into and how to resolve them:

Weird artifacts or missing layers: This is likely caused by an inaccurate model, corrupt STL files, or issues with model repair and slicing. Try re-exporting the model from your CAD program and slicing it again. Update Cura or disable mesh fixes.

Stringing – Check the retraction settings. Increase retraction distance and minimum travel after retraction. Enable combing and adjust temperature/cooling to reduce oozing.

Warping – Increase bed temperature, use a brim, reduce cooling fan speeds, or enable a draft shield enclosure plugin.

Weak infill – Increase infill density and ensure proper overlap between walls and infill. Reduce print speed for infill or extrusion width.

Pillowing – Increase number of top/bottom shells or slow down outer wall speed. Adjust flow and esteps calibration.

Blobs/zits – Enable z-hop, lower temperature slightly, increase retraction and check for partial clogs.

Supports not working – Increase density, elephant foot compensation and bed adhesion. Increase z distance between model and supports.

Still having issues? Post details on the Cura forums, subreddit or Ultimaker Community for help!


Frequently Asked Questions

Is Cura completely free to use?

Yes, Cura is licensed under the AGPL open source license. You can freely download and use it without paying anything.


What file types does Cura support?

Cura works with STL, OBJ, 3MF and JPG/PNG (for images). Other slicers may have more input formats but STL is the standard for 3D printing.


How are Cura profiles different from printer firmware?

Cura profiles control the slicing process while firmware controls the hardware operations. Adjust Cura for slicing settings and firmware for calibration, electronics, motors etc.


Can I use Cura with any 3D printer model or brand?

Cura works with most desktop FDM/FFF printers but has the most built-in support for Ultimaker machines. You can still use any printer with Cura by selecting a close profile or importing settings.


Is there an option for wireless printing in Cura?

Not directly – you will need to save the GCode file then use a wireless printing plugin like OctoPrint or AstroPrint to send to printer over WiFi/network.


How can I get help for issues or ask questions about Cura?

Check out the Ultimaker forum, Cura subreddit, YouTube tutorials, documentation guide, or contact Ultimaker support. The community provides abundant troubleshooting help!



Cura has established itself as one of the premiere free slicing solutions for FDM 3D printing with good reason. Its focus on an intuitive interface, diverse features, constant innovation, and enthusiastic community make it an excellent choice for beginners and experts alike.

While Cura takes much of the complexity out of slicing, there are still many settings you can tweak and customize to take your prints to the next level. Learning the ins and outs of slicing in Cura will pay off with higher quality, more optimized prints.

With the basics covered in this guide, you should now feel empowered to dive deeper into Cura, explore more of its capabilities, and become an expert slicer user!

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