Is It Legal To Sell 3D Prints?

Selling 3D prints can be a multimillion-dollar business if you scale it correctly. It could also be a few hundred dollars of side income if you have a good sense of how to run the business. But before that, let’s examine what’s legal to sell and what isn’t.

It is legal to sell 3D prints if you’re the original designer. If not, you’ll need permission from the creator to sell their intellectual property. There are some 3D prints you’re not allowed to sell, depending on where you live, like firearms and patented inventions.

Things can get complicated quickly if you’re not the original creator of the design. Even if you get permission from the person who uploaded it to a website, it’s difficult to know if they really own the rights to it. There are cases where companies will shut you down if they think you’re selling designs or any kind of intellectual property that belongs to them.

Lithophane of dogs

Advice For Selling 3D Printed Designs

Print things that can’t have a copyright or patent attached to them, like nature, cities, or famous locations.

Go through some basic Blender or Fusion 360 tutorials and create your own designs. Basic things like unique-looking vases and shelf plugs are examples of things everyone can use. But don’t just copy somebody else’s design, you need to be unique and original to avoid anyone going after you for punitive damages.

If you want to print a design that doesn’t belong to you, get written permission from the owner first. Also, try to take some extra steps to ensure they are the original designer. You can do this by searching for anything that looks the same with an older date attached to it. Of course, if you recognize the design from anywhere in the entertainment industry, movies, series, music, etc, keep clear of printing and selling it.

Even if you tell yourself that you’re just providing the printing service and aren’t selling the design, you’ll lose that battle in court if you sell Thor Hammer replicas and Marvel sues you for profiting off their Intellectual Property.

There are many people who sell things like Iron Man helmets on Etsy and other sites, but they clearly don’t have the right to do so. The most likely reason they’re still doing it now might be because Marvel hasn’t seen enough incentive to take legal action yet. They’ve got bigger fish to fry. But what if you start getting hundreds of orders?

Chances are, establishments like these will take legal action as soon as you become highly profitable. That way, they know they can actually get something out of you. But make no mistake, you can be sued no matter how much, or little, you make selling someone else’s property without their permission.

Rather, create your own designs with free software like Tinkercad, FreeCAD, or Blender and sell original work that you can be proud of.

Is It Legal To Sell 3D Prints From Thingiverse?

You can sell 3D prints from Thingiverse if you have the creator’s permission to do so. A Creative Commons (CC) logo doesn’t give you the right to sell the design or printed model. The uploader often attaches extra conditions like a non-commercial stipulation, which means they don’t allow the sale of their design.

If somebody designs a Darth Vader helmet with 3D software and uploads it to Thingiverse, you can’t legally sell it no matter which options they select. You’re not allowed to print and sell a Vader helmet because it’s Disney’s intellectual property.

So you can still get sued if you sell a design that somebody uploaded and gave full selling permission if they didn’t design it. You need to do some research on the product to make sure there aren’t any other people that don’t already produce it.

printed legos on build plate 2

Can I Sell 3D Prints With A Creative Commons License?

You can sell 3D prints with a Creative Commons license if the owner hasn’t specified any restrictions over it. For example, most users on choose the (CC) license to allow you to print, edit and use their designs as you please. But most of them also add a non-commercial clause to the (CC) which means you can’t sell their design, digitally or physically.

However, you can still contact the owner of the design and ask them for permission to sell it. Sometimes they won’t mind, other times they might ask for a percentage of your proceeds. Either way, you’ll have to get their explicit permission to sell their design.

Selling 3D Printed Items On Etsy

Etsy is the perfect place to sell 3D-printed art. You can even design something and sell only the files at a lower price compared to a physical print. Since Etsy is a website based on handcrafted items, it’s not the right place to sell things like spare parts for an RC car.

Things that do well on Etsy are those that have unique or cleverly designed things. If you consider yourself an artist, you should see success selling things on Etsy.

Here’s a list of products that do well on Etsy:

  • Jewelry
  • Toys
  • Art
  • Bags
  • Clothing
  • Decor
  • Home Improvement
  • Craft Supplies
  • Crafting Tools
  • Miniatures

There are cases of people selling 3D-printed items on Etsy that clearly belong to large organizations like Disney and Marvel. Characters from Star Wars and fan art, like Iron Man helmets, are intellectual property and they can be sued if those companies want to take action.

Of course, you’ll usually first get a cease and desist from them ordering you to stop selling their property immediately. They’ll specify the property for you to remove and I suggest you do that as soon as you can if this all happens.

Baby Yoda Tree Support 3

Is Selling 3D Prints Profitable?

Selling 3D prints is profitable if you focus on the right designs, for example, things that almost anyone could make use of, like a soap holder or personalized keyring. Accessories for cell phones, laptops, and tablets are profitable because almost everyone has at least one of them.

Once you figure out which prints to sell and how to market them effectively, you can scale the business up. You just need more printers and space to operate them.

Is Selling 3D Print Files Legal?

It’s legal to sell digital files if they don’t infringe on any copyrights or patents. So create your own designs or get permission from the creator before you sell anything. The benefits of selling the files are that they’re instant sales that don’t require time or shipping expenses.

There are a lot of people making money this way, so if you plan to do the same, have a look at what all the top sellers are offering and create products that are similar but not the same. So if you see soap holders and spice racks topping sales, create something for bathrooms and kitchens. Copying another design can get you into trouble even if you recreate it yourself.

Selling 3D Printing Services

Printing specific parts requested by customers makes sense since not everyone has a 3D printer. So you can create quotes for people based on what they want you to print. Then add your markup on materials, energy, and time consumed and make a fair amount of profit.

Keep in mind that you’re still not allowed to sell any copyrighted or patented designs, even though you’re selling the service. If the design belongs to somebody else, it can’t form any part of the transaction or you’ll violate the law.

Although, it will be near impossible for the owner to find out what you’re printing for your clients unless you advertise your service with their design as an example, so don’t do that.

What If Somebody Else Uses Your Printer To Print Copyrighted Parts?

You can rent your 3D printer to people at a fee as part of your business. But what if they print parts they’re not allowed to, like copyrighted parts or firearms? (Depending on local laws)

Luckily, the courts have never found the provider of the technology responsible for the copyright infringement. This is because the technology, a 3D printer in this case, can be used to make all sorts of different things and not just protected property.

Similar to how companies that make DVD writers aren’t responsible for people copying movies and series from disk to disk. So you shouldn’t have a problem if somebody prints something they shouldn’t with your printer, as long as you knew nothing about it.


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It’s 100% legal to sell 3D prints. The only things you’re not allowed to print and sell are patented inventions, other people’s work (without their permission), and illegal items like guns depending on where you live.

There are many people making money selling 3D prints and print designs, but it’s not an easy business. If you’re playing by the rules, making your own designs that customers will be interested in is very difficult.

I suggest you do some basic tutorials on Youtube for 3D printing software and start creating anything you can imagine.

Make sure you check out our YouTube channel, and if you would like any additional details or have any questions, please leave a comment below or join us on Discord. If you liked this article and want to read others click here.


I'm Rob, the founder of I’m a Marine Corps vet with a master’s degree in Information Systems and have been working in the technology field for over a decade. I started working with 3D printers because I was fascinated by the technology and wanted a hobby that my kids and I can enjoy together.

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