Calibrating Z Offset for Your Ender 3: A Step-by-Step Guide

Getting the perfect first layer is essential for successful 3D printing, and adjusting the Z offset on your Ender 3 is a key step in achieving that goal. In this blog, we’ll guide you through the process of setting the Z offset on your Ender 3 3D printer, ensuring your prints adhere properly to the build surface and result in high-quality, precise creations.

Importance of setting the Z offset on an Ender 3 3D printer

Setting the Z offset on an Ender 3 3D printer is crucial for achieving optimal print results. It ensures the nozzle is at the correct distance from the print bed, leading to several benefits:

  1. Improved Print Quality: Proper Z offset calibration results in a well-leveled first layer, reducing the risk of print defects like warping, adhesion issues, and inconsistent layer heights.
  2. Enhanced Bed Adhesion: A correctly set Z offset promotes better adhesion between the print and the build surface, preventing prints from coming loose or shifting during the printing process.
  3. Prevention of Print Failures: Accurate Z offset calibration minimizes the chances of print failures caused by uneven or misaligned first layers, saving time and filament.
  4. Precise Layer Height: Calibrating the Z offset ensures precise control over layer height, contributing to the overall accuracy and quality of your 3D prints.

What is Z Offset? 

Z Offset in 3D printing refers to the adjustment made to the vertical distance between the nozzle of the 3D printer’s hotend and the print bed. It is a crucial parameter to ensure the first layer adheres correctly to the build surface and that subsequent layers are properly aligned.


  • First Layer Adhesion: Z offset calibration ensures that the first layer of filament adheres uniformly to the print bed. This is essential for preventing issues like warping, lifting, or uneven prints.
  • Layer Height Control: Proper Z offset allows for precise control over the distance between printed layers. This is vital for achieving the desired print resolution and quality.
  • Bed Leveling Compensation: Z offset compensates for variations in the print bed’s flatness. It ensures that the nozzle maintains a consistent distance from the bed, even if the bed isn’t perfectly level.
  • Preventing Nozzle Damage: Setting the correct Z offset helps prevent the nozzle from crashing into the bed or being too far away, which could damage the printer or result in poor print quality.

Effect on Nozzle-to-Bed Distance:

  • A positive Z offset increases the distance between the nozzle and the bed. This is useful if the first layer is too close to the bed, causing the filament to be squished or preventing proper extrusion.
  • A negative Z offset decreases the distance between the nozzle and the bed. It is employed when the first layer isn’t adhering well, and you need the nozzle closer to the bed for better adhesion.

Calibrating the Z offset precisely is essential for achieving successful 3D prints, as it directly impacts the printer’s ability to create accurate and well-adhered layers.

A negative Z offset brings the nozzle closer to the hotbed, effectively squishing the first layer onto the bed. Conversely, a positive value raises the nozzle, creating more distance between the hotbed and the print.

Properly setting the Z offset is crucial to avoid nozzle collisions with the hotbed or printing in midair. It ensures that the initial layer adheres well and is printed accurately.

For more detailed information on calibrating the Z offset, you can refer to Create With Tech’s informative video.

How to Set Z Offset on Ender 3 – Step-by-Step

To configure the Z Offset on your Ender 3 3D printer, you have several options:

  1. Ender 3 Control Screen: Adjust the Z Offset directly through the printer’s control screen. Navigate to the settings and locate the Z Offset adjustment option. This method is user-friendly and convenient.
  2. Custom G-Code: Modify your G-code files to include Z Offset adjustments. This approach allows for precise control and is helpful for fine-tuning Z Offset for specific prints.
  3. Slicer Software: Many slicer programs like Cura, PrusaSlicer, or Simplify3D provide settings to set the Z Offset. Adjust this parameter within your slicing software to customize Z Offset for different print profiles.
  4. Manual Calibration: Calibrate the Z Offset manually by adjusting the limit switches on your printer. This method is less common and typically used when other adjustment options are unavailable or impractical.

1. Calibrating Z Offset Using the Ender 3 Control Screen

Setting the Z Offset on your Ender 3 can be easily accomplished through the printer’s display. This straightforward method allows precise calibration in small increments. Follow these steps:

  1. Preheat Nozzle and Heatbed: Begin by preheating both the nozzle and the heatbed to your desired printing temperatures.
  2. Disable Stepper Motors: On the Ender 3’s display, disable the stepper motors. This enables manual adjustments without resistance from the motors.
  3. Position the Print Head: Move the print head to the center of the hotbed for easy access.
  4. Place Paper Under Nozzle: Slide an A4 paper or a post-it note under the printhead. Ensure it can move with minimal resistance from the nozzle.
  5. Access Menu: Depending on your Marlin software version, navigate to “Prepare” on the main menu.
  6. Move Z Axis: Under “Move Axis,” select the Z axis and set it to move in increments of 1mm.
  7. Lower the Nozzle: Gradually turn the bed leveling knob counterclockwise until the nozzle gently touches the paper. Ensure there’s minimal resistance.
  8. Fine Adjustment: Return to the previous menu and set “Move Z” to move in 0.1mm increments. Adjust the knob clockwise or counterclockwise until there’s barely any friction between the nozzle and the paper.
  9. Determine Z Offset: The resulting number represents your Z Offset, which can be either positive or negative.
  10. Save Settings: Go back to the main menu, select “Control,” then “Z Offset.” Input the determined number.
  11. Store Settings: Save the settings from the main menu.
  12. Auto Home and Test Print: Select “Auto Home” and proceed to run a test print. Observe the print’s adherence. If it doesn’t stick well, slightly decrease the Z Offset; if the nozzle digs into the print, raise the Z Offset.

For a visual demonstration, you can watch TheFirstLayer’s video tutorial on this process.

2. Custom G-Code:

Custom G-code modification involves editing the G-code files of your 3D prints to incorporate Z Offset adjustments. This technique provides meticulous control over the initial layer’s height and proves invaluable for tailoring Z Offset to specific print requirements. By inserting G-code commands into the file, you can influence the vertical positioning of the printer’s nozzle relative to the print bed.

To execute this, open your G-code file in a text editor, locate the print’s starting section (often marked by “G28” for auto-homing), and insert commands like “G1 ZX.Y F60” before the print initiates. Adjust the “X.Y” values to determine the desired Z Offset – positive raises the nozzle, while negative lowers it.

Custom G-code modification empowers users to fine-tune their 3D prints for diverse scenarios. For example, it can mitigate issues such as poor adhesion or excessive filament squishing during the initial layer. Regular testing and refinement allow users to achieve optimal first-layer quality and ensure successful 3D printing outcomes.

3. Utilizing Your Slicer Software

Calibrating the Z Offset can be conveniently achieved through your slicer software, offering a user-friendly alternative to G-code input. Many slicer programs, such as PrusaSlicer and Simplify3D, provide built-in Z Offset settings. Here’s how to do it:


  1. Launch Cura, a widely-used open-source slicer software.
  2. In the top right corner, click on the “Marketplace” within the slicer interface.
  3. Scroll down and select the “Z Offset Settings” plugin.
  4. Install the plugin and restart Cura; it’s now ready for use.
  5. Use the search bar to locate the “Z Offset” setting or adjust its visibility in the dropdown menu.
  6. Input your desired Z Offset value into the designated section.

You can also find guidance on setting your Z Offset in Cura by referring to TheFirstLayer’s video tutorial.


  1. Launch Simplify3D, a slicer software known for its advanced capabilities (free trial available).
  2. Click on your 3D model or the virtual build volume within the software.
  3. Locate the “Z Offset” tab in the sidebar menu that appears.
  4. Input the desired Z Offset value in millimeters.

TGAW offers a helpful video tutorial on using Simplify3D for Z Offset adjustments.

Utilizing slicer software to calibrate your Z Offset streamlines the process, making it accessible and efficient. Whether you choose Cura or Simplify3D, these tools provide a user-friendly interface for fine-tuning your 3D prints to perfection.

4. Manual Calibration

Limit switches serve as sensors positioned along the X, Y, and Z axes in 3D printers to prevent components from exceeding their designated limits. Along the Z axis, these switches ensure that the nozzle doesn’t descend too far onto the print bed. While this process doesn’t directly calibrate the Z offset, it plays a related role in setting the printer’s parameters. Here’s how to adjust your limit switches:

  1. Using an Allen key, loosen the two screws securing the limit switches.
  2. Depending on your requirements, move the limit switches either upward or downward along the Z axis.
  3. Once you’ve reached the desired height, firmly tighten the screws to secure the limit switches in place.
  4. To verify your adjustments, perform a test run of the Z-axis rods. Ensure that they halt at the intended height while producing the distinctive clicking sound.

For a visual guide and more insights, refer to Zachary 3D Prints’ informative video tutorial.

Setting Z Offset on Ender 3 with BLTouch

Calibrating the Z Offset on your Ender 3 with a BLTouch is a precise process that ensures the correct nozzle-to-bed distance for accurate 3D printing. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Access the Main Menu:
    • On the Ender 3 display, go to the main menu and select “Motion.”
  2. Auto Home:
    • Choose “Auto Home” from the menu. This action allows the BLTouch sensor to establish default coordinates for the X, Y, and Z axes from the center of the X and Y axes.
  3. Adjust Z Position:
    • Return to the main menu and select “Motion” again, then choose “Move Z.”
    • Set the Z position to 0.00 using the control knob.
  4. Paper Test:
    • Place an A4 paper under the nozzle. Gently move the paper under the nozzle to observe the clearance between the nozzle and the bed.
  5. Fine Adjustment:
    • While the paper is still under the nozzle, turn the control knob counterclockwise until you feel slight resistance when pulling the paper. Note the height (h) where this resistance occurs.
  6. Configuration:
    • Go back to the main menu and select “Configuration.”
    • Choose “Probe Z Offset” and input the noted height (“h”).
  7. Store Settings:
    • Return to the main menu and save the settings.
  8. Final Check:
    • From the main menu, click on “Configuration” and select “Move Axis.”
    • Choose “Move Z” and set it to 0.00. Place your A4 paper under the nozzle.
    • Observe the paper; it should grip the nozzle when pulled.

At this point, your Z Offset is correctly configured, ensuring the ideal nozzle-to-bed distance for your Ender 3 with a BLTouch. For a visual demonstration, refer to the provided video tutorial.

Bheema Shankar
Author | Website

I am Bheema Shankar. I have worked on SLS, CJP, DLP, SLA and FDM technologies at Think3D. Currently working as Process and application engineer at VEER-O-METALS PRIVATE LIMITED. I am always fascinated by the process of creating things layer by layer. This fascination led me to pursue a career in 3D printing technology. I am passionate about how 3D works and enjoy exploring new ways to improve the 3D printing process.

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