This paper presents the results of a recent comprehensive investigation of selective laser melting (slm) of prealloyed gas and water atomised M2 and H13 tool steel powders. The objective of the study was to establish the parameters that control the densification of single and multiple layers with the aim of producing high density parts without the need for infiltration. Powders were processed using continuous wave (CW) CO2 and Nd:YAG lasers. Relationships between alloy composition, powder particle size and shape, flowability, microstructure (phases present, their size, morphology and distribution), track morphology, post scanned density, surface finish and scan conditions (Laser power, spot size and scan speed) are discussed for single track, single layer and multi-layer (up to 25 layers) constructions. Processing with a Nd:YAG laser with powders placed on substrates rather than on a loose powder bed gave more stable builds than with the CO2 laser. Using the Nd:YAG laser densities up to ~90% relative were possible with H13 powder compared with a maximum of ~70% for M2 in multi-layer builds. Maximum density achieved with CW CO2 processing was only ~60%, irrespective of powder composition. The paper compares the processibility of these materials with stainless steel powders processed to higher densities (up to 99% relative) under similar conditions. The results of the work show that a crucial factor for high density processing is melt pool wettability and this is controlled largely by carbon content; low carbon contents producing better wettability, flatter tracks and higher densities. The significance of this observation for the processing high alloy steels by slm will be discussed.