Laser metal deposition shaping (LMDS) is a state-of-the-art technology that combines rapid prototyping and laser processing. There are many factors affecting the quality, precision, microstructure and performance of the LMDS-deposited parts. Among these factors, substrate preheating is a significant one because it can change the heat history of the LMDS process. Preheating is generally adopted to reduce the residual stresses and the risk of thermal distortion and cracking. However, it changes the heat transfer conditions and affects the final microstructure and properties. In this work a numerical simulation model was established to analyze the heat transfer characteristics between deposited material and substrate, the influence rules of substrate preheating on the thermal behavior during LMDS, and the distribution characters of temperature and stress field. And then, the experimental methods were used to evaluate the effects of substrate preheating on the surface quality, microstructure, composition, hardness distribution, and mechanical properties of as-built thin-wall parts. The experimental results primarily agree with the theoretical analysis and numerical model, which indicates that in terms of the varied thermo-mechanical coupled field, the investigated microstructure and properties of formed components depend considerably on the initial temperature of the substrate, so the LMDS process can be effectively adjusted and controlled by means of substrate preheating.