Everything you need to know about 3D printing a photograph

Everything you need to know about 3D printing a photograph

In ancient times, photographs would be made manually by carving the image on wooden planks, walls, ceilings, or even doors. Now, look how far we’ve come! Recent advancements in technology have made it possible to print a photograph taken by a camera into a showpiece. 3D printing a photograph turns your traditional 2-dimensional photo into a 3-dimensional object! This is done by analysing its colour components such as hues, saturation, and chroma composition. It can even be printed at home by anyone having the intent and equipment.  


3D printed photo

What does 3D Printing a photograph exactly mean? 

3D printing a photograph is a simple method in which the light passes through thin printed parts while being blocked by the thicker parts. This creates a very detailed three-dimensional photograph called lithophane. 3D printing is designed to stack layers upon layers to create a three-dimensional plastic, porcelain, or metal model. The results of 3D printing are greatly dependent on the source, the details, and the clarity. 3D printing your custom photograph would give life to your picture in different dimensions, quite literally, too! If you would like to know how then keep reading! 


3d printed photo


How can you 3D print your picture? 

3D printing requires several pictures in order to get a detailed model as an outcome. But, creating models from a single picture is also possible. You cannot expect a 360-degree view of the 3D model printed from a solitary picture, but it can be seen as an embossed image of the original. 3D Printed Lithophanes are great options for getting an image etched or moulded on very thin plastic or porcelain, as the 3D printing material can be seen when a light source is placed from behind.  A quick tip would be to print your 3D lithophane on a white background rather than any other colour, as it would give better dark to white contrast or shadows than printing it on any other coloured background. Also, make sure to give a good thick base to the photograph to make it stand. This will ensure that you don’t have to 3D print a separate stand for your lithophane. There are a few methods that you need to follow to get your very own 3D Printed Lithophane.  


Editing your picture 

Editing your picture enables you to enhance the contrasting colours and improve clarity. It is an optional procedure but will definitely revamp your results significantly. Using Adobe’s updates of features like 3D elements in Photoshop helps convert 2D objects to 3D. This is useful for later conversion to lithophane. Glimp also has excellent features and can also be used for editing pictures. Make sure you consider this step; the end quality of your 3D picture will depend entirely on the quality of the 2D picture. 


Converting into an Stl file 

Image to lithophane conversion is done by changing the printer to .stl format. This is basically the version that can be 3D printed. This process can use a lot of memory or freeze the screen depending on the version of your system. But once it is done, your image will be in STL format and ready for 3D printing!  You can use software like Itslitho.com to edit and convert the edited image to the .stl lithophane format. 


Data for the 3D printer to process the image 

Next, an app is needed to convert your object model file into instructions for the 3D printer. Some of the free and popular online slicers are Cura, Simplify3D, and Slic3r PE. If you are looking for a quick and straightforward 3D printed lithophane that is flat or curved, you can use 3dp.rocks. It is well suited for beginners and has very basic features. If you are looking for a perfect custom 3D printed lithophane with advanced features, then you can go with Itslitho.com.If you want an absolutely flawless lithophane of a photograph, you should edit your photograph first, using one of the previously mentioned photo editing software like Photoshop. This will improve the clarity of the minor details in your photo and provide precise dimensions for the 3D printing of the photograph. Also, for a good lithophane, it is recommended not to use an FDM printer as the height of the layer on the photo might not be sufficient.  

 Cura- 3D printing software

Why is 3D printing your photograph a great idea? 

 3D printing a photograph is a unique and straightforward way in which you can preserve your memory. So, the next time you are confused about gifting your loved ones on their birthdays or any other occasion, definitely consider 3D printing as an option. Who wouldn’t like a 3-dimensional model of a photograph made especially for them? You can have a 3D printed picture or a model of anything - it doesn’t have to be a human person! You can go for a pet, a painting, or even your toddler’s very first drawings to print in 3D! 3D printing makes anything unconventional, even if it’s a simple family portrait. Every 3D photograph is striking and eye-catching.  A creative idea is having a miniature lithophane of anyone’s photograph that can be used as a keychain to give a personalised touch to everyday objects. You can also take up 3D printing as a hobby or even a small-scale business. It is all up to your creativity, determination, personality, and preference. 

3D Printed key chain

A few of the most mind-blowing examples of 3D models include the human fetus, an X-ray of one’s fractured leg, an entire chess set, furniture, and others. 3D printing is an emerging field in the world of photography. It can transform any photograph into a 3D model and is a unique way to preserve your memories. It’s a must to have lithophanes on your to-do bucket list if you are a photo lover. You can definitely 3D print your photograph yourself, but you should approach an expert for help to give it a professional touch. Hopefully, after you have read this guide, you are better informed about 3D printing a photograph. 

Everything you need to know about 3D printing a photograph written by Debarati Das 

Debarati is a versatile writer with 1000+ articles published under her name to date. Her passions include health and lifestyle, photography, gardening, pets and parenting. Additionally, she’s a doctor and a fashion influencer. 

You can follow her on Instagram:  @debarati_das_