Home3D PrintingHow to 3D Print Photos (Lithophane)

How to 3D Print Photos (Lithophane)

Hello Machine Bros!
Today we want to show you a very interesting artistic technique that can be applied to 3D printing, how to 3D Print Photos, a technique also known as Lithophane.

Knowing how to do this is very useful when giving special and personalized gifts on birthdays, Christmas, or Valentine’s Day, you name it!

So, let’s start by knowing what lithophane is.

What is Lithophane?

On Wikipedia, we can find the definition of lithophane as the etched or molded artwork in very thin translucent porcelain or plastic that can be seen clearly only when backlit with a light source.

That is, with 3D printing, what we will do is 3D print a model that in some parts will be thicker than in others, in this way, when placing the model against the light, the thicker parts will be more opaque.

Thus, achieving the ability to generate a chiaroscuro image through 3D printing.

How to 3D Print Photos (Lithophane)
Wikipedia logo lithophane – How to 3D Print Photos (Lithophane)

Best Free Online Applications for Making Lithophanes

Next, we show you the most popular applications to generate lithophanes in a simple way. They all have a similar work dynamic, you upload an image, configure the STL as you want, and download the model.

Lithophane Maker

Lithophane Maker is easy to use. It has guides, various options, and even allows you to make lithophane in color, but in a somewhat complicated way.

Website: https://lithophanemaker.com/

3DP Rocks

3DP Rocks is Open Source, easy to use, has several options and you can find good tutorials on YouTube.

Website: https://3dp.rocks/lithophane/

ItsLitho Lithophane Maker

ItsLitho is very easy to use, it has guides, various options and even allows you to make color lithophanes in a simple way.

Website: https://itslitho.com/

Best Slicer Configuration for Lithophane

These are the recommendations of the settings that you should apply to your Slicer to obtain the best results for 3D printing a lithophane:

  • Use at least two or three contours, in this way the perimeter of the model will be well defined.
  • 3D Print the totally solid model, in the case of using Simplify3D we advise you that instead of selecting an Infill of 100%, you use the Include Solid Diaphragm option to generate the totally solid model. We explain this in our Advanced Guide of Simplify3D in the section Infill and solidity in Simplify3D.
  • 3D Print the model in the direction of the Z axis, that is, vertically. In this way, the contour will be better defined. The disadvantage is that the printing time will increase, and the piece will be a little more fragile.
  • The lower the layer height you use, the better results you will get, of course, that the printing times are increased. We recommend using a layer height between 0.1mm and 0.2mm.
3D printing a lithophane of the Eiffel Tower
3D printing a lithophane of the Eiffel Tower

Best Filament for Lithophane

Although any filament could work for you, it is best to use white PLA, since the layers adhere very well to each other, and it is very easy to 3D print with this material.

The white color is recommended since white allows a better passage of light through it and allows a better tonality when applying the lithophane.

In addition, with the white color later we will be able to make colored lithophanes.

Eiffel Tower lithophany printed in white PLA
Eiffel Tower lithophane printed in white PLA

Can You Also Do Lithophane in SLA?

Yes, indeed it can also be done, in the same way, we also advise you to use white resin.

Using SLA technology, the lithophane will be a little better, since the SLA 3D printers produce 3D prints with greater precision, lower layer height, and, finally, the 3D prints with resins generally allow a better passage of light since they are usually semitransparent.

White resin for SLA, from ELEGOO. In Amazon
White resin for SLA, from ELEGOO. In Amazon

Lithophane With Color

If the lithophane technique seemed interesting to you, it may surprise us even more. With ItsLitho online software, we can make color lithophanes.

The lithophane continues to be generated in the same way; the secret is that ItsLitho generates a 2D printable file (on normal printers).

Black and white lithophane of the Eiffel Tower printed in 3D
Black and white lithophane of the Eiffel Tower printed in 3D

This file has a range of colors, which allows that when being printed on a white sheet in 2D, and then when gluing this sheet behind our 3D printing of the lithophane, we end up obtaining a color lithophane when we place the model against the light.

With Lithophane Maker you can also make 3D lithophane prints in color, but the process is more complex, it also requires the use of several filaments and hardware called Mosaic Palette 2S.

For this reason, the best option for color lithophanes is ItsLitho.

Color lithophane of the Eiffel Tower printed in 3D
Color lithophane of the Eiffel Tower printed in 3D

Make Your First Lithophane With Your 3D Printer

Next, we show you a video where we explain in detail how to make your own color lithophane, step by step, with ItsLitho.

Remember to activate the subtitles of the video.

EXTRA: If you have trouble getting your 3D print off the bed, watch this video that can be very useful for this and future prints.

Conclusions of How to 3D Print Photos (Lithophane)

Lithophane despite being an old technique, never ceases to amaze us, and now we can even apply it to 3D prints. Also, the results are spectacular.

With this technique, we can make personalized and original gifts. You can make lamps, portraits, keychains, ornaments, whatever is within the reach of your imagination.

If you are starting out in 3D printing, or are already familiar with it, these two articles can be very useful:

  • Advanced Guide of Simplify3D for all those who are looking to overcome the barriers and limitations that Slicers can offer, and get spectacular models 3D printed.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to leave them in our comments section, as well as any contribution or suggestion you wish to make, we are here to grow together in this wonderful world of 3D printing.


See you soon Machine Bros!

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