3D printing guide

How to 3D Print Your Own Lithophane – The complete guide

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Giving “life” to your favorite photos with 3D printing solutions is a new hot trend in the world. Previously, making 3D photos from 2D images can only be done by professional graphics technicians. Today, when more easy-to-use tools are available, everyone can turn 2D photos into 3D photos and get them 3d printed to give more feeling to your photo.

One of the most favorite ways to create 3D photos from 2D photos is using Lithophane.

In this article, we will go through the process of 3D Print Your Own Lithophane, from creating Lithophane to 3d Printing the object.

What is Lithophane

In short, Lithophane is an embossed photo. When you look directly into a Lithophane, you won’t notice any difference. However, if you put the Lithophane in front of a light source, you will be amazed at the way it looks.

Here’s an example of a Lithophane with and without a light source:

how lithophane looks

So why Lithophane looks so beautiful when there’s a light source going through it?

Lithophane is made of both thin and thick parts. While the thin parts allow light rays to go through, the thick parts block most of the light rays. Thicker parts will look darker and thinner parts look brighter. The contrast between the thick part and thin part is what forms the image and it makes the photo look amazingly realistic.

In the next section, we will learn how to create Lithophane from your own 2D photo.

Create Lithophane from your own photo

There are several methods to generate a Lithophane from a 2d photo. In this tutorial, I will show you the 3 most popular options to make Lithophanes.

  1. Cura
  2. Photoshop
  3. Free online tool

Option 1: Create Lithophane using Ultimaker Cura

Cura is a 3D printing software by Ultimaker, this is one of the most popular slicing software at the moment.

By using Ultimaker Cura, you can transform a 2d photo into lithophane and slice the model directly afterward. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Drag/Open the photo in Cura

Drag Photo To Cura

After you open 2d photo in Cura, you will see the convert image popup where you can specify 3d model settings like: Height, base, Width, Depth…

Click “Ok” when finished and you will see the 2d photo transformed into a 3d model.

3d Model In Cura

Now, you can slice the model to start 3d printing right away. In case you would like to use another slicer program, export the 3d model to STL file by clicking on File > Export

Export Stl In Cura

Option 2: Create Lithophane from your 2d photo using Photoshop

Step 1: Download photoshop action to create Lithophane from a 2d photo

Since the CS5 version, Photoshop has added many features that support creating 3d photos from 2d photos. If you are a Photoshop expert, you can manually create Lithophane. However, this will require a lot of time to learn and master your skills, which is not necessary if you are just making Lithophane for your hobby.

In this tutorial, we will use a Photoshop action that was made especially for creating Lithophane

(Photoshop Action is a sequence of actions done to an image in the editing process that you can save and use repeatedly. An action is created by manually performing a series of steps in Photoshop and recording them in an ATN file).

This is an official action by Adobe, and here’s the download link.

» Download Lithophane photoshop action

After downloading the file, unzip and you will see Lithophane folder that contains Make Lithophane.atn file.

Make Lithophane Action

Now we will run this file to add the Make Lithophane action to Photoshop. (You can also go to Photoshop and load action to add it to action section)

Load Lithophane Action Photoshop

Now you will see the Make Lithophane action with a series of actions to make Lithophane from 2d photos.

Step 2: Run the action to create Lithophane

In this step, we will transform a 2d Photo into 3d Photo to make Lithophane.

First, open the photo you want to transform in Photoshop

Open Photo In Photoshop 1

Next, specify the Lithophane size you want by clicking on Image Size

Choose Size For Lithophane Object

You should change the layer name to Background because it’s the layer name that was pre-defined in the action step. Also, unlock the layer to avoid errors during the action-running process.

Set Layer Name To Background

Now, click on Start action button to begin the process of making Lithophane (remember to select the whole action steps, not just one step.

Start The Lithophane Action

Right after you start the action, Photoshop will automatically go through all the steps to transform your 2d photo into a 3d photo.

Here’s the final result

Final Result Of Making Lithophane On Photoshop

Step 3: Export STL file

Now your 3d photo is ready, what you need to do next is to export the design in to STL file and send the file to your favorite 3d slicer program.

In photoshop 3d menu, select 3d print settings

3d Print Setting

In 3d printing properties, set the following values:

  • Print to: Local (to save STL file to your PC)
  • Printer: STL file
  • Defail level: High (for best quality)

Export The Stl File

After all are set, click on Start Print button to get the STL file.

Export The Stl File Step 2

Option 3: Create Lithophane using free online tool

In case you don’t have Photoshop, or you’re not comfortable using Photoshop => you can consider using some online websites to create Lithophane for free.

Although you have less options to adjust your Lithophane, generating Lithophane via online website is very easy and it’s good enough for general purposes.

In this section, I will introduce some popular website for making Lithophane online.


3dprock Free Image To Lithophane

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

3DP.rock is the most popular website for making Lithophane from 2d photo. Their opensource Image to Lithophane Converter are free to use and it covers most of the favourite Lithophane types.

To use this tool, go to Image tab and upload your photo

Upload Image To 3dprock

Now go to model tab, it will take a while to process your image depending on image size and details. After the 3d model is generated, you can select type of Lithophane

Select Lithophane Type

You can tweak the model and image like changing thickness, size, curve… then go back to Model tab and click on refresh button to apply changes

Change Model Setting

If you are happy with the result, click on Download button to get the STL file

Here’s the result with 3dprock

Download Slt From 3dp Rock


Lithophane Makers

>> Website: https://lithophanemaker.com/

Lithophanemaker offers 11 type of Lithophane as below:

11 Types Of Lithophane

To create a Lithophane on Lithophanemakers, first, click on the Lithophane type you want.

For example I choose Heart Lithophane

Heart Lithophane

Next, upload image to Lithophanemaker and crop the image

Upload Image To Lithophanemaker

Next, click on “Click Here to view Lithophane” to adjust Lithophane settings.

Adjust Lithophane Settings

Finally, create on Create Lithophane to get STL file. Here’s the final result

Result From Lithophanemarker



>> Website: https://itslitho.com/

Itslitho is a free online Lithophanes maker, the tool offers 9 type of Lithophane.

To start making Lithophane on islitho, click on Get Started button and you will jump into tool view.

First of all, click on upload tab to start uploading your photo

Upload Image To Itslitho

Next, go back to model tab and adjust lithophane settings

Adjust Lithophane Settings On Itslitho

When you are done, click on Download to save the STL file to your computer. Here’s the result:

3d Models On Itslitho.com

3d printing your Lithophane

Now you have successfully transformed your favourite 2d photo to a 3d model to make Lithophane, the next step is to slice the model with your favorite 3d slicer program like Cura or Prusaslicer.

In this tutorial, I use Cura to slice the model. You can choose to print the Lithophane either vertically or horizontally. I recommend printing Lithophane vertically for the best result.

If you choose to print vertically, the layer height can be less than the nozzle width to improve the resolution of the image.

Try to set layer height as low as possible, I recommend you to use 0,1 mm as layer height.

About build plate adhesion, I recommend using Raft type

For infill setting, set it to 100% for more photo detail when the light goes through. Remember to set print speed to lower than 1800 mm/min for best quality.

Slice The Model In Cura

Now, it’s time to exact Gcode and start 3d printing your Lithophane

3d Printing The Lithophane

If everything goes smoothly, you will get this Lithophane after around 5 hours.

The Result 3d Lithophane

Enjoy this moment!

Enjoy The Result 3d Lithophane

Wrapping up

I hope you enjoy this instruction and if you have successfully 3d printed your Lithophane with my instruction, please share your work below in the comment section.

Have a nice day!

Hung Tran is the founder of 3dsage.com, he loves sharing 3d printing experience.

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