Create Stunning Lithophanes with this Simple Guide to 3D Printing

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3D printing has opened up a world of possibilities for creating unique and personalized objects. One such object that has gained popularity in recent years is the lithophane. A lithophane is a three-dimensional image that appears to be flat when viewed from the front, but when backlit, it reveals a detailed image.

Creating a lithophane using 3D printing technology is a fun and rewarding project that anyone can do. Whether you’re a seasoned 3D printing enthusiast or a beginner, the process is relatively simple and requires only a few tools and materials. In this article, we’ll guide you through the steps to create your own lithophane using 3D printing technology.

What is a Lithophane?

A lithophane is a 3D printed object that displays a 2D image when illuminated from behind. The image appears as a grayscale relief, with areas of the lithophane that are thicker appearing darker and areas that are thinner appearing lighter. Lithophanes have been used for centuries to create decorative objects, such as lampshades, and have recently gained popularity in the 3D printing community.

Lithophanes are created by converting an image into a 3D model that can be printed. This is done by using software to analyze the brightness of each pixel in the image and converting it into a height value. The result is a 3D model that can be printed with a 3D printer.

One of the unique aspects of lithophanes is that they are designed to be viewed with backlighting. This means that the lithophane is printed with a thin layer of material that allows light to pass through. When the lithophane is illuminated from behind, the image appears as a grayscale relief.

Overall, lithophanes are a unique and interesting way to display images in 3D. They are easy to create and can be used for a variety of applications, from decorative objects to personalized gifts.

Choosing the Right Image

When it comes to creating a lithophane, choosing the right image is crucial. Here are some factors to consider:

Image Resolution

The resolution of your image will determine the level of detail that can be captured in your lithophane. Higher resolution images will produce better results. It is generally recommended to use an image with a resolution of at least 300 DPI (dots per inch) for best results.

Image Contrast

The contrast of your image is also important. A lithophane works by varying the thickness of the material to allow different levels of light to pass through. Images with high contrast will produce more distinct shadows and highlights, resulting in a more detailed lithophane.

When choosing an image for your lithophane, it is important to consider both resolution and contrast. High-quality images with good contrast will produce the best results. It is also important to keep in mind that some images may not be suitable for lithophane printing. For example, images with a lot of fine detail or complex patterns may not translate well into a 3D printed object.

In addition to resolution and contrast, it is also important to consider the overall composition of your image. Images with a clear focal point or subject will produce the most visually appealing lithophanes. When selecting an image, consider cropping or adjusting it to highlight the most important elements.

By taking these factors into consideration, you can increase your chances of creating a successful and visually appealing lithophane.

Preparing the Image

Before you can 3D print a lithophane, you need to prepare the image you want to use. Here are the steps to follow:

Image Inversion

The first step is to invert the image you want to use. This is because the 3D printer will print the lithophane in reverse, so you need to invert the image to get the correct result. You can use image editing software like Photoshop or GIMP to do this. Here’s how:

  1. Open the image in your image editing software.
  2. Go to the “Image” menu and select “Adjustments.”
  3. Click on “Invert” to invert the image.

Image Cropping

The next step is to crop the image to the size you want your lithophane to be. You can use the crop tool in your image editing software to do this. Here’s how:

  1. Select the crop tool from your toolbar.
  2. Drag the crop tool over the area of the image you want to keep.
  3. Press enter or click on the “Crop” button.

Image Enhancement

Finally, you may want to enhance the image to make it look better as a lithophane. You can adjust the brightness, contrast, and other settings to achieve the desired effect. Here’s how:

  1. Go to the “Image” menu and select “Adjustments.”
  2. Use the sliders to adjust the brightness, contrast, and other settings.
  3. Preview the changes and adjust as necessary.

By following these steps, you can prepare your image for 3D printing as a lithophane.

Converting the Image to a 3D Model

Using a Lithophane Generator

The first step in converting an image into a 3D model is to use a lithophane generator. A lithophane generator is a software tool that takes an image and converts it into a 3D model that can be printed on a 3D printer.

There are many different lithophane generators available online, both free and paid. Some popular options include LithophaneMaker, LithophaneCreator, and LithoShop. Each generator has its own unique features and settings, so it’s worth experimenting with a few different options to find the one that works best for you.

Once you’ve chosen a lithophane generator, simply upload your image and adjust the settings as needed. Most generators will allow you to adjust the thickness of the lithophane, the level of detail, and the overall size of the model.

Adjusting the Model Settings

After you’ve generated a 3D model from your image, it’s important to adjust the settings to ensure that it will print correctly on your 3D printer. Some key settings to consider include:

  • Layer height: This determines the thickness of each layer of the print. A thinner layer height will result in a more detailed print, but will also take longer to print.

  • Infill density: This determines how much of the interior of the print is filled with material. A higher infill density will result in a stronger print, but will also use more material and take longer to print.

  • Support structures: If your model has overhangs or other complex features, you may need to add support structures to ensure that it prints correctly. Most 3D printing software will automatically generate support structures as needed.

Once you’ve adjusted the settings, you’re ready to export the model as an STL file and print it on your 3D printer. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be able to create beautiful lithophanes that make great gifts or decorations for your home.

Printing the Lithophane

Choosing the Right Printer

When it comes to 3D printing lithophanes, you want to make sure you have a printer that can produce high-quality prints with fine details. Ideally, you should look for a printer that has a high resolution and a small nozzle size. Some popular options include the Prusa i3 MK3S, the Creality Ender 3 Pro, and the Anycubic Photon.

Choosing the Right Filament

The filament you choose can also impact the quality of your lithophane. For best results, you should use a filament that is translucent or transparent, such as PLA or PETG. Avoid using opaque filaments, as they will not allow light to pass through the lithophane and the image will not be visible.

Calibrating the Printer

Before you start printing your lithophane, it’s important to calibrate your printer to ensure that it is printing accurately. This includes calibrating the bed level, nozzle height, and extruder steps. You can find detailed instructions on how to calibrate your specific printer in the user manual or online.

Printing the Lithophane

Once your printer is calibrated, you can start printing your lithophane. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Choose the image you want to turn into a lithophane and convert it into a 3D model using a lithophane generator.
  2. Import the model into your slicing software and adjust the settings as needed. Make sure to set the infill to 0% and the layer height to a small value, such as 0.1 mm.
  3. Save the sliced file to an SD card or USB drive and insert it into your printer.
  4. Start the print and monitor it closely to ensure that everything is going smoothly.
  5. Once the print is finished, carefully remove the lithophane from the build plate and clean it up as needed.

By following these steps and using high-quality equipment, you can create beautiful and detailed lithophanes that will impress anyone who sees them.


After printing your lithophane, there are a few post-processing steps that you can take to enhance its appearance. In this section, we will discuss removing supports and rafts, sanding, and finishing.

Removing Supports and Rafts

Once your lithophane is printed, you will need to remove any supports and rafts that were used during the printing process. This can be done using a pair of pliers or a hobby knife. Be careful not to damage the lithophane while removing the supports and rafts.


After removing the supports and rafts, you may notice some rough edges or imperfections on the surface of your lithophane. To smooth out these imperfections, you can use sandpaper. Start with a coarse grit sandpaper and gradually work your way up to a finer grit. Be sure to sand the lithophane evenly to avoid creating any low spots.


To give your lithophane a polished look, you can apply a finishing coat. There are several options available, including clear spray paint, clear nail polish, or a clear epoxy resin. Whichever option you choose, be sure to apply it evenly and allow it to dry completely before handling your lithophane.

In conclusion, post-processing your lithophane can greatly enhance its appearance and make it stand out. By removing supports and rafts, sanding, and finishing, you can create a beautiful and professional-looking lithophane that will impress everyone who sees it.