Learn How to 3D Print a Picture: Simple Steps to Bring Your Photos to Life

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3D printing has revolutionized the way we create and design objects. It has made it possible to transform a digital model into a physical object. One of the exciting applications of 3D printing is the ability to print a picture in 3D. This process involves creating a 3D model from a 2D image and then printing it using a 3D printer.

There are different ways to 3D print a picture, depending on the desired outcome. One way is to create a lithophane, which is a 3D representation of a photo that can only be seen when illuminated from behind. Another way is to convert a photo into a 3D model using photogrammetry software. This involves taking multiple photos of an object from different angles and then using software to stitch them together to create a 3D model. Once the 3D model is created, it can be printed using a 3D printer.

Choosing a 3D Printer

When it comes to 3D printing a picture, choosing the right 3D printer is crucial. There are many factors to consider, such as budget, print quality, and compatibility with the software you plan to use. In this section, we’ll explore these factors in more detail.


The first thing to consider when choosing a 3D printer is your budget. 3D printers range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. It’s important to set a budget that you’re comfortable with and find a printer that fits within that budget.

Keep in mind that cheaper printers may have lower print quality and may require more maintenance. On the other hand, more expensive printers may have better print quality and more features, but may not be necessary for your needs.

Print Quality

Print quality is another important factor to consider. The higher the print quality, the more detail and accuracy your 3D printed picture will have. Look for a printer with a high resolution and layer height for the best results.

It’s also important to consider the type of filament the printer uses. PLA and ABS are the most common types of filament, but there are many other materials available, such as PETG, nylon, and more. Each material has its own strengths and weaknesses, so choose one that is best suited for your project.

Additionally, consider the printer’s build volume, which is the maximum size of the object it can print. Make sure the printer’s build volume is large enough to accommodate the size of your 3D printed picture.

In conclusion, when choosing a 3D printer for printing a picture, consider your budget, print quality, and compatibility with the software you plan to use. Look for a printer with a high resolution and layer height, a large build volume, and a filament that is best suited for your project.

Preparing Your Picture

Before you can 3D print a picture, you need to prepare the image you want to use. This involves selecting the right photo and editing it to make sure it will work well with the 3D printing process.

Choosing the Right Image

When selecting an image to 3D print, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Resolution: The higher the resolution of your image, the better it will look when 3D printed. Look for images with a resolution of at least 300 DPI.
  • Contrast: Images with high contrast between light and dark areas tend to work best for 3D printing.
  • Depth: Images with a lot of depth, such as landscapes or portraits with multiple layers, can create stunning 3D prints.

Editing the Image

Once you have selected an image, you may need to edit it to make it suitable for 3D printing. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Crop the Image: Use a photo editor to crop your image to the size and shape you want for your 3D print.
  • Adjust Contrast: If your image doesn’t have enough contrast, you can adjust the brightness and contrast settings to make the details stand out more.
  • Simplify the Image: Images with too many details can be difficult to 3D print. Consider simplifying the image by removing unnecessary details or reducing the number of colors.

By following these tips, you can prepare your image for 3D printing and ensure that it will look great when printed.

Setting Up Your 3D Printer

Before you can start 3D printing your photo, you need to ensure that your 3D printer is properly set up. This involves loading filament and calibrating the printer. Here are the steps you should follow:

Loading Filament

The first step in setting up your 3D printer is to load filament. This process will vary depending on the type of printer you have, but here are the general steps:

  1. Turn on your 3D printer and allow it to heat up to the appropriate temperature for your filament.
  2. Locate the filament spool holder on your printer and place your filament spool on it.
  3. Insert the end of the filament into the extruder, following the instructions for your specific printer.
  4. Use the controls on your printer to feed the filament through the extruder until it reaches the nozzle.
  5. Once the filament is loaded, you’re ready to move on to calibrating your printer.

Calibrating the Printer

Calibrating your 3D printer is an important step that ensures your printer is properly aligned and ready to print. Here are the general steps for calibrating your printer:

  1. Use your printer’s controls to move the print head to the center of the build plate.
  2. Use a piece of paper to check the distance between the nozzle and the build plate. The paper should be able to move freely between the nozzle and the build plate, but there should be some resistance.
  3. Adjust the build plate height as needed to achieve the proper distance between the nozzle and the build plate.
  4. Once your printer is calibrated, you’re ready to start printing your photo.

By following these steps to set up your 3D printer, you’ll be able to ensure that your printer is properly aligned and ready to print your photo. With your printer set up, you can move on to the next step in the process: converting your photo into a 3D model.

Printing Your Picture

Once you have your 3D model, it’s time to print it! Here’s how to do it.

Slicing the Image

The first step is to slice your 3D model into layers that your printer can understand. To do this, you’ll need to use a slicing software. There are many options available, including free and paid versions. Some popular choices include Cura, Simplify3D, and PrusaSlicer.

When you open your slicing software, you’ll need to import your 3D model. Then, you’ll need to configure the settings for your print. This includes things like layer height, infill density, and print speed. You can find recommended settings for your printer and material online, or you can experiment to find the settings that work best for you.

Once you’re happy with your settings, you can slice your model. This will generate a G-code file that your printer can read. Save this file to an SD card or transfer it to your printer using a USB cable.

Starting the Print

Now it’s time to start your print! Here’s how to do it:

  1. Make sure your printer is turned on and connected to your computer or SD card.
  2. Load your filament into the printer. Follow the instructions for your specific printer.
  3. Preheat your printer to the recommended temperature for your filament. This will ensure that your filament is melted and ready to be extruded.
  4. Home your printer. This will move the print head to its starting position.
  5. Load your G-code file into your printer. Follow the instructions for your specific printer.
  6. Start your print! Your printer will begin extruding filament and building up your 3D model layer by layer.

It’s important to keep an eye on your print while it’s running. If you notice any issues, such as warping or stringing, you may need to adjust your settings or make changes to your print. Once your print is finished, carefully remove it from the build plate and enjoy your new 3D printed picture!


After successfully printing your lithophane, it is time to move on to post-processing. This step involves removing the print from the build plate and adding finishing touches to enhance the overall look of the lithophane.

Removing the Print

To remove the print, begin by gently prying the edges of the lithophane from the build plate using a scraper or spatula. Be careful not to apply too much force as this can damage the print or the build plate. Once the edges are lifted, continue to work your way around the print until it is completely detached.

If the print is stuck to the build plate, try using a heat gun or hair dryer to warm up the plate slightly. This will help loosen the print and make it easier to remove.

Finishing Touches

Once the print is removed, it is time to add finishing touches to enhance the overall look of the lithophane. Here are some post-processing techniques you can use:

  • Sanding: Use sandpaper to smooth out any rough edges or imperfections on the surface of the lithophane.

  • Painting: Apply a coat of paint to the back of the lithophane to add color or create a unique design.

  • Backlighting: Place the lithophane in a frame with a backlight to illuminate the image and create a stunning visual effect.

  • Wrapping: Apply adhesive foil to the surface of the lithophane to add a detailed surface design.

  • Acetone Polishing: Use acetone to dissolve the surface of the lithophane, creating a smooth, polished finish.

Overall, post-processing is an important step in creating a high-quality lithophane. By removing the print carefully and adding finishing touches, you can create a stunning piece of art that will be sure to impress.