Learn How to 3D Print Your Own Lithophane: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Have you ever heard of lithophanes? These are 3D printed objects that display an image when illuminated from behind. They are created by converting a grayscale image into a 3D model that can be printed on a 3D printer. Lithophanes have been around for centuries, but with the advent of 3D printing technology, they have become easier to create and more accessible to everyone.

Creating a lithophane may seem daunting at first, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be a fun and rewarding project. There are many resources available online that can help you get started, from tutorials to software programs that can convert your images into 3D models. In this article, we’ll provide a beginner’s guide to 3D printing lithophanes, including tips and tricks to help you get the best results possible. Whether you’re a seasoned 3D printing enthusiast or a complete beginner, you’ll find everything you need to know to create your own stunning lithophanes.

Choosing the Right Image

When creating a lithophane, choosing the right image is crucial to achieving the desired outcome. Here are some tips to help you select the best image for your project.

Finding High-Quality Images

To ensure that your lithophane comes out looking great, it’s important to start with a high-quality image. Here are some tips for finding images that will work well:

  • Choose an image with good contrast between light and dark areas. This will help create a more detailed and defined lithophane.
  • Look for images with a high resolution. The higher the resolution, the more detail you’ll be able to capture in your lithophane.
  • Avoid images with too much noise or graininess. These can make your lithophane look blurry or distorted.

Preparing the Image for Printing

Once you’ve found a high-quality image, you’ll need to prepare it for printing. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Adjust the brightness and contrast: Use photo editing software to adjust the brightness and contrast of the image. This will help create a more defined lithophane.

  2. Convert the image to black and white: Lithophanes are typically printed in black and white, so it’s important to convert your image to black and white before printing.

  3. Resize the image: Use the software that came with your 3D printer to resize the image to the appropriate size for your lithophane.

  4. Flip the image: To create a lithophane that looks good when lit from behind, you’ll need to flip the image horizontally before printing.

By following these steps, you’ll be able to choose and prepare the perfect image for your lithophane project.

Creating the 3D Model

To create a lithophane 3D print, you need to create a 3D model from a 2D image. Here are the steps to create a 3D model.

Using 3D Modeling Software

The first step is to use 3D modeling software to create a 3D model from the 2D image. There are several software options available, such as Blender, SketchUp, and Tinkercad. These software options are available for free or at a low cost.

Importing the Image into the Software

Once you have chosen the 3D modeling software, the next step is to import the image into the software. Most 3D modeling software supports importing images in various formats such as JPEG, PNG, and BMP.

Adjusting the Model Settings

After importing the image, you need to adjust the model settings to create a 3D lithophane model. You need to adjust the thickness of the model, the size of the model, and the depth of the model. These settings will depend on the size of the 2D image and the desired size of the 3D lithophane.

To adjust the model settings, you can use the software’s tools to scale, rotate, and adjust the image. You can also use the software’s features to add texture and color to the model.

In conclusion, creating a 3D model for a lithophane 3D print requires 3D modeling software, importing the image into the software, and adjusting the model settings. With these steps, you can create a 3D lithophane model that is ready for 3D printing.

Printing the Lithophane

Choosing the Right Printer and Filament

When it comes to 3D printing a lithophane, you want to choose a printer that can produce high-quality prints with fine details. Look for a printer that has a high resolution and is capable of printing with a layer height of 0.1mm or less. This will ensure that your lithophane has a smooth finish and all the details are visible.

As for the filament, it is recommended to use PLA filament for printing lithophanes. PLA is a popular 3D printing material that is easy to print with and produces high-quality prints. It is also translucent, which is perfect for creating lithophanes that allow light to pass through.

Loading the Filament and Setting up the Printer

Before you can start printing your lithophane, you need to load the filament into your 3D printer. This process varies depending on the type of printer you have, so be sure to consult your printer’s manual for specific instructions.

Once the filament is loaded, you need to set up your printer. This involves adjusting the printer settings to ensure that the lithophane is printed with the correct temperature, speed, and layer height. Again, consult your printer’s manual for specific instructions on how to adjust these settings.

Printing the Lithophane

Once your printer is set up and ready to go, it’s time to start printing your lithophane. Before you hit the print button, make sure that your printer’s bed is level and clean. This will ensure that the lithophane is printed evenly and without any imperfections.

When printing the lithophane, it is important to keep an eye on the printer to ensure that everything is going smoothly. If you notice any issues, such as the filament not extruding properly or the print bed not heating up correctly, stop the print and troubleshoot the problem before continuing.

Overall, printing a lithophane is a relatively straightforward process that requires some attention to detail and patience. By choosing the right printer and filament, loading the filament and setting up the printer correctly, and monitoring the print process, you can create a beautiful and unique lithophane that will impress everyone who sees it.


After 3D printing your lithophane, you will need to perform some post-processing to remove it from the printer and make it ready for display. Here are some steps to follow:

Removing the Lithophane from the Printer

  1. Turn off the printer and wait for it to cool down.
  2. Carefully remove the build plate from the printer.
  3. Use a spatula or scraper to gently pry the lithophane from the build plate. Be careful not to damage the delicate edges of the lithophane.
  4. If the lithophane is stuck to the build plate, try using a hair dryer to warm up the plate and soften the adhesive.

Finishing the Lithophane

  1. Clean the lithophane with warm water and soap to remove any residue or support material.
  2. Let the lithophane dry completely.
  3. Sand the back of the lithophane with a fine-grit sandpaper to remove any rough surfaces or bumps.
  4. Use a clear spray sealant to protect the lithophane from dust and scratches.

Displaying the Lithophane

  1. Choose a light source that will illuminate the lithophane from behind.
  2. Place the lithophane in a frame or holder that will keep it in place and protect it from damage.
  3. Experiment with different light sources and angles to find the best way to display your lithophane.

By following these post-processing steps, you can ensure that your 3D printed lithophane looks its best and is ready to be displayed in your home or office.