Make Your Own 3D Printed Lithopane
Lithophanes are 3D images printed on translucent plaques that are then backlit to reveal the image. The light areas are very thin, letting through more light, while the thicker areas appear darker.
Lithophanes date back to the 1800s, when they were traditionally carved from wax, molded in plaster, then cast and fired in porcelain. Finely detailed and delicate, lithophanes are best suited for 3D printing on a high-resolution stereolithography (SLA) printer like the Form 2. Plastic extrusion (FDM) printers will produce thicker layers and unsightly buildup that diminish the appearance of the image.
Thanks to the engineering team at Adobe, we’ll show you how the Form 1+ and a Photoshop action set will help you transform your photograph into a 3D printed LithoForm (brilliantly coined by Form user VinceErb).
How to Make Your Own LithoForm
- Photoshop CC (get a free trial here)
- Form 2 3D printer
- White resin
- Any image with a moderate level of contrast
Install the lithophane action for Photoshop from the Adobe website. Unzip the file to reveal “Make Lithophane.atn”.
To install the action, open Photoshop and open the Actions window by going to Window > Actions
Open the actions menu by clicking on the top right corner of the window, highlighted in red below:
Click on Load Actions, and navigate to the file, “Make Lithophane.atn”.
You should now see “Make Lithophane” in your actions list
Open up the image that you’d like to turn into a lithophane. I’ll be using this image of the Mona Lisa:
Run the “Make Lithophane” action. Photoshop automatically goes through a series of steps to turn the image into grayscale, invert the colors, and make a 3D depth map. It also creates a raised border and a flat surface on the back.
To export as an STL file to your Form 1+ printer, open the print settings in the Properties window by clicking on the red box. (You can also access this by going to 3D > 3D Print Settings)
Set “Print To:” value to Local
Set “Printer” value to Export STL
Set “Printer Volume” to Millimeters
Set “Detail Level” to High
Set “Scene Volume” to your desired size, as long as the X and Z values are below 125.
Export by clicking on the 3D print button, as indicated by the blue box. (You can also access this by going to 3D > 3D Print)
Open up the resulting STL file in PreForm. PreForm will automatically detect any integrity issues and repair your model to be watertight, so make sure you click “Repair” when you see the dialogue box*. I recommend printing this with the flat side directly on the build platform with no supports.
Print the file in our white resin at 50 microns for the best results. If you’re rushed for time, 100 microns will still give you great results.
Once printed, finish off with the post-print process.
After the print is completely dry, we recommend spraying the print with a UV resistant coating to prevent the lithophane from curling over time.
Fresh off the build platform:
Post-rinse under normal lighting:
*If you still find overhangs or gaps on your final model in PreForm, simply go back into Photoshop and, using the 3D editing tools, adjust the parts (border, depth map, and plane) until all the edges are smooth.