How to make 3D Printed Lithophanes #3dthursday


Lately on Thingiverse, thanks to Cymon and pp3dpNL, there have been a number of fun printed lithophanes projects appearing. Here is a post from Cymon’s blog about how to make them for yourself!

I have been having a blast figuring out lithophanes and working out how to best make them. I think I’m going to start offering custom lithophane services in the store, which technically means I shouldn’t give away how I’m making them… but that’s not the sort of guy I am.

First thing I discovered is the local dollar store sells nightlights that I can print a holder for that will illuminate the lithophanes really well.

Another things I discovered was about thickness. From left to right (1) the source picture (my daughter), (2) white at 3mm thick, (3) tan at 3mm thick, (4) tan at 2.5mm thick. I thought I needed to make it thicker so I could have more color depth. Since I print these laying down I only get as many shades as I have layers. And sure enough if I want more layers I have to print in white, the tan just doesn’t let enough light through. But after comparing them side by side I really prefer the sepia-tone look of the tan ones. The white looks better in the picture, but in real life the tan is just superior. And at 2.5mm thick I’m getting about 16 layers, so that’s enough color for anything.

If you would like to make your own just follow these steps:

  1. Download BMPtoIGES
  2. Choose a source image with good contrast.
  3. Scale the picture to about 800×600 (the more pixels the more points in the final mesh the harder to process)
  4. In BMPtoIGES load your picture
  5. Set your edgecolor to black (so the holder has something to hold on to)
  6. Enter the following settings:


  7. File->Save and Process, choose STL and save your file
  8. Import the STL in Blender or your favorite mesh editing program
  9. Scale the STL by 50% in the Z only (I suppose you could change the 75 to 150 and just scale in all directions by 50%)
  10. Slice and print (I like to lay mine down. That works pretty well in my experience)

The Z-scaling is because I don’t think BMPtoIGES likes decimals in its boxes. 

I’m really surprised at how easy the process is… once I figured everything out. There was a lot of experimentation to get here, but in the end I’m fairly satisfied with the results. So don’t let my suffering be in vain and enjoy making your own Lithophanes.

Read more.

Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here:

Join Adafruit on Mastodon

Adafruit is on Mastodon, join in!

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Join over 36,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers –

Maker Business — “Packaging” chips in the US

Wearables — Enclosures help fight body humidity in costumes

Electronics — Transformers: More than meets the eye!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Silicon Labs introduces CircuitPython support, and more! #CircuitPython #Python #micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Guardian Robot, Weather-wise Umbrella Stand, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — #NewProds 7/19/23 Feat. Adafruit Matrix Portal S3 CircuitPython Powered Internet Display!

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at !

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.