Creating a custom lithophane is one of the easiest and cheapest things that you can make on your 3D printer. It also makes for a great gift for any occasion and although it is so simple it is a very custom and personal gift that anyone would love.
To 3D print a lithophane you need to convert your image to a lithophane model using an online lithophane tool and then import your lithophane model to a slicer to create your gcode. For the highest quality lithophane print, print your lithophane in the upright orientation.
What Is A 3D Printed Lithophane?
A lithophane is a topographical representation of a photo using the contrast and darkness of the photo to determine the height across the image. A lithophane can be 3D printed to produce an art piece for nightlights, lamps, ornaments, or photo boxes.
How To Convert An Image To A Lithophane For Free.
The website that I prefer for converting images to lithophanes for free is itslitho.com. The tool has robust settings as well as additional options for special shapes as well as attribute settings such as nightlight.
Upload your desired photo to itslitho. In this case I uploaded a photo of my dog Millie because it has great depth already and it is a photo that my wife and I love that I know will look great as a night light.
For the shape of my lithophane, I know this is going to be a night light so I selected the Arc shape. Itslitho.com has many custom 3D shapes that you can choose from such as a sphere, cylinder, vases, or even pumpkins as well as flat shapes like a heart, hexagon, star, and a Christmas ornament.
I wanted a thin frame so I changed the frame thickness to 1mm and changed the depth to 3mm. If you want a thicker frame you could leave this setting unchanged or increase it to 4mm thickness.
There are three options in the attributes tab, Lamp, Close Bottom, and Nightlight. Since I am creating a nightlight that is the attribute that I toggled on.
For the model options if you intend to backlight your lithophane you can select to change your light intensity as well as light color. This will not actually change the model but can give you a good representation of what your lithophane will look like.
After you have completed editing your model, export the model with its attributes so that you can import the model to your slicer.
Here is the final product so let’s bring it into Cura (or your slicer of choice) and get the model ready for printing.
How to 3D print a lithophane.
As a general rule, to 3D print a lithophane you want to import the lithophane to your slicer in the upright configuration and use 100% infill. Decreasing the layer heights in your slicer settings will also increase the quality of the image and result in a better 3D printed lithophane.
You can generally use default slicer settings but increase your wall line count to essentially achieve 100% infill, in my case I changed my line count to 4. You will need the consistent infill to capture the correct amount of light passing through the lithophane and also so that you don’t get shadows from the infill pattern. If you were to use 0% infill the same amount of light will pass through the shape at every place which will not give off any darker colors.
I am printing in white filament for a clean look and a clear image when light is shining through. I know it doesn’t look great in Cura but the final product is going to look fantastic and as you can see in the photo the print only cost $0.67.
Here is the photo and the model compared to the final product. The only thing I can do to make it better now is add some color.
Here is a link to the nightlights that I purchased from Amazon.
Can You 3D Print A Lithophane Flat On The Bed.
You can 3D print simple lithophanes flat on your 3D printer bed. Decreasing your layer height will result in a higher quality image on your lithophane when printing flat on the bed. To receive the highest quality lithophane, print your lithophane standing on end and with a low layer height.
For more complex lithophanes you should always print the lithophane standing up due to the nozzle diameter reducing the quality of complex lithophanes.
Should I 3D Print A Lithophane Standing Up?
A lithophane should be printed standing up to achieve the highest quality image possible but is not required for a functional lithophane. When 3D printing your lithophane you should always print using 100% infill to ensure that light will pass through the lithophane as intended.
Can You Use PLA To 3D Print A Lithophane?
PLA is a great choice for 3D printed lithophanes on FDM printers. PLA is very easy to print with and has good qualities for translating light through the 3D print. As a general rule white PLA is the standard filament used for 3D printing lithophanes.
How To Add Color To A 3D Printed Lithophane.
The simplest way to add color to a 3D printed lithophane is by printing the image used for the lithophane on standard copy paper and then taping the paper to the back of the lithophane on the smooth side. You can also paint the lithophane on the inside or the outside surface.
Lithophanes are a really good way to make a photo pop and create something in your house that you can adore. Lithophanes will make you look like a genius modeler and programmer to anyone that doesnt know how easy it is to make a quick and simple lithophane on your 3D printer.