How to make a lithophane

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If you don't know what a lithophane is then click here.


This page explains how to make a lithophane with PhotoToMesh and your 3D printer.



Step 1) Import your image. Use the file menu, or drag and drop you image into the program, or use the windows clipboard. Simple clear images are best, but that does not mean images without detail. Images without too much going on in the background are best. Also be sure to have the Show Front Image selected before opening the file, as shown below.




Step 2) Image Import Wizard. The program will step you through an image import wizard which will let you change contrast, rotation angle and the part of the image you want on your lithophane. If you choose a good image initially all you need to do is click on Next-> each time.




Step 3) Select Rectanglar Slab. Use the drop down list at the right of the dialog to select a "Rectangular Slab", as shown below.




Step 4) Choose settings for a lithophane. In the above screenshot the most important settings are shown in red. And if you put the rest as you see them you should have a good starting point for your lithophane.



Here are some more details:


The three active edit boxes in the center of the dialog are in mm assuming your printer takes STL files in mm.


Z-Height of mesh is the maximum variation which your image will produce in the thickness of the object. In this case it is 3.5mm.


The Slab thickness is the base thickness, and is what the Z-height is built on. So your object will have a minimum of 0.9mm (in the areas where the variation is 0.0) and a maximum height of 0.9 (slab thickness) + 3.5 (Z-Height) = 4.4mm in the areas where the variation is the maximum. Graphically:




Since lithophanes are designed to be back lit, white areas should be thin, and black areas should be thick, and grey areas somewhere in the middle.


The "Lock Y Dimension" makes the shape of the slab have the same proportions or aspect ratio as the photograph.


Here are two lithophanes with different thickness settings. The one on the left has a base thickness of 1.0 and a Z height of 2, and the one on the right has a base thickness of 0.9 and a Z height of 3.5. When back lit the left one is lighter, but the right one has more contrast:





Here are the same two lithophanes, front lit and from an angle so you can see the difference in the depth of the solid:




These lithophanes were 50mm wide and 70mm high.