3D Print Lithophane

Lithophanes are unique, three-dimensional prints that use variations in thickness to create the illusion of depth and shading in an image. 

They can be used to create beautiful, personalized designs that are illuminated from behind, making them perfect for use in lamps, night lights, and other light-based decors. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what 3D print lithophanes are, how they’re made, and how you can create your own.

What is a 3D Print Lithophane?

A lithophane is a type of three-dimensional print created by manipulating the thickness of the material in different parts of the image. 

This is done by adjusting the “layer height” setting in the 3D printing software, which controls the thickness of each layer of material as it is printed. 

When the finished print is illuminated from behind, the thicker areas of the image will appear darker, while the thinner areas will appear lighter. This creates the illusion of depth and shading, making the image seem more lifelike.

3D print lithophanes are typically made from plastics such as ABS or PLA, but other materials such as metal or ceramics can also be used. They can be created using a variety of 3D printing technologies, including Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA), and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS).

How to Create a 3D Print Lithophane

Creating a 3D print lithophane is relatively simple, but it requires some knowledge about 3D printing and image editing. The process can be broken down into three main steps:

  1. Prepare the image: The first step in creating a 3D print lithophane is to prepare the impression that you want to use. This typically involves converting the image to grayscale and adjusting the levels or contrast to create a high-contrast image with clear distinctions between light and dark areas.
  2. Convert the image to a 3D model: Once the image is prepared, the next step is to convert it into a 3D model. This is typically done using software such as Lithophane Generator, which takes the image and generates a 3D model with varying layer heights, creating the illusion of depth and shading when printed.
  3. Print the model: Once the 3D model is generated, the final step is to print it using a 3D printer. This typically involves loading the model into the 3D printing software and adjusting the settings to ensure that the correct layer height is used.

Tips for Creating a Successful 3D Print Lithophane

-Choose a high-contrast image: The key to a successful 3D print lithophane is a high-contrast image with clear distinctions between light and dark areas. This will ensure that the variations in layer height create a noticeable difference in the final print.

-Use the right 3D printing technology: Not all 3D printing technologies are suitable for creating lithophanes. FDM and SLA are the most commonly used for this purpose, as they can produce fine, detailed prints with high accuracy.

  • Experiment with layer height: The layer height is the most crucial setting when creating a 3D print lithophane. Experimenting with different values can help you achieve the desired level of depth and shading in the final print.
  • Add lighting: To truly appreciate the beauty of a 3D print lithophane, it should be illuminated from behind.

Different Types of 3D Print Lithophanes

Many different types of 3D print lithophanes can be created, each with its own unique look and feel. Some of the most popular styles include:

  • Photo lithophanes: These are created using a photograph as the base image. They can be used to create beautiful, lifelike images of people, landscapes, or other subjects.
  • Art lithophanes: These are developed using artwork or illustrations as the base image. They can be used to create abstract or surreal images with a more artistic feel.
  • Textured lithophanes: These have a textured surface, which can add an extra dimension of depth and realism to the final print. This can be achieved by using a textured filament or adding a texture to the 3D model before printing.
  • Animated lithophanes: This new type of lithophane uses a series of images to create an animation effect when illuminated from behind. 

This can be achieved by using a programmable LED or by creating a series of lithophanes with slight variations in the image and placing them behind each other.

Applications of 3D Print Lithophanes

3D print lithophanes have a wide range of applications and can be used in both personal and commercial settings. Some popular applications include:

  • Home decor: 3D print lithophanes make great home decor pieces and can create unique, personalized lamps, night lights, and other light-based sets.
  • Gifts: 3D print lithophanes serve as thoughtful gifts. They can be customized to include personal photographs or artwork and used to commemorate special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries.
  • Promotional items: 3D print lithophanes can act as promotional items, such as keychains and ornaments, or even as a small night light to promote a brand or product.
  • Art pieces: 3D print lithophanes can stand for art pieces and be displayed in galleries, art fairs, or other art-related events.

Materials Used for 3D Print Lithophanes

The most commonly used materials for 3D print lithophanes are plastics such as ABS and PLA. These materials are affordable, easy to print, and available in a wide range of colors. 

Additionally, ABS and PLA are relatively durable and can withstand light and heat exposure, making them suitable for use in light-based decor. 

Other materials, such as metal and ceramics, can also be used to create 3D print lithophanes, but they are generally more expensive and difficult to print.

When it comes to choosing a material for your 3D print lithophane, it’s essential to consider the intended use of the final product. For example, if the lithophane will be used in a lamp or other light-based decor, it’s crucial to choose a material that is heat-resistant and can withstand exposure to light. 

On the other hand, if the lithophane is employed as a piece of art, you may want to choose a more expensive material, such as metal or ceramic, for a more premium look and feel.

Post-processing and Finishing

Once your 3D print lithophane is finished, you can take a few post-processing steps to improve the final look and feel of the print. These include:

  • Sanding: Sanding the surface of the print can help to smooth out any rough edges or bumps and can also help to remove any visible layer lines.
  • Painting: Painting the surface of the print can help to add color and depth to the image and can also be used to conceal any imperfections in print.
  • Polishing: Polishing the surface of the print can help to create a glossy, reflective finish, which can make the image appear more lifelike.

It’s important to note that post-processing steps such as sanding and polishing can be time-consuming and require specialized equipment and materials. However, they can help to improve the overall quality and appearance of the final print.


3D print lithophanes are a unique and interesting way of creating three-dimensional prints that can be illuminated from behind. They can create beautiful, personalized designs that are perfect for use in lamps, night lights, and other light-based decors. 

With the right image, software, and 3D printing technology, anyone can create their own 3D print lithophanes. As technology continues to evolve, the possibilities of applications and types of lithophanes will be endless, making it a fascinating and exciting field to explore.


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