#CreativeFriday – Create 3D printable Lithophane and print it directly from Photoshop CC

The Photoshop engineering team have been working on some innovative ideas to coincide with the Photoshop CC 3D printing update. They have created an action to create a 3D printable Lithophane from any photograph in a click.


A Lithophane is an etched or a piece of moulded artwork in a thin porcelain that can be seen clearly when it is back lit with a light source.


How does this relate to Photoshop? A final Lithophane is just a piece of 2D artwork or 2D photograph that has been converted into a special 3D image. This is technique used to have to be done manually, but with the help of Photoshop CC and the incredible folks in Photoshop engineering , they have worked on and created a free downloadable action that will create a Lithophane direct from Photoshop CC. This newly created Lithophane can then be sent to a  3D printer, such as a Makerbot Replicator 2 or 2x.

Downloading and running the action

Let us take this example. I would like to convert this image into a 3D printable Lithophane.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 18.09.06

First things first, you will need to download the following action (action is available here). When you visit the page, you should see something similar to the image below. The hyperlink in the Red box below will download a file called “Actions.zip”. Click on the link to download it to your computer. Once the .zip file has downloaded you may need to unzip it.

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 17.30.46 copy

To install the action into Photoshop, you will need to open the actions window. The actions window is available under the menu option Window / Action, or by choosing the large “Play button” Marked Red below.

Once the action panel is open, click on the fly out menu (marked blue below) and choose Load action. Unzip the downloaded actions.zip file.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 18.09.06 copy

Once the file open dialog is shown, locate the folder Lithophane (this screen shot is from the Macintosh, but a windows computer should be similar). Select the “Make Lithophane.atn” file and load this into Photoshop CC.

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 17.34.53The following action should now be available inside Photoshop CC.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 18.09.27

Select the Background 2D layer (under the layers panel, marked purple below) in Photoshop CC and click the play icon  (marked Yellow) in the actions panel (it’s the play button.  The action (marked Red) will automatically convert the 2D image into a 3D printable object.

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 08.28.36 copy

The action will run it’s steps, then create the 3D object, next we can print it on a 3D printer.

merged lino

To print this 3D object from Photoshop CC, simple choose the menu option 3D /  3D print.

Once the 3D print option is selected, you should see the 3D printer panel (below). The 3D printer panel is also available by clicking on the 3D print properties icon (marked Red below).

The next thing to do, is select the printer. In the following i’ve selected the Maker Bot Replicator 2x (marked Green). The volume dimensions can be changed from millimetres to centimetres etc, so can the resolution of the final print (Marked Blue).

The Size of the model can be changed by modifying the X/Y/Z values. Scale to Print Volume will make the print the maximum size that will fit into the print chamber. To tell Photoshop CC to prepare this print, click the print icon (marked Pink below).

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 17.39.29 copy

Once Photoshop CC has analysed the object, it will show you a preview with scaffolding (if selected), for the MakerBot it’s wise to make sure scaffolding has been selected.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 18.20.23

To load the model to any of the Makerbot devices, click the Export button and create the .x3g file.

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 17.49.01

Once the file has been created, copy it to an SD card, then place into the Makerbot printer (in this case), then choose print!

Once the print has completed,  holding it up and placing a light source behind it, it will reveal the design or scene.

That’s it. We hope you enjoy this Lithophane action.


One Response to #CreativeFriday – Create 3D printable Lithophane and print it directly from Photoshop CC

  1. Bojan says:

    Very, very cool. Thanks for sharing.