July 10, 2015
Written by Nadia Yaakoubi
a participant of the BEE WITH US programme at BEEVERYCREATIVE


With this article, I want to tell you about one of the most beautiful things that you can do with 3D Printing: 3D-print your own photos!

I was glad to discover this amazing thing over a year ago. Since then, I have been looking for the best way to do it. It wasn’t easy to find the best solution, paying attention to many small details, checking the file with many print tests, print and print again, but when you have the solution it’s like a game. Absolutely easy.

That’s why I’m writing this article. I want to share with you my experience, because then you can feel the same emotions as me. I’m able to give a special present to all my family members and friends. Now you can do the same without taking the time that I took. Today it’s easier because there are free services available online that can transform your image to a 3d printable file (Stl format).

What does a 3D Photo look like? How is it possible?

Imagine a black-and-white picture, it has different shades, right? Imagine 3D printing this photo giving each of these shades a different thickness. Well done, you have finished your work. Now put this object with a light source behind. You will be surprised w what you can see!
This is a perfect example to understand the process. The white stripes of the zebra are very thin letting through more light, while the black stripes appear darker.

zebras - 3d printing photografy

This is an old technique commonly called lithophane. In fact, you have probably seen porcelain lithophanes before. There is a huge difference between a lithophane and a 3D printed photo: production time, footprint machine, resolution, colour and final cost. There is no comparison.

With 3D printing, you can print in your home in less than an hour a photo of your child, lover, or favourite pop star with a surprisingly high resolution and in any colour you wish.
Excited? Let’s begin the process.


1. First of all, you need a 3D printer if you don’t have one. Choosing the right 3D printer could make a big difference to the final result. I was very happy with the result of the BEETHEFIRST 3D printer compared to other results that I had had with different printers. This is very important because you’ve to get as much detail as possible. Here’s an example.

marylin - 3d printing photografy

2. You need to transform the image into an Stl.
Choose and download the right software for you or use the free online services available.

Free Software available online:

Those with more knowledge in CAD software can also use these programs following the instructions in many tutorials available on YouTube:

Online free services:

Online paid services:

For those who want to explore this for the first time, I suggest you try first the online services. I think this one is the best and it’s free For the best results you have to use a program. I suggest the first one in the list:


Excellent! Now we can start to take a closer look at the process.

1. Choose the right image (jpg, png).
It’s very important to choose the right picture to print. Do you remember when I explained how you get a 3D photo? Giving a different thickness to each shade. Then it’s obvious that you can’t print a picture with too much light contrast because the light will destroy the picture. It has to be clear and with a quite uniform light. You’ll have the best prints with close up photo.

che & bob - 3d printing photografy

Images that are not good to print:
Landscape pictures are not very suitable for this kind of thing.

ladscape 1 - 3d printing photografy

landscape 2 - 3d printing photografy

Because I love mountains I tried to print this picture.

landscape 3d printed - 3d printing photografy

As you can see the result is not very good.

2. Set the right size of the image.
The best size of the picture should be no more than 800 x 800 pixel and no more than 150 KB. This factor can change depending on the quality of the slicer software that you use. Then if you try to slice the Stl and this doesn’t work, don’t worry! Go back and reduce the image.
If you use the online service to create the Stl file it will be always small enough to be printed.

3. Transform.
Transform the jpeg into an Stl file with one of the software or websites on the previous list.

4. Slice.
Open the Stl in your slice software.

beesoft - 3d printing photografy

Now you can scale the picture to any size that you wish.
The thickness of the 3D photo is very important.
You have to set a thickness between 1.50 mm and 2.50 mm. A thickness of 2 mm is always good. Be careful, if you set it too thin, you can lose some details of the photo. If you make it too thick, there will be less light going through the 3D photo.
When you’ll have more experience doing it you can also try to print the photo vertically instead of horizontally. Sometimes the results come out much better, but not always.

5. Print Setup:
Resolution —-> High (100 microns)
Density —-> Low (because more light goes through)

6. Run the print.
Now leave all the work to the printer.

beethefirst - 3d printing photografy

Have fun and turn your ideas into reality.

4 pics - 3d printing photografy

2 pics - 3d printing photografy

Feel free to print photos or anything else and surprise people with your imagination!
If you want to start and you need help with any issues do not hesitate to contact me. You can find me on my LinkedIn profile.