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Our Guide to Lithophanes

Our Guide to Lithophanes

If you're like me, I'm sure you love that feeling when you print something, and everyone just goes 'Wow! How did you even do that!?' That rare and beautiful moment when technology, done right, looks just like magic.

We want you to have that experience, which is why we've made our guide to lithophanes, which for me, are nothing short of magical.

In principle, it works by varying the width of the 3D printed objects thickness, to let more or less light through. In the same way a greyscale image can be made up of lots of shades of grey, you can make up an image embossed in plastic with the same idea.

Lithophanes aren't new, they actually originate from Terra-Cotta or Porcelain structures, where you would emboss a family portrait (in the days before photos....) onto the Porcelain, and put it near a fire or in front of a candle. Encapsulating a gentle moment, as the light flickers like memories coming in and out of focus.

Porcelain Lithophane

Done right, lithophanes can produce some spectacular results. We want to teach you how to do this.
We are working on making this technology even easier to access, so all our wonderfully creative customers can utilize it to make anything they like. We also provide kits, which supplement this blog, showing you how to create your own personalised lithophane lamp.

Ready to get started? Let's dive in.
First of all, you need a photo. There are two types of photo you should have in mind, and you want to keep firmly to one boundary or the other.


Silhouettes: These can be very effective with lithophanes, you want really contrasted images, with lots of very similar darks and very similar lights. This will create the most contrast between the backdrop and the foreground. Black and White images with only 4 or 8 levels of black and white work pretty spectacularly here.

Types of lithophanes

Crisp Greyscales

Get any image, coloured or not, and just look at it. The best lithophanes with crip photos don't contain huge variation in contrasts, unlike lithophanes. You'll be looking for a good mixture of colours, without any darker colours mixed with brighter colours, so whites and blacks are best to avoid where possible. This is particularly important if you want a landscape with a bright sky and lots of clarity on the ground.
You will want to save that image in a JPEG, PNG or JPG format most likely. We recommend PNG as it holds it's quality better.

Crafting a personalised lamp

To make a lamp is super easy, it doesn't require any expertise, just some guided manual assembly.
If you don't have a printer of your own, click here to visit our listing, and select Pre-Made. We will handle printing the lithophane for you, and supply the entire kit. Nice, easy, no faff.
If you want to print your own lithophane, then we'll cover below the steps required.

Firstly, you'll want to plan your table lamp, you'll need a connector for the LED bulb to go in. You'll need to find a stalk, which is hollow for the wire of the connector to go through. You'll need to wire up the plug and find a suitable bulb.

Next, you'll need to devise some method of attaching the lithphane to the bulb, this can be done using our kit or any method you see suitable.
If all this sounds like a lot of effort, you're right, and we've got you covered. Our DIY kit contains all the parts you need, so you simply need to print a lithophane.

Now all that is left is generating the STL for your printed lithophane.
First, visit 3DPRocks site. 

Image Settings for cool 3d printed lithophane

Click settings and select image settings.

You'll need to set them to the following:

Lithophane image settings. Negative Image on. Mirror image off. Flip image off. Refresh on image click. Repeat X Count set to 1. Repeat Y Count set to 1. Mirror repeat off. Flip repeat off.

Next you want to click onto Model Settings.
Maximum Size of 424.11. Thickness of 3.2mm, Border of 0mm.Thinnest Layer of 0.4mm. Vector Pixels of 6. No base/stand depth. Curve 360 degrees.

If you want to change the size of the lamp shade (it will no longer fit in our kits), then you need to use the formula C=π x d where d is your desired diameter/width of the circle. π = 3.141592653.
It's worth noting that the depth of the lampshade will depend upon the dimensions of your image. For best results, we found a 8:3 x:y ratio worked well.

Now returning to the main page, click images.

Upload your model by clicking the images button on the top bar.

Now, return to the main page and click Download. This will download your lithophane.

All that is left now is to purchase your kit to assemble the lamp from The3dStore and print your lampshade!

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