How to Make an STL File & 3D Model From a Photo/Picture to 3D Print

As a 3D printing enthusiast! Have you thought of converting your image into a 3d modeI I know, it sounds amazing. Whether it’s your family photo, a beautiful landscape, or even a picture of your dog, you can easily convert it into a 3D model. And the best part? You don’t need to know about 3D modeling. In this article, I’ll guide you through various ways by which you convert your photo into an STL file which is also known as lithophane .

How to Make an STL File & 3D Model From a Photo/Picture

To make an STL file or a 3D model from a photo, you can use online tools like ImagetoSTL or Cura for direct conversion and you can also edit the STL file into Tinkercad or Meshmixer to get more detailed 3D models.

What is Lithophane

Lithophanes are cool 3D prints that show a picture when you light them up from behind. Lithophanes work by printing parts of the picture thicker or thinner, which changes how much light passes through it. This turns a normal photo into a 3D object that looks magnificent.

To make a lithophane, all you need to do is use a website that changes your photo into a 3D model. Then, you print it with your 3D printer. I would recommend using printers that are really detailed, like an SLA printer, but you can use FDM 3D printed too.

According to me lithophanes are a unique mix of art and technology. They let you turn regular photos into a beautiful 3D photo.

Choosing the Right Image for 3D Printing

Choosing the right photo is very important to get a high quality lithophane. Here are a few things to consider before converting your photo into a 3D model.

  • Clarity is important: Always use a sharp, high-resolution image because blurry or low-res photos won’t look good when turned into 3D models. The clearer the image, the more detailed your 3D model will be.
  • High Contrast: Choose photos with clear differences between light and dark areas because in 3D printing, these contrasts will create depth and detail in your 3D model. For example,  A sunset photo with its contrasting light sky and dark ground, would make a great choice.
  • Simple Backgrounds: If you choose aphoto with a busy background it can make your 3D model look cluttered. So, I recommend choosing images with simple or minimal backgrounds is good, so the main subject stands out more in the 3D print.
  • Size and Orientation Matter: You can scale down a larger image and it wont cause a problem, but if you scale up a small image might lose quality when made bigger. Also, consider how you are going to layout the photo (landscape or portrait) and how it looks as a 3D model.

Tools and Slicing Software to Convert Image into STL

Converting your photo into a 3D model starts with converting it into an STL file which is a standard format for 3D printing. This might sound a little technical, but trust me pretty straightforward with the right tools. Here’s how to do it:

  • Online Conversion Tools: If you want to convert your image into a 3D model easily you can use online converters like ImagetoSTL or lithophanemaker. These tools are super simple to use, just upload your photo (JPG or PNG), and they’ll turn it into an STL file. It’s a great option if you’re new to 3D printing or if you need to make a lithophane in a few clicks..
  • Cura : You can use Cura too in order to change your image into a 3D model as Cura offers more flexibility. All you just need to do is to drag and drop your photo into Cura, and it automatically creates a 3D model from it. You can adjust settings like size and thickness to customize your model. You can also preview the model before printing to make sure it looks just right.
  • Editing Your STL File: Once you have created your STL file you might want to add some changes to it for this purpose you can use tools like Tinkercad which is easy to use online to where you can modify your STL file. Using this tool you can resize, add text, or combine it with other designs. But if you want to do more detailed editing you can use software like meshmixer or blender. They have more advanced features for those who want to get a detailed lithophane.
  • Preparing for Printing: Before you start printing, you might need to prepare your model by setting its orientation or by adding brim or raft to the base. Slicing Softwares like Cura can automatically generate support based on your model. This will make sure that your final print is stable and looks as good as possible.

Using Cura to Convert Image to 3D Model Directly

Let me tell you about an easy trick to convert your photos into 3D models with help of Cura. If you dont what’s Cura? Well, It’s a slicing software to convert your 3D model into Gcode.

Converting photos to 3D models is easy with Cura. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Choose Your Photo: Select a photo that you want to turn into a 3D model. It could be anything – a pet, a landscape, a family portrait.
  • Drag and Drop in Cura: Open Cura then simply drag and drop your photo into it. Cura will ask you a few inputs that you need to give then it will automatically convert the 2D image into a 3D model.
  • Adjust Settings: In Cura, you can adjust your model like size, thickness, and other settings to get it just right but if you don’t know much about settings, the default settings are a good start.
  • Print Vertically for Detail: To get the best details on a 3D photo, print your model standing up as it will capture finer details and make sure to add raft or brim at bottom for a more stable base.
  • Preview and Print: Now you can check how your model is looking, just go to Cura’s preview mode. Once happy, go ahead and print it.

Editing and Modifying Your STL File

Once you’ve converted your photo into a STL file, it’s time to adjust it a little bit. Here’s few edits and maodification to make your STL file to get it ready for printing:

  • Size Adjustments: Make sure your model is suitable and fits in your 3D printer’s build volume before printing it. You can change the size of your model in slicing software by making it either too big or too small..
  • Personalizing Your Model:  If you want to put some personal touch like your name or a special date in it, Tinkercad will be the best option as it is user-friendly and allows users to add text, merge your model with other designs, or any other general simple modifications.
  • Detailed Editing and Enhancements: Advanced tools such as meshmixer and blender are also the best option for detailed editing and modification. These are suited for making lithophanes and sculpting on your model with precision. With these, you can:
    • Give a more textured surface to the 3D model.
    • You can removethe unnecessary components or include extra elements for bettering your 3D image.
    • you can change the thickness of walls so that they will be stable and ready for printing.
  • Preparing for Printing: At last adding the brim and raft to your lithophane will be a wise choice because it will make the base of the lithophane more stable and less wobbly. This is necessary so that your model does not fall apart or bend during the print process.


It’s fun and easy to convert the photos into 3D models. It is easy for you to do it using online converters such as ImagetoStl that help you turn your image into an STL file very fast or edit and improve the STL file in Tinkercad, or getting into the details with the help of a advanced software like Meshmixer, converting a photograph in to a 3D model makes one amazing.


How do I turn a photo into a 3D model?

  • To convert your photo into a 3D model, you can insert the JPG or PNG file into a slicer software like Cura. The software will create a 3D printable file from the image, which you can then adjust, modify, and print. I would recommend printing these models vertically to capture more detail and use a raft for stability​​.

Can I convert a JPG to an STL?

  • Yes, you can convert a JPG to an STL file. Free online tools like ImagetoSTL or can convert your JPG or PNG photo into STL mesh files which are suitable for 3D printing. Once you have the STL file, you can slice it for your 3D printer​​.

Can you turn a picture into a 3D print?

  • Absolutely, you can turn a picture into a 3D print. Using free online tools and software, you can convert an image in JPG format into an STL file, which can then be edited and prepared for 3D printing​​.

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