3D modeling can be intimidating for a newcomer. Creating models from 2D images could be a more intuitive way to enter the field. In fact, there are several ways to convert JPG and PNG files to STL files in order to derive a 3D model from an image.
But before we explain these methods, let’s talk about what they’re not: Though it’s true that 3D models can be made from flat pictures, the methods described in this article will not produce complete, detailed 3D models. Instead, the methods we’ll be discussing are more suited for giving flat 2D designs a three dimensional, yet still more-or-less flat, physical form.
So if you’re wondering if you’ll immediately get a bust of the Mona Lisa using a picture of it, the answer is no (unless you flex your artistic muscles a little). But that doesn’t mean the following methods don’t have their uses!
The first and probably easiest option is to use the 3D builder app that comes pre-installed on almost any up-to-date Windows computer. The app has a feature that can convert an image into an STL or OBJ file very easily. Note that this will not work on Mac, only on Windows 10. Here’s how it’s done:
If you don’t have a Windows computer, another option is to use a built-in feature of Ultimaker’s Cura. The tool is not as powerful as the one in 3D builder but works perfectly fine and can even be used for making lithophanes. This is also much easier if you’re using Cura as a slicer because you don’t need to export and import as much:
Another way to convert an image into a 3D printable file is to make a lithophane. What’s a lithophane, you ask? A lithophane is a three-dimensional object that uses thickness differences to change the amount of light passing itself. These variations create the dark and light parts of an image, seemingly “embedded” in the object. The image is therefore only visible when there is light behind, and it can’t be made out of more than one color.
There are many ways to make a lithophane but the easiest is to use the image to lithophane converter, a much stronger tool with more settings and better results than the Cura method.
Feature image source: www.dailymail.co.uk
License: The text of "How to Convert Images (JPG/PNG) into STLs for 3D Printing" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.