A Greyscale Image Hidden in Plastic - 3D Printed Lithophane

This item is available for purchase in our etsy store. image The object above was 3D printed on an Ultimaker 3D printer in 100micron thick layers of PLA plastic.  It is a three dimensional object that, when viewed with backlighting, appears to contain a greyscale image. Here is a picture of the same object with primarily front lighting. image Here is the original picture: At this point, you’re probably thinking I’m full of it and that the first picture was photoshopped.  Here’s a video showing the object being transitioned from primarily front lit to primarily back lit. This amazing piece of photo art is called a lithophane.  Varying thickness of material results in areas within the image appearing lighter or darker as a greyscale representation of a photo.  According to the Blair Museum of Lithophanes, they were first created using translucent porcelain in England in the 1820s. I can only imagine the hours it would take to painstakingly carve one of these out of porcelain.  It’s actually kind of mind blowing to think that someone was able to create a negative of an image in their head and then sculpt it into something that formed an image when backlit.

Matthew Gorton
Matthew Gorton


Matthew Gorton is the founder of He is a mechanical / materials engineer by education and has worked as a design, process and quality engineer in the medical, electronics, and aerospace industries. He is enthusiastic about applying all he has learned through these experiences to 3D printing and sharing that with others.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.