Pictures in plastic

The Pictures in Plastic project introduces students to lithophanes using 3D printing to bring a 2D photo to life. Students practice their photography skills to capture an image and then use public domain, web-based software to convert their image into a lithophane before printing. While the project is intended to be a single lesson with printing following the lesson, the project can be extended to a second lesson by either extending the photography section of the project or by testing the printed designs and suggesting future improvements.
Design and TechnologyArt and DesignHumanitiesScienceComputing
Years | Grades
8th Grade | 12-13 years9th Grade | 13-14 years10th Grade | 14-15 years11th Grade | 15-16 years
Lesson 1: 90 minutes Print time: ~ 1 hour 45 minutes

Pictures in plastic trailer
Play 0:30


  • Capture an image to convert into a lithophane
  • Use an online convertor to convert the 2D image file to a lithophane
  • Design and create a lithophane suitable for 3D printing
  • Understand the challenges faced with 3D printing lithophanes
  • Slice and print the lithophane

Tools and equipment

  • BE3D eDee printer with PLA filament
  • Internet-enabled computer and mouse
  • Example lithophane
  • Digital camera

Skill requirements

To participate in the lesson, students should be able to:
  • Comfortable using the basic functions of digital cameras
  • Comfortable transferring files between digital cameras and computers
  • Comfortable navigating the Internet in a safe manner to access the online image converter
  • Comfortable using DeeControl software including adjusting print settings
  • Able to use the BE3D eDee printer

Pictures in Plastic walkthrough
Locked 2:36

3D models overview

  • Total print time 17 hours
  • Total filament 17.8 m
  • Additional non-printable components
  • Printed all at once
eDee lithophane
  • 2 hours
  • 3.3 m
Curved eDee lithophane
  • 15 hours
  • 14.5 m
Note: Values are calculated for one set of models.

Lesson resources

  • Lesson plan
  • Example lithophane
  • Worksheet
  • Walkthrough
  • Walkthrough video
  • Presentation
  • 3D models
  • 3D print instructions
  • Curriculum Alignment: ISTE standard compliant