Lesson Plan: 3D Printed Lithophane

I submitted the following, Lesson Plan: 3D Printed Lithophane, as a last minute entry into the FormLabs: Innovate and Educate Challenge in hopes of winning a Form 2 resin 3D printer. Entries composed of a lesson plan pdf and related STL files were required to be posted to Pinshape. My lesson is posted at https://pinshape.com/items/29307-3d-printed-lesson-plan-3d-printed-lithophane. The Form 2 has been on my Ultimate Home Digital Fabrication Workshop list for more than a year.

One of the issues I had with my entry is that I have no idea what educators want out of a digital fabrication ‘lesson plan’. Do educators want a word-for-word lesson with screen shots of every technical step and sample files? Do they want lesson stems that can build off or just examples with some classroom context? Does anyone really need a list of standards and Bloom’s levels for every activity?

In the past, I’ve tried to have my lesson ideas start with an engaging real-world problem and follow my design, make, share process. Here is the lesson plan. Would appreciate any feedback as I don’t typically write formal lesson plans.


3D Printed Lithophanes


Josh Ajima


Art, Technology

Grade Level(s):

Grades 6-12


1 hour

Lesson Objectives:

Students will investigate concepts of opacity, translucence and contrast using 3D printed Lithophanes.

Students will investigate the transformation of 2D images to 3D models.

Students will explore 3D printing as new material/method for creating art.


Virginia – Visual Arts Standards of Learning

-AI.6 The student will use a variety of traditional and contemporary media (e.g., two-dimensional, three- dimensional, multidimensional) to create works of art.

-AI.12 The student will identify technological developments in the visual arts.

-AII.5 The student will use contemporary media, tools, and processes to create works of art.


-Digital Cameras
-Computer with photo editing software and internet access -3D Printer
-LithophaneTestCard3mm.stl – 3D print
-MLK Lithophane – 3D print
-Test Card.png – 2D print


-Lithophane Test Card models were created using the Test Card image at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File:Test_card.png and converted into an STL via http:// 3dp.rocks/lithophane/.

-MLK Lithophane model was created from image at https:// http://www.loc.gov/item/99404332/ and converted to an STL via customizer at http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:74322.

Anticipatory Set:

8 min.

*Teacher has started a 3D lithophane printing before class starts timed to end during student independent practice.

-Students are asked to think about what makes a good black and white photograph.

-Students are asked to take 2 black and white photographs using class digital cameras or personal devices and save the photos to a computer with photo editing software.

Introduce and Model New Knowledge:
12 min.

-A lithophane is a 3D artwork or image that can be seen clearly when backlit.

*Teacher shows MLK Lithophane – 3D print. Shows flat first and then backlit. Teacher passes MLK Lithophane for students to view.

-Traditional lithophanes were etched or molded out of thin porcelain.

-The thickness of the material in a lithophane determines the amount of light that can pass though the material.

-If light is totally blocked by a material, the material is opaque.

-If light can pass through a material but objects can not be seen clearly on the other side, the material is translucent.

-Contrast is the difference in tone between lightest to darkest.

-Black & white photos and lithophanes both rely on strong contrast.

*Teacher shows LithophaneTestCard – 3D print and Test Card.png – 2D print. (Use Test Card model thickness that shows the widest range of tones between light and dark using available filament.)

-Software can convert a 2D image into a 3D model by changing the height of the 3D model based on the lightness or darkness of the area of the 2D image.

**Formative Assessment: Which part of the lithophane will allow the most amount of light to pass through? The least?

-3D printing represents a new medium for creating artwork.

Guided Practice:

15 min.

*Teacher models creating a lithophane STL file using a sample photograph taken in the classroom using available photo editing software. Students practice using same image.

-Optional: Convert color image to black and white. -Crop Image

-Adjust contrast of image.

**Formative Assessment: Which part of the 2D photograph will be the thickest on the lithophane? The thinnest?

-Optional: Erase background or distracting elements in photo.

-Save edited photo.
-Upload image to http://3dp.rocks/lithophane/ -Change Image Settings to positive image.

-Optional: Change settings for maximum size and thickness to match desired project size and opacity of filament being used.

-Refresh and download STL to common network location.

Independent Practice:
15 min.

-Students create a lithophane STL file using one of the black and white photos they took at the beginning of class.

**Formative Assessment: Are the darkest parts of the image showing as the thickest part of the lithophane preview? Are the lightest parts of the image showing as the thinnest part of the lithophane preview?

-Students save STL to common network location using appropriate file naming conventions.


10 min.

-Teacher demonstrates slicing an STL file using completed student lithophane as an example.

-Teacher removes finished lithophane (ideally of sample image used in guided practice) that was printing at beginning of class from the 3D printer.

**Formative Assessment: What term can be used for the thinnest part of the lithophane? What term could be used for the thickest part of the lithophane?

-Teacher demonstrates starting 3D print of student lithophane.