How to: 2D images into 3D models-3D Printing

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How to: 2D images into 3D models-3D Printing
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Why should you want to turn 2D designs/drawings into 3D models. Well there are many reasons : whether you want a model of a complex logo that would require lots of time and effort to replicate, or you don’t know how to design and want a starting point and 2D drawings can give your designs a personal touch. For example you could turn a child’s drawing to a 3D object, a hand drawing is much more personal than a computer generated CAD drawing. In this tutorial I am going to go through the steps, one by one in detail. I will include 2 examples as well, one of which is how to replicate a key.

3D Printing Keys

Right so lets get to it. For the main tutorial I will be showing how to convert a 2D drawing into a coffee art stencil. A coffee art stencil is a stencil used to sprinkle chocolate or other powder onto top of coffee in shapes.

Okay so the first step is to draw you design, however while drawing try to make it work on a 3D printer. So there aren’t any really close gaps, you should know your 3D printer’s capabilities. Of course with my coffee art stencil I will add enough gap for the powder to go through. I like to use a pen to make strong bold line which will be easier to work with but a firm pencil should work well.

Drawing designs

The next step is to use a 2D scanner, most printers have these now or if you don’t have a scanner you can use a app on your phone which uses your phone’s camera as a scanner. “Office Lens” by Microsoft work well for this and it is available and android and IOS. Now scan your design as a image (JEPG or PNG) and if you are on a proper 2D scanner use a medium setting for resolution, it’s not a massive deal here about DPI. But make sure to use black and white setting, that is very important as you don’t want any stray colour from anywhere on your scan. This should also allow colour pictures to be scanned, such as a key.

Scan Settings

While you are still in your scanner settings you may want to decrease the brightness a bit as well as increase the contrast a bit if you can. Just adjust those settings so the lines are pretty much solid but the background is still white. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Scan Settings

Now we have to fix the image in image editing software, I will be using GIMP 2; a free image editing software ( So load in our image and you will want to make the lines solid. I use the pencil tool with the pixel brush to go along the lines to make them solid as we will be using the bucket tool later on. You may also want to use a white pencil tool to clean the lines a bit. I also wouldn’t bother cropping the image. Now use a black bucket tool to fill in the areas you want solid and keep the bits you want be cut out in white. So export the image and  replace the old one.

GIMP 2.8

Cleaning up the lines

Zoom in to clean the lines so the pixels form a solid line

Bucket fill tool used on the fixed scan

Before we can import out sketch into our 3D modelling software of choice, I will be using TinkerCAD as it is free, easy to use and does what I need it to do for now. Go to a online image to SVG converter, I use this one : SVG Converter. Next upload your image either by clicking the “choose file” button or by dragging your file onto the button, you don’t need to mess with the optional settings unless you want to but I’m not going to. Then click convert and you get a SVG file downloaded. You can preview the SVG file to check everything is okay by clicking it and it will open in a web browser, if not just drag it into a new tab in Chrome.

Online SVG Converter

We are on the final stretch now: 3D modeling. I will use TinkerCAD but you can use any CAD software that will allow you to import SVG’s, but TinkerCAD is free and easy : TinkerCAD. On TinkerCAD go onto the right and click import then upload your SVG file we just made. You are going to want to scale the SVG down to at least 10% to get the right size, even 1% in some cases. Then set the height to 2-3mm depending on how you want to use your SVG.

Importing SVG’s into TInkerCAD

Now you can use the imported SVG as any other shape. The design is now up to you and what you want it to be. I will include 2 example below to get you started.

Coffee art stencil

This is the same model in the step by step tutorial and it was my first test of this method. And yes I know I could have just found a silhouette of a heart on the web, although this method is more fun (in my opinion) and it is a lot more personal. I started off by tracing my desired cup on paper then I drew my design. I scanned it in and edited it on GIMP just like in the tutorial. On TInkerCAD I made a circle with a diameter of 8 cm then added a rim on top of 2mm tall to catch any chocolate powder that doesn’t make it onto the heart design. Then I inserted the heart logo into the middle. Then I printed it, and it worked a treat!

Coffee Art Stencil design

Coffee art

Replica Key for Padlock

This idea is certainly much more interesting, and possibly controversial: such as when the TSA’s padlock keys got leaked and were put on the web as 3D printable files. I decided to print a replica of a key for a cheap padlock I owned that looked like it could be replicated due to the big holes in it. So like the tutorial I scanned the key in black and white and I spent a little bit of time cleaning the key in GIMP. I then  imported it into TinkerCAD then I scaled it to the correct size. After that I had to cut a cylinder out of my key so that it would fit into the lock, I just eye-balled this with a little bit of help from my calliper.

Now does it work? Well the answer is sort of: I don’t know what mechanism this lock uses as it definitely is not pin tumbler, it almost looks like a skeleton key type mechanism. I am no lock expert so if anyone is please tell me what lock it is in the comment. So the key fits in the lock and twists in the lock. However the plastic is not rigid enough at that thickness to twist the latch. I tried just about every material : PLA, ABS, PETG. None of these were sturdy enough from my tests, sadly.  I would like to try a pin tumbler lock as well with this method, but that is for another blog.

Design of key

3D Printed keys

Trying out 3D printed key

In conclusion I hope this article has helped, informed  or was interesting to you about making 2D drawings into 3D Printable designs. If you have any questions or suggestions feel free to ask them in the comments. I will include the coffee art file below so you can print it or just take a look:

[download id=”1616″]

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