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Stencil Lithophanes with LuBan

Updated: Sep 24, 2021

The Stencil shape Lithophane gives you the ability to select what shape your Lithophane will be created on. This shape is called a Template. In the example below, I am using the number 1 and adding a photo to it.

If you do not already have LuBan installed, click here to download the program.

Completed Lithophane using Stencil feature in LuBan
Stencil Lithophane

Stencil Template

I created the number 1 in gimp by using the text feature, finding a font I wanted to use, and exporting it in .png format. For LuBan, the background of your template needs to be black, and the template you want the photo to be in needs to be filled in white. Another option is to use a shape with a black outline, white infill, and white background.

The number 1 created in gimp to use as a stencil in LuBan for a Lithophane
Number 1 Stencil Shape

Choose a Photo

Lithophanes work best with high quality, high contrast photos.

Creating the Lithophane

To start making your Lithophane, open LuBan and go to File > Create > Lithophane

LuBan File Menu structure showing how to go to the Lithophane feature
LuBan File > Create >Lithophane

Next, choose Stencil from the Shape dropdown.

Import the Template first by clicking Browse next to Select template.

Next, Import the Photo by clicking on Browse next to Select photo.

For me, this is what it will look like in LuBan:

Number 1 Template with photo in LuBan using Stencil Lithophane
Template and Photo

You can make micro-adjustments to the photo's location by changing the Center X and Center Y selections and rescaling the photo.

TIP Adjust one setting at a time and press Enter after changing the setting to have the change take effect.

TIP Make minor adjustments as needed

Photo Adjustment options for Stencil Lithophane in LuBan
Photo Adjustment options

Once your Lithophane is set up how you like it, you can click on Save Model to export the files to your computer.

Color Lithophane

If you used a color photo, LuBan would auto-generate a colored file you can print out in color and put behind the Lithophane to give your Lithophane color. Yes, the file does look weird, but this will work great! You want to print this on transparency sheets, make sure you get the correct ones for your laser printer or an inkjet printer. You can use your favorite glue to hold it in place, but a regular glue stick or super glue will work fine.

Color file generated by LuBan
Color file generated by LuBan

Print the Lithophane

When you are ready to print, you need to slice the file in your favorite slicer. I use Cura and the gadunky profile for my Ender 3; it seems to work best for me. You will need to find a profile or make one that works for your printer.

This was the completed Lithophane:

Completed Stencil Lithophane created with LuBan
Completed Stencil Lithophane

The example I have been using was part of a slightly bigger project, where I used 2021 and senior photos to create a gift. The project was entirely made in LuBan, using the Box function and the Stencil Lithophane as the lid.

The 2021 Box Lithophane was my first attempt at such a project. The lithophanes were not glued into place yet for the photo. I printed each box, and lithophane separately and then used a file to create a slot for the LED strips to go through, drilled a hole for the power cable, and secured all of that with hot glue.

Check out how to make Custom Name Lights (or number lights like below) here.

Box Lithophane using 2021 as the template created in LuBan
2021 Box Lithophane

Lighting the Lithophane

I used HitLights LED Strips to light the Lithophane. These lights were bright, had a wireless remote to change the colors, and were not battery powered. I had just enough of them to fit around the shapes.

For smaller projects, this kit will work great. I will most likely purchase a spool of LED lights for future projects and learn to solder the connections.

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