Since getting a 3D Printer, I've been wondering on how to start designing prints myself. I've written up a short guide on turning images into shapes, then into models and finally making a print.

In this article I will be using Adobe Photoshop, Cinema 4D and PrusaSlicer. You can probably substitute them for Gimp, Blender and a slicing tool for your printer if you'd like.

Finding images that can serve as shapes

If you already have an image you'd like to turn into a printable model, you can skip this step.

For my keychain, I've searched for some Monstera leaves, as I'd like to make a leaf keychain. Here's an example image:

Tracing the image in Photoshop

The goal here is to trace the image into Paths. You can use the Pen Tool, or cheat with a selection like I have.

Upon loading the image into Photoshop, I've done the below steps:

  1. Use the Magic Wand tool to select the leaves
  2. Copy them into a new image (you can also use a layer) to get rid of the background
  3. Adjust the Lightness (CTRL+U) of them to form a solid black colour

You should have something like this:

I have removed one of the leaves as I didn't like the result. On the remaining leaves, I've drawn spheres where the hole should be:

Finally, I have made a Color Range selection (Select -> Color Range) to select all of the shapes. Then, I've hit the selection with a right click and selected "Make Work Path"

Now, the shapes are traced with Paths, and a Work Path was created:

Using the Paths in 3D Modeling Software

In Photoshop, I've went to File -> Export -> Paths to Illustrator.

Upon creating a new project in Cinema 4D, I've dragged and dropped the paths to the C4D window, resulting in the paths being imported:

Extruding the paths to form 3D Shapes in Cinema 4D

In Cinema 4D, I've created an Extrude object for every path I want to turn into a shape, and dropped the paths into each object:

In the Extrude object properties I've set the distance to be much smaller, and made sure "Create Single Object" is selected under the Caps tab.

Then, I've hit "C" to convert these Extruded objects into editable objects.

Poking holes in the shapes

In Cinema 4D, a Boole object can be used to subtract shapes. I've created a Boole for each leaf object and thrown a cylinder in there, to subtract the cylinders from the leaves:

Now, after converting these to editable objects (pressing C), I can export the model as a file recognized by PrusaSlicer. I've used OBJ in this process.

Time to print!

The file can now be imported into PrusaSlicer:

This is what I ended up with after tweaking the scaling a bit. You are welcome to setup any settings you'd like!

Happy printing!