Image to 3D Model: How to Create a 3D Model from Photos

We have used photos to capture and preserve special moments with loved ones, breathtaking scenery, intricate mechanical designs, and more for almost a century. People have been realising over the past ten or so years how 3D printing can preserve our memories. Instead of having a photo of your ideal car, why not have a scale model?

Although you may also utilise your existing images to create 3D prints, this is best for people who want to produce new models of items that are important to them. In actuality, there are numerous ways to accomplish this; below, we’ve included the top choices based on factors like time, money, and skill level.

It is extremely possible to turn two-dimensional images into three-dimensional art, bringing out the subtleties of the topic in a whole new way, whether you’re working with several drone views or old photos from your parents’ wedding.

If you aren’t prepared to print the digital file yourself after you have it in 3D, you can check out Dezpad. Your new model will be shipped to you in no time by one of our skilled partners in 3D printing!

Let’s see how to obtain the renders now!

Specialized Applications

Taking pictures is just the beginning of the procedure. Luckily, there isn’t much difficulty left. Converter apps use an already-taken image to produce a 3D representation. Although it is the least customisable, this is the simplest and most direct way to create a 3D image.

#1 Smoothie-3D’

One of the first generally accessible picture conversion tools was Smoothie-3D. It was once completely free, but as of late, it has switched to a donation model, requiring you to pay a tiny $2.50 setup charge in order to use it. Using the available tools, you may upload an image and create an outline around it. The outlined image is then used by the programme to create a 3D render, which may be exported as an OBJ or STL file type or any other file type that is compatible with Slicer. It is best to use symmetrical photographs since the tracing may obscure details on asymmetrical ones.

Smoothie-3D not only lets you draw an outline to create a 3D image, but it also lets you morph the image into predefined shapes, such as cylinders, cones, and more. Even the camera orientation can be altered to view the scene from various perspectives.

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Customizability: Medium
  • Output formats: OBJ, STL, VRML 2, USDZ
  • Supported platforms: Any (online)

#2 Embossify

With Embossify, you can take any 2D image and turn it into 3D reliefs, lithophanes, and models that can be CNC-routed and printed. A goal width and depth can be chosen, and an option to create your model just from the brighter or darker areas of the picture is also available for customisation.

The resolution of models is limited to approximately 108k facets, however you can still create an infinite number of photos for free. For around $5 per rendering, you may create models with greater resolution.

Even though it’s not the most potent programme by any means, Embssify serves a particular purpose on this list. It can produce models that are great tools to utilise with other 3D design programmes. Using a 3D modelling application such as 3D Builder or Blender, you may import your Embossify model and use it as a stamp or bool to subtract from an already-existing object. You can really make your models unique by doing this.

  • Difficulty: Low
  • Customizability: Low
  • Output format: STL
  • Supported platform: Any (online)

3D Modeling

Using 3D modelling software, you can easily add three dimensions to your images. Although it’s the most complicated choice on this list, the outcomes can be really impressive.

#1 Blender

Professional animators, engineers, and designers are increasingly using Blender, a free and open-source 3D modelling programme with hundreds of settings and options. Blender is robust, complicated, and customisable. There are a tonne of tutorials available to help you become familiar with Blender if you’re not already.

You can input images into the programme with the FaceBuilder add-on when you’re ready to take on a more complex task. Make an outline of the head in mesh, insert pins in the desired locations (lips, cheeks, nose, etc.), and then mould the mesh to fit the head. You can overlay textures from the snapshot to make the subject look quite similar.

  • Difficulty: High
  • Customizability: High
  • Output format: STL
  • Supported platforms: Windows, MacOS, Linux

#2 Microsoft 3D Builder

Given that 3D Builder is preinstalled on the majority of Windows 10 and later devices, including tablets, you may already be familiar with it. In addition to being excellent 3D design software in and of itself, it has a robust integrated 2D-to-3D picture conversion mechanism that turns your image into a useable model. Images with a solid colour background, such logos or characters with distinct outlines, are ideal candidates for this technique. Since a more realistic image will be unable to discern between the foreground and background, it may become confused and yield unwanted consequences.

With its straightforward procedure and reasonable amount of flexibility, 3D Builder is a wonderful choice for a wide range of use cases. You can adjust your results by dragging your image into the programme, which offers you a range of choices.

  • Difficulty: Low
  • Customizability: Medium
  • Output format: 3MF, PLY, STL
  • Supported platform: Windows

#3 Tinkercad

The standard toolbox used in industrial design, whether for automobiles, homes, or products, is CAD (computer-aided design) software. Choosing one is hard because there are so many options available, including Tinkercad, for creating 3D photos.

The Extrude tool, which raises the height of a 2D design to create a 3D image, is a feature shared by CAD programmes. With a little adjustment, this tool can be used to produce a 3D model, depending on the user’s skill level.

One particularly user-friendly CAD programme that is browser-based and simple to use is Tinkercad. It’s the ideal tool for a straightforward activity like extruding an image to an STL; all you have to do is convert your photo to an SVG first so Tinkercad can read it.

  • Difficulty: Low
  • Customizability: Very high
  • Output formats: STL, OBJ
  • Supported platforms: Any (online)

Lithophanes

In the purest sense, lithophanes are three-dimensional images. They function similarly to film negatives in that an area in the picture will appear darker when light passes through the negative the more material is added to it. Here are some programmes to think about in order to make the procedure simpler.

#1 PhotoToMesh

On this list, PhotoToMesh is the only programme that can be downloaded specifically for lithophane. It is also the only one that needs to be purchased, though users are advised to test out the free demo edition of the programme first.

  • Difficulty: Low
  • Customizability: High
  • Output format: STL
  • Cost: ~$35 or ~$50
  • Supported platform: Windows

#2 Lithophane Maker

True to its name, Lithophane Maker produces excellent 3D images suitable for ceiling fan covers, wall hangings, and lampshades.

The results are excellent gifts for family and friends, even though the programme doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as some of the others on this list!

  • Difficulty: Low
  • Customizability: High
  • Output format: STL
  • Supported platforms: Any (online)

#3 Image to Lithophane

One of the most user-friendly programmes on the list is Image to Lithophane. To get your own lithophane, just upload your photo, select the form you want (such as a dome, half-dome, or heart), and download it for free! Moreover, customisation choices are concealed near the top of the screen.

  • Difficulty: Low
  • Customizability: Medium
  • Output format: STL
  • Supported platforms: Any (online)

#4 ItsLitho

ItsLitho is perhaps the most complete lithophane programme on this list; it includes tutorials, a lithophane creator, and even a PLA and 3D printer store.

The range of options available to you on ItsLitho to design the precise print you like is a terrific feature. Before you click “print,” you can preview various coloured materials, flip the image you import into the programme, and change the light intensity to see exactly what you’re receiving. To ensure that you don’t lose all of your hard work, you can register an account to keep track of your lithophanes.

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Customizability: High
  • Output format: STL
  • Supported platforms: Any (online)

#5 Cura

A programme called Cura is a slicer; it converts 3D models into code that 3D printers can understand and use as printing instructions. Although it’s not a programme designed exclusively for lithophane, it can readily generate them. To print a JPG, just load it into Cura. A dialogue box will then appear. Make sure that “Darker is Higher” is selected, leave the majority of the options at their default settings, and move the Smoothing bar to the left to avoid blurring the image.

Set the infill to 100% after the file has been put onto the build plate using the aforementioned parameters. As a result, distracting infill pattern artefacts like lines or squares are removed, allowing the light to pass through. Simply select “Slice” after that to load it into your printer.

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Customizability: Medium
  • Output format: G-code
  • Supported platforms: Windows, MacOS, Linux

Photogrammetry

Although single-photo renders were the subject of this article’s first section, photogrammetry is an alternative method that yields considerably better results. Through this procedure, a complete 3D model is created by combining several photographs that were captured from various perspectives. Because photogrammetry is so strong, it’s starting to close the gap between 3D scanning and picture conversion.

A plethora of smartphone apps have emerged to capitalise on the improvement in picture quality seen in the most recent iPhones and Android phones, even if a professional DSLR camera is still likely the best for this kind of work. Having said that, a few, albeit expensive, programmes make use of desktop processing power for outcomes.

#1 Recap Pro

The same company that makes AutoCAD, Autodesk, also offers a cloud-based subscription service called Recap Pro. It gathers several images to produce a fully immersive 3D model, just like the other solutions on this list, but it’s designed especially to be used with drones. It’s a good middle-of-the-road alternative with a free trial that costs about $45 per month or $375 for a year’s subscription.

  • Difficulty: High
  • Customizability: High
  • Output format: OBJ
  • Supported platform: Windows

#2 RealityScan

With the help of the mobile software RealityScan, you can scan any object with your phone or tablet and produce a high-definition 3D render. The software guides you through taking pictures of your object from different perspectives and provides easy-to-follow instructions to make the process go as smoothly as possible. It uses these images to create a computer reconstruction of the thing. For optimum results, use an up-to-date smartphone and decent lighting. The quality of your photographs will decide the quality of your render.

In order to export your model, a Sketchfab account is required. All of RealityScan’s models are uploaded to Sketchfab in private. Although you can download the app for free, the amount of renders you can do and export will ultimately rely on your particular Sketchfab plan.

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Customizability: Low
  • Output format: FBX, USDZ, GLB/glTF
  • Supported platform: iOS 16 or higher, Android 7 or higher

#3 iTwin Capture Modeler

Despite likely being above the means of the typical hobbyist, iTwin Capture Modeller is nevertheless worthy of a spot on this list because of its incredible power and versatility.

It’s more of an industry-facing alternative that creates 3D representations of current situations using photos or lidar point clouds and is owned by the software business Bentley Systems. Engineers are better able to maintain and enhance current infrastructure because to the power of this kind of modelling.

  • Difficulty: High
  • Customizability: High
  • Output format: OBJ, FBX
  • Supported platform: Windows

#4 Metashape

Agisoft’s Metashape provides a few of paid features that are comparable to Context Capture but more reasonably priced. Among other things, the Standard Edition may combine panoramic photos or create 3D models by processing data from several cameras at once. Additional capabilities of the Professional Edition include the ability to precisely measure distances and topographical details, even from satellite imagery.

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Customizability: High
  • Output format: OBJ
  • Supported platform: Windows

Conclusion

Transforming images into intricate 3D models opens up a world of creative possibilities, blurring the lines between reality and digital representation. As you embark on this journey of converting photos into captivating 3D models, consider the potential integration of these models into various multimedia formats. Whether it’s for immersive 3D animation videos, engaging 2D animation video, or dynamic motion graphics, the versatility of your newly created 3D models can extend across a spectrum of visual storytelling. Collaborating with a specialized Motion Graphics Agency, such as SP Motion, can further amplify the impact of your 3D models in diverse visual mediums. This convergence of image-to-3D-model technology and the expertise of motion graphics professionals paves the way for a visually compelling narrative that captivates audiences across different platforms.

Contact us today to discuss your project, and let our skilled team turn your ideas into stunning, lifelike visualizations.

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