Picture of How to Make a Paper Lithophane
Taken from Wikipedia:
A lithophane (or lithopane or French: lithophanie) is an etched or moulded artwork in thin very translucent porcelain that can only be seen clearly when back lit with a light source. It is a design or scene in intaglio that appears "en grisaille" (in gray) tones

One of my friends at my hackerspace in Northampton, Eng-a-land, called NortHACKton (  is attempting to make himself a CNC so that he can carve one of these. It was while we were discussing this and how to go about making one that came up with this variation of the idea, so this instructable is dedicate to Max and I hope that his efforts to produce his own lithophane go equally as well.

Right with all of that background out the way what follows is a guide to making your own paper lithophane. I hope you'll be pleasantly surprised by how simple it is to achieve such effective results. 

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Step 1: Creating an Image

Picture of Creating an Image
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  • First you'll need an image of something you want to turn into a lithophane.
  • Convert the image to a grey scale version of itself
  • Then reduce the number of colours within the image to the number of layers you want your lithophane to have.
  • Separate each colour into it's own layer and print them all out individually.
  • Cut those images out and stick them all together and voilà you'll have a paper lithophane.
  • Simplesh!
It does sound too simple and that's the trouble I had. I could convert the image to grey scale but I had troubles reducing the number of colours and then setting the threshold value for each layer to the desired value of grey. So after a lot of faffing around I wrote my own program to do it. The whole thing probably took longer than learning to use a decent drawing package but I have the satisfaction of knowing exactly how it works.

dkitch871 year ago
I tried using the software provided but the save layers icon seems to be missing
nanoBorg881 year ago
I made something similar today. I used a bit of oil on the paper to make it slightly more transparent, although it was a simple circle design. In total 6 layers plus a front and back.
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VVBoredGuy2 years ago
awesome! would be a fantastic way to create a personalised lampshade
scoochmaroo2 years ago
Ah, cool effect! It does seem easy until you consider the amount of attention you need to pay to the first steps. Would be a unique way to create family portraits!
iectyx3c4 years ago
Awesome. I'm voting for it. Does this work well with a laser printer, or only with inkjet? Maybe it already tells this, but I missed it :( Anyway, great i'ble so thanks!
msraynsford (author)  iectyx3c4 years ago
Cool, thanks for your vote. My stuff was printed on the laser at work. I guess anything that produces two distinct regions so you can cut one out it fine.
ciscu924 years ago
very good idea!

i think only you must use very thin paper to have a good effect, Is that right?
msraynsford (author)  ciscu924 years ago
Actually these two were done with whatever paper was in the printer at work. If you want to do 4-5 layers then yes thinner paper would probably be advisable.