Introduction: 3D Print SVG Lineart (Inkscape and Tinkercad)

Line art is the vector equivalent to pencil sketches. Rendering such artwork onto 3D objects creates a vast amount of artistic possibility. This tutorial uses Inkskape and Tinkercad, and assumes a basic knowledge of the programs. Other programs may use similar techniques to achieve this goal, this method is a good balance between simple, flexible, and free.




Step 1: (Important!) Determine the Dimensions and Print Parameters of Your Object

Minimum Line Width
e.g. 0.4mm nozzle + 0.1mm buffer = 0.5mm minimum line width

Know the 3d printer's nozzle size you plan to use (0.4mm is common). Take the nozzle size and add at least 0.1mm to it as a buffer. This will be your minimum line (stroke) width. The buffer will ensure the Slicer converts the lines correctly, otherwise you'll have to use XY compensation. Also it is good use this parameter for spacing between lines, otherwise the intended shape may become blurred.

Piece Area (x, y)

e.g 145mm (x) 145mm (y)

Decide the overall area of the work piece and create a rectangular outline as a reference. There will be a point were resizing becomes difficult, so know this a the beginning is helpful.

Canvas height (absolute z)

e.g. base panel height 1mm (z)

A base layer (e.g. base panel) will form the canvas for the lineart. The lineart will be extruded above the base panel.

Lineart height (absolute z)

lineart object A height 2mm (z)

The lineart will be extruded from the absolute bottom of workspace Z:0. This means the real lineart height is base panel height + lineart height above panel. Example: Panel is 1mm high, lineart height above the panel is 1mm. The real lineart height - 2mm

Lineart height variation

lineart object A height 2mm (z), lineart object B height 2.5mm (z)

The line art can be a common height above the base. However, to spice things up, the line art object can be created in different layers for different heights. This can be done for contrasting geometry, or color changes. Separate layers are critical to achieve this. Forgetting to separate objects with different height can waste a lot of time.

Step 2: Draw or Trace the Desired Object

Draw, Trace, or Import the desired object in Inkscape.

Optional: Create separate layer for objects with different height.

For those new to Inkscape, the is a vast amount of helpful material just a (insert favorite search engine) search away.

Step 3: Scale Line Art to Canvas Area

  1. Scale and position the lineart objects within the base panel area.
  2. Change the stroke width of all lineart to at least the minimum line width.
  3. For detailed objects, ensure a minimum line width gap between line to preserve detail.

Step 4: Point of No Return! Convert Stroke to Path.

  1. Save a copy of your work as a backup, in case the the artwork needs to be change. (Shift+Ctrl+Alt+S).
  2. Select All paths in a lineart layer. Click the layer then Edit > Select All (Ctrl+A).
  3. Convert stroke to path, Path > Stroke to Path (Ctrl+Alt+C) (may take a moment to compute).
  4. Repeat 2 - 3 for each layer.

Step 5: Unite Paths

  1. Select All paths in a lineart layer. Click the layer then Edit > Select All (Ctrl+A).
  2. Union the paths to one path. Path > Union (Ctrl+=) (may take some time to compute).
  3. Repeat for all layers (if they have multiple paths).

Step 6: Save Each Layer Separately

  1. Hide all layers expect for one.
  2. Save a copy with an adequate description if the layer in the filename. File > Save a copy...(Shift+Ctrl+Alt+S)
  3. Hide previously saved layer, unhide the next layer and repeat until all layers are saved in separate files.

Step 7: Import SVG Files to Tinkercad

Start a new 3d project in Tinkercad or import this on an exist one.

  1. Click Import, then select the .svg files from your computer
  2. Use the default settings (Center on Artboard, Scale:100) and click Import.
  3. DO NOT MOVE OBJECTS! This will only ruin the layer's alignment. This will be fixed in later steps.
  4. Repeat 1 - 3 until all layers are imported

Step 8: Set Each Layer's Height

  1. Click on a layer then click on the handle (square) in the center. The extrusion height value will be displayed
  2. Click on the value (10 is the default) and edit to the desired height above the print bed (absolute Z). Remember this value should be base panel height + lineart height.
  3. Repeat until all layers are the desired height.
  4. Select all the layers by Click and drag select or Ctrl+A

  5. Optional: Move the group around the workplane as needed for merging with other objects if desired.

Step 9: Export and Slice, and Troubleshoot

  1. Click Export and click .STL to download the model.
  2. Feed the .stl into your favorite 3d slicer
  3. Slice and Print!

Slicer Troubleshooting

  • Problem: Sliced model has missing or broken lines.
  • Reason: The geometry is too thin for the slicer with the current nozzle size.
  • Best Solution: Increase minimum line width be at least 0.1mm. Sorry, but for best results you need to go back to Step 3 and change the stroke width then redo the all the steps after. This will correct the lines without affecting the canvas size.
  • Worst Solution: Increase XY compensation by at least 0.1mm in print settings. This is fast but it affects the whole model. If the print is meant to join with a separate print, the dimensions will be off and it may not fit.