How to Make a 3D Scan of Yourself - I Made It at Techshop

Introduction: How to Make a 3D Scan of Yourself - I Made It at Techshop

About: I am an auto safety engineer. In my spare time I like sailing and radio control airplanes and boats.

This instructable will cover some hints and tips on how to successfully create a 3D scanned surface for yourself to use for various other purposes.  This will go through using AutoDesk 123Catch to create the scan.

I made it at TechShop

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Step 1: Get the Program

The application to create the 3D scan is available from AutoDesk at   It is a freely downloadable program and also available as an mobile device app and or web application.  I recommend you download the application because it has a 3D print function that can create .stl files to use with AutoDesk MeshMixer application to use for cleaning up the scan.  The downloadable program can regenerate the mesh to higher detail levels that the web and mobile device application don't seem to have the option for.

Step 2: Dress Appropriately and Find a Good Location

We created many editions of Frankenstein 3D models while attempting to do this before getting a successful result.  Some things we found that don't work well.

Dark colored plain clothes
Clothes that look the same from all angles
poor lighting conditions
lighting conditions with a lot of shadows
unstable seating position
Items in the background with colors that blend well with you.

From what we can tell, the 123Catch program uses color matching to line up images to make the 3D scan.  It gets confused very easily.  If you have something like a brown colored bush in the background and it overlaps with your brown hair, you will probably get a huge blob in your head where it mixes the 2 together.  If you wear clothes that are plain colored and dark, there is little to no contrast in them and 123Catch will get confused and mix different sides of you together.  If there are shadows in the image it will pick up on the differences in coloring and have a difficult time matching the shadowed regions to the non shadowed regions.

For clothing, what worked best is something with large stripes or color patterns with a lot of contrast.  If they look different on the front and back it's even better.  Ligher colored jeans seem to work pretty good for pants.  Black dress pants seem to work particularly bad.

We found it doesn't work to try and hold the camera stationary and move the object.  123Catch will focus on the background in these cases and you will get an excellent scan of the background with a hole where the object you want is supposed to be.  You have to move around the object for this to work.  Make sure you have enough room in the location you chose.

Step 3: Get Ready to Take Pictures

Find something very stable to sit on.  If you move even a little bit during the process your 3D scan will be confused and distorted.  It is super important to be as still as possible during this entire process.   The face is very difficult to capture in a scan without distortion.  Moving your head at all will create problems.  Find a very stable seat or stool to use.  Find something to focus on in the background to avoid moving your head.  For taking the pictures, any digital camera can be used.  We tried iphone4/5 and Android phone cameras as well as a medium end DSLR.  We did not get any better results out of the DSLR then the cell phone cams even using photoshop to try to enhance the contrast.  The thing that seems to be the most important as to whether you get good results or not, is not moving.

Step 4: Take the Pictures

We found it works best to take the pictures in sequence so there is little change between the images.  123Catch seems to be able to include images easiest if there is only a small angle change between each image.  It is best to start from the side or back and work around in a circle from there.  It produces the worst result if you start on the face and work around back to the face.  You will move enough so that the face doesn't quite align with itself and you'll get distortion in the scan.  Any closeup you take of the face to try to improve detail needs to be close enough so that Catch can't tell that you've moved a little.  Don't capture any below the shoulder if you try to do face closeups and you want to scan more of your body.  Take the pictures as quickly as you comfortably can because it reduces the chances that you will move during the photographing and cause distortion in the scan.  You can take 40-70 pictures to upload.  Don't be shy and take not enough.

Step 5: Upload the Photos and Create the Scan.

Open the application on your PC and use it to upload images and create the initial scan which will be at "mobile" - low resolution.  I always use the email option instead of the wait option.  It seems much more reliable in actually producing the scan, especially if there are a lot of images involved.  When it's finished view the scan.  If it's pretty okay looking you're ready to proceeed and clean it up.  If it looks really frankensteinish, then you want to try again or remove some images and reprocess.  Sometimes we found that too many images caused a program where repeats of similar angles were just different enough from you moving to cause a lot of distortion in the scan.  If you can't get anything worthwhile after a few tries, it's best to just try again with a new set of pictures.  It took us many tries to get our first decent scan.  Don't get discouraged.

Step 6: Cleanup

If you got something that looked okay enough at mobile resolution, use the box and lasso tools to remove the background surfaces and get down to just the surface of you.  After doing that, use the box select to select just the scan and use the resolution tool to increase to standard mesh detail.   Then repeat one more time to get maximum detail.  I found it works much better to do this in 2 steps instead of going straight to maximum detail.  I use the email me and not the wait option for processing.  Occasionally one never completes and you will never get the email for it.  If it takes more then 20-30 minutes, resend it for processing.

Step 7: Make a .stl File

After you have the scan out in maximum detail you can make a .stl file.  You can also just save as an .obj file and have the 3D file that way.  You can use the 3D print option to get .stl.  It will force you to download a 3D printing app to use this.  It's worth it.  Use the 3D print app and it will show up on your screen with a lot of printing supports and other things attached.  Don't worry.  Use the save option at the bottom instead of print and you will save it as .stl and it will not have the printing supports   

Step 8: Do More Cleanup or Whatever You Want

From the .stl file you can 3D print it or you can open it in the MeshMixer application from AutoDesk to do more cleanup or cropping.  

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