Have you seen the new Silhouette Alta® Plus? One of the best new features of this 3D printer is the built-in fan that helps with your 3D prints’ details. In this project I’ll show you how to make a custom textured vase with the Silhouette 3D™ software’s lithophane feature!

This tutorial uses Silhouette Studio® Business Edition to create the pattern to save as a JPG, but if you do not have Business Edition then you can use other JPG designs and photo-editing software to create the correct size of JPG file.

Supplies Needed:

Step One: Create JPG Design

1. In Silhouette Studio®, draw a rectangle that’s exactly 9 inches wide by 5 inches high.

2. Open the split-screen library so you can see your library and your design page at the same time.

3. Select your rectangle and open the Patterns folder in your library.

Hint: This is not the only way to fill with patterns, but it’s easier to see the patterns larger this way.

4. Click on a pattern thumbnail to fill your rectangle. I used the Black and White Floral pattern (Design ID #297202).

Tip: You can try any pattern, but I think the organic designs generally look better than the geometric ones. Also, the more contrast the pattern has, the better.

5. With the pattern-filled rectangle selected, go to File > Save Selection > Save to Hard Drive.

Note: Make sure to select “Save Selection” and not simply “Save As,” or this won’t work correctly.

6. Give the file a name and change the save as type to JPEG. Click OK.

7. A pop-up will appear, asking you to enter some export information. You can leave everything as-is and save as 150 dots per inch.

Note: In my experimentation I did not see much difference between 150 dpi and 300 dpi for a 3D print or in the print time, but you are welcome to change the resolution if you want.

8. If you do not have Silhouette Studio® Business Edition but do have digital JPG patterns you want to try, you can use basic photo-editing software to crop a JPG to 9 inches by 5 inches and save as 150–300 dpi/ppi.

Step Two: Create Lithophane

1. In Silhouette 3D™, open the design you saved as a JPEG sized 9 inches by 5 inches.

2. Choose to import the image as a Lithophane Tube, when prompted.

3. It will open with the pattern now as a cylindrical design.

4. The Alta Plus cannot print taller than 5 inches, so you will need to resize this. I wanted my vase to be quite a bit daintier, so I locked the dimension ratio and input 2.25 inches for the width.

Note: This will not create a waterproof vase; my vase is going to hold paper flowers.

Step Three: Print with Alta Plus

1. To print the vase, go to the 3D Print tab and wait for it to slice the model (which means prepare the layers of the model for printing).

2. Set the print quality to Lithophane (PLA).

3. Load your filament and calibrate your machine, if necessary. Please see this instructional video for 3D Printing Basics.

4. When everything is ready, click Print to send the design to print. This will take several hours.

Note: For the Alta Plus, you can leave the door closed as it has its own cooling fan at the print head. If you are using an original Alta, you may wish to run a small fan at the open door.

Step Four: Remove and Fill with Flowers

1. Once the print has finished and cooled for a few minutes, carefully pry the print away from the print bed. Resizing this design smaller makes it pretty delicate.

2. Peel away the thin skirt, if any, at the base.

3. Depending on the weight of your flowers or whatever you put inside, you may need to place a circle of cardstock inside at the bottom to cover the hole and add some kind of weight to keep it from tipping.

4. Add your flowers, and enjoy!


This design created a slender vase, but you may want to use this same technique to create a variety of vases and planters. It all depends on how you crop it and resize before printing.

These patterns were all saved as 9 inches wide, but they are (from left to right) 2 inches high, 3 inches high, 4 inches high, and 5 inches high upon saving. As you can see, you can create quite a variety!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial, and I’d love to see what fun planters and vases you make with this lithophane technique!