The scanning app that is mentioned in this blog post is not available for download anymore. 
Click here to learn about the top 20 3D scanners.

Looking for turning a photo into a 3D model? You can easily create 3D printable objects and 3D models from images and photos nowadays. In this tutorial, we will show you how you can turn ordinary 2D pictures of everyday objects into extraordinary 3D models. Turning 2D into 3D has never been easier as this project requires no coding experience and runs 100% on free software. If you think about 3D printing these 3D models, you don’t even have to buy a 3D printer and you can do it all without leaving your house.  Let’s get started!

let's create a 3d model from photos

Let’s create a 3d model from photos!

Step 1: Capture the object through Digital Photos.

The first step is to capture your object by taking pictures of it.  These images will serve as the foundation for the rest of your project and will later become a 3D model. You can do this step either with a digital camera or your mobile phone.

In order to make a 3D print based on photos, we first need to get the right images.

In order to make a 3D print based on photos, we first need to get the right images.

  • Place your object in the middle and take photos in a loop, moving completely around the object.
  • Shoot another loop from a different angle to make sure you cover the top of the object. Aim for 30-40 total sequential photos.
  • For best results, add newspaper or sticky notes around your subject to help 3D building software distinguish where the bottom is.
  • Try to maintain consistent lighting, object position and focus in all pictures.
  • Avoid overexposed or underexposed photos.
  • Avoid plain, reflective, transparent surfaces and objects. They don’t make good 3D models.
  • For more help in setting up and taking pictures of your object, check out this tutorial.
This is how you should take your pictures in order to create a 3D model.

This is how you should take your pictures in order to create a 3D model.

Step 2: Create a 3D Model from Photos: Upload your images to Autodesk 123D Catch

Autodesk’s 123D Catch is a free tool which will help you piece together your 3D model from the pictures you just took. 123D Catch will automatically identify common features from your photographs and convert them into a single 3D design. Your model will be uploaded and saved to Autodesk’s cloud storage.

create a 3D model from your pictures
Sign up for a free account

create a 3D model from your images

Upload the pictures

create a 3D model from your photos

Stitched model from all of the pictures

Step 3: Review and clean up your 3D model.

Give yourself a pat on the back for making it this far, you’re halfway through. The next step is to clean up and fix any errors your model might have in 123D Catch.  Sometimes the pictures capture extra elements that you don’t want to be included in your model, but you can clean it up with the “lasso” and “heal” tools.  The lasso tool will help you select and remove unwanted areas. The heal tool will help you fill in any holes in your model and fix them.

clean up the 3D model based on your images

clean up the 3D model based on your pictures

clean up the 3D model based on your photos

Step 4 (Bonus!): Edit your 3D Model and Tap into Your Creative Spark

Is your model missing something? Want to add wings or robot arms? Take it to the next level with Autodesk sister app Meshmixer which allows you to mix , mash, mix, sculpt, stamp or paint 3D designs super easily, starting from over 10,000 models in the Gallery. Learn more about Meshmixer here. Below is an example of mashing the model we just created with the heads of a bear and a swan!

Edit your 3D model taken from photos

Step 5: 3D Printing Based on your Images: Print your 3D Model with i.materialise.

We are ready to print! When you’re happy with your model, click on the 123 Catch drop down menu in the top left and select “Export STL” which will generate your 3D model file in a format 3D printers understand. Upload your file to our 3D Print Lab.

Let us print your photo-based 3D model.

Let us print your photo-based 3D model.

There you’ll be able to choose your materials, the size of your model. The price of your model will be automatically calculated according to its material and size. After following the checkout process your creation will be 3D printed and shipped to you!

Are you looking for more ways to turn your photos into 3D prints? Then you might want to check out our article about the free online app “Smoothie-3D” which lets you turn a single photo into a 3D print. If you want to learn more about our 3D printing materials, feel free to explore our material pages. If you’re struggling to turn pictures into 3D models find a designer on our 3D modeling service to help you out.


  • Pierre Riche

    Do you print in bronze casting wax?

  • Fabian

    Hi Pierre, yes we do! Find more info here: http://i.materialise.com/materials/bronze

  • NapyBlue

    I have a friend who would like a model of a 1931 Dodge hot rod he owns. He lacks the computer skills to use Autodesk 123D. Taking the necessary photos of the car can be accomplished but can you recommend someone to take the project from photos to computer file?

  • Fabian

    Hi there and thanks for the question! I am sure you can find a designer for this task here: http://i.materialise.com/forum/index.php?/forum/23-3d-modeling-service/

  • noel

    can I make model railway stuff with this

  • Fabian

    Hi Noel and thanks for your question. I don’t think that this would be precise enough for scale models – it’s more intended for figurines, animals, etc.
    Scale models often use a free software called SketchUp.

  • Franz Criego

    Can I use a 3d printer to print an image of an apartment building?

  • Fabian

    Hi Franz,

    this app rather works on small organic objects. You need to turn around the object and take several photos from all corners.

    If you have a 2D image of an apartment building and want to turn it into a 3D model (and then print this model) you can find more info here: http://i.materialise.com/forum/index.php?/topic/927-3d-statrer-package/

  • Tom Coughlin

    I would like to try this on a horse. The potential problem is slight movements of the horse during the photo process. Is that a game-stopper?

  • Fabian

    Hi Tom, that’s a tough one. Slight movement typically shouldn’t be a problem – so let’s say a human 3D print/model should be possible for example.

    For an animal it really depends. If it makes a step or turns around its head this can already be a game-stopper. If it stays quite still it could still work.

    I’d just give it a try (maybe you will need several tries) – the app is free after all 🙂

  • Gabriel Jose Garcia

    Does this software help you manipulate colors??

  • Fabian

    I think for this you need to use Meshmixer

  • Ed Schlotzhauer

    123D doesn’t work anymore (at least for uploading images from a camera). Any other suggestions for getting from images to a good 3D model?

  • Hi @edschlotzhauer:disqus , you might want to check out a great presentation from our friends over at Sketchfab which is called ’30 tools to make a 3D scan’: http://blog.sketchfab.com/post/99994639524/30-tools-to-make-a-3d-scan.

  • Ed Schlotzhauer

    Thanks, Franky. That was very useful.

  • Dust Archt

    May i aks if the file we created by using this app can be used with 3Ds max ? i may make some decoration for my interior design!

  • Fabian

    It should be possible. try to save it as an STL file and open it in 3DS Max. You can find more info about this here: http://docs.autodesk.com/3DSMAX/15/ENU/3ds-Max-Help/index.html?url=files/GUID-49B05940-48F7-4118-815C-73190692FFEC.htm,topicNumber=d30e517524

  • Aaron Anderson

    Could I print my family picture, but in a smaller scale, the size of action figures? Would it be possible as a group picture or would each person have to be photographed individually?

  • Fabian

    Hi Aaron,
    yes, this should be possible. I would advice you to ‘scan’ them separately to get a better result.

  • David K

    If I have access to a 3D printer can you send me the files to print it myself?

  • Bart Hetrick

    Any tips on the best way to scan a dog? Multiple simultaneous cameras?

  • Fabian

    hmm. this depends a bit on how still the dog can sit. If the dog doesn’t move this is tricky. Multiple simultaneous shots would help, but keep in mind that this app needs quite many photos (30-40) to create a good 3D model.

    There’s also an app that lets you create a 3D model based on one single image. However, the result will be less detailed: https://i.materialise.com/blog/how-to-turn-a-single-photo-into-a-3d-print-with-a-free-online-app

  • cpramuk

    Keep in mind the 123D Catch web app has been removed and you can use Meshmixer in place of it.
    Christian
    Product Manager 123D Catch

  • Brenda Cheslock

    I am new to 3d printing. Can anyone software help me be able to print 3d with a Sprout from HP? Brand new owner and at a real lost on taking a photo and making it 3d to then print.

  • Donna Coles

    I am wondering if you can help. I have a photo of my granddaughters feet. It’s a close up and I would like a 3D image, object I can hold. Is this possible? Thank you

  • Yui

    Hi Donna, perhaps you could try an app called Smoothie 3D? This lets you transform a normal photo into a 3D model. More detailed info here: https://i.materialise.com/blog/how-to-turn-a-single-photo-into-a-3d-print-with-a-free-online-app

  • David Mauk

    I uploaded 40 pictures into the software. 20 from a straight on perspective and 20 from a higher angle. How long does it typically take for the software to create a stitched model? Mine job has been running for a few hours. Receiving a message “Currently Processing”

  • Fabian

    then something must be wrong. normally its a matter of minutes

  • David Mauk

    Anybody interested in helping me trouble shoot this? I could send my images via dropbox and then have someone run the images thru catch on their machine. I think that way I can validate that my images can be stitched and eliminate that as the problem. Leaving set up and/or operator error as the two must likely causes.

  • timgoes

    How many different colors can the 3D print be so it looks like the car without painting?

  • timgoes

    Could a video from a drone be used? A drone could make quick work out of large objects.

  • Varun Heta

    In case anyone would like to get 3D Printing Services.
    Visit our website http://www.nbmakers.com
    There is quality over quantity here !!!

  • Danniel Gery

    Hello guys, Here you can get 5 easy steps how to make a 3d printed object from a photo. Turning 2D into 3D has never been easier as this project requires no coding experience and runs 100% on free software. But after reading this tutorial anyone can understand follow these steps one by one. Recently I took service from Iannone 3D, which is a New Jersey based Rapid Prototyping and 3D Printing Service Bureau. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Sara Ann

    My fiance and I would like to get a cake topper or the two of us on dirt bikes. Would you recommend taking the pictures separate and then molding the two figurines together or having the picture be taken of us side by side? I ask because I would like the detail on the bikes to be seen.

  • Fabian

    Hi there, taking pictures of each person separately will probably work give you much better results!

  • Red

    Can you print in multicolor for a 2D photograph converted into 3D model? As such with the squirrel image? Is there a more extensive tutorial for this?

  • Fabian

    Hi there Red,

    there are special multicolor printers for that. You can learn more about this here: https://i.materialise.com/blog/how-to-get-your-perfect-multicolor-3d-print/

  • Ocram Immorto

    Is it possible to convert with a single photograph?

  • Chip Stack

    How long would it take to print a head shot of a person from a photograph on a 3D printer

  • Beastcave

    Hi. Is it possible to for me to use this process to 3D print a character I have created in an online game if I were to use either screenshots from various angles around the character or perhaps photos of the screen as I rotate the character within the computer program?

  • Bhartendu Kumar

    why the download option is not working.

  • Anna Podzámska

    Great tips for information .3D Print Technology – Fast prototyping has many benefits, Savings on print media http://hvprint.sk/. We can claim that there is no waste in 3D printing. The use of 3D printing is mainly in the field of architecture, design and industry.