Are objects from photos 3D printable? Recently, a new app made quite a stir: Smoothie-3D promised to provide an easy modeling tool that gets you from a single photo to a printable 3D model. Now we put the app to the test: we converted a photo to a 3D model and printed it!

Finding software for converting a photo to a 3D model

One of the highest bars to pass to enter the world of 3D printing is learning how to create a 3D model. While online printing service like i.materialise facilitate the printing process itself, it often seems that there’s no way around 3D modeling.

But now the new modeling application Smoothie-3D offers a simple solution: A free online tool that makes creating 3D models as easy as possible and promises users a simple ‘Photo to 3D’ experience. No prior modeling expertise or software download is required. All you need is a single picture of the object you want to 3D print.

Getting the right picture for your 3D model

First, we looked for a picture of a squirrel and found this one. It would be an image that was taken from the side, as it makes modeling much easier. It should also be a photo that looks similar on the other (hidden) site of the object. That’s why this photo of a squirrel is great: we know that its looks the same from both sites.

We will turn this Photo into a 3d model

We then went to, logged in, and added the image by clicking on “Image” and “Add”.

tutorial: image to 3d model


Turn your photo into a 3D model

So let’s get started with the modeling part. We now needed to draw a little: we drew the outlines of the squirrel and its body parts. The app turned these parts into a textured 3D model. When you are familiar with the interface and buttons this process only takes a few minutes. Take a look at the video below on how to draw the outlines of the squirrel and how to turn it into a 3D model:

When you use Smoothie 3D for the first time and are not familiar with its modeling tools, it might take a while to figure out how it works. We put together this screenshot that explains all the important tools you might need:

tutorial: convert photo to 3d model

3D printing your photo (based on the 3D model)

Once the modeling phase is complete, all you need to do is send the model to i.materialise for printing. Click on “Exchange” and “Export to i.materialise”.

tutorial: turn image into 3d print

A new link appears at the top of your screen. Click on “Go to i.materialise”.

how to convert a photo to a 3d print

The model will be directly uploaded to our 3D Print Lab. Select the size and material of your choice. Why not go for a multicolor 3D print?

how to convert a picture into a 3d print

The final result: our 3D-printed squirrel, coming from a single photo and a few minutes of drawing in a free, online application. Not bad, right?

this 3d print was created from a photo

this 3d print was is based on a picture

image to 3d model to 3d print

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 software “123D Catch” as well. It automatically creates a 3D model based on photos taken from different angles. Once you have a printable 3D model, you can always upload it to our website and order a high quality 3D print. If you need some more help with the modeling process, you can also send a photo or image to one of the designers of our 3D modeling service and ask them for help. We also compiled a list of other free or low-cost 3D modeling apps and programs here.


    Awesome keep it up man i will also provide this service.

  • Ed

    I have no 3D modelling experience. I want to create a 3D model of the interior of my house by using a bunch of photos. Do you have any recommendations as to the easiest way to accomplish this? Thanks for your time.

  • Fabian
  • Ed

    I saw that, but that’s still for an individual object right, not the interior of a house like I was envisioning.

  • Fabian

    Hi Ed, yeah that’s true. both apps are more about objects suitable for 3D printing :/

  • Ryan

    Try VSFM and CMPMVS. It can get a bit technical but providing you have 15+ish megapixel camera you can get good quality photogrammetry for free, which is nice 🙂

  • Barázdabillegető

    Hi Fabian, Cool! I’d like to use the 3D model to animate it and add visual effects to the animation. Could you recommend a way to achieve this? Thanks in advance.

  • Noel Benitez Cruz

    Too complicated… How about dumping in a grayscale(transparent) image and get the model from it…

  • john Brown

    I want to take a photo of my Niece who has passed away and create a 3 D of her face so I can send image to CNC. Will it do that? so I can carve it.

  • Fabian

    Not really with this app :/
    It’s not really designed for human faces

  • USF Patel College

    wow.. pretty cool!

  • Garrett Jackson

    I am looking on how to get a picture from my camera roll turned into a 3D picture so I can print it but idk how

  • Shannon L Frey

    Honestly, for someone who is just starting out and has no experience using any programs for 3D modeling, and you’re interested in creating a model of your house and the interior, it sounds odd but the best and easiest way is to use The Sims. I would recommend 3 but 4 is also good, though they’ve taken out some options. Only get it for PC, do not get the ones for console systems. They are no
    where near as in depth and nothing like the experience you’ll have with
    the PC version for designing. And the tools I mentioned are PC download
    only! It gives you tools to easily create everything from foundations to walls, landscapes, stairs, roofs, and every detail down to wallpaper, flooring, furniture, etc. I know you might laugh, as will anyone truly experienced in using the professional programs for that sort of thing, but for someone just starting out, it is truly a very simple, easy to learn system that gives very dynamic results. Just google Sims 3 or 4 home designs, you’ll see just how detailed they get. You can make it look exactly like your house, or the dream home you’re envisioning. When I play The Sims I literally spend 90% of my time “playing the game” by actually just building houses, sculpting my Sims to perfectly represent people I know, and even building full “towns” with the Sims Create-A-World tool. Also, there is Sims Create-A-Pattern tool in which you can take any image you have on your PC and load it into the tool and make custom patterns to use for clothes, furniture, wallpaper, flooring, ceiling tiles, etc. In my opinion these games don’t get enough credit. It is laughable for professionals, but for people with no experience who want to do the same type of thing for their own use and easily, this is the way to go. 🙂 If you do try it out I would love to hear your thoughts.

  • Sue Mc

    Hello, What happens if I wish to print a 3D model of a single photograph of a person, the photograph taken from the front, so the back should be filled in using the colours from the front, such as hair and clothes, and of course the feet would have to be modified. Can that be done with this app? I have no experience in design, but there’s 4 people I wish to have 3d prints off… my son for myself (he’s overseas) and my friend’s grandchildren for her.

  • Jat Jay

    I need a file made from a photo of a wristwatch for private use. This is from the old sci fi show johnny sokko and his giant robot. I have lots of picks but do not know how to make it 3d How much would you charge for that service so that I can print it from my 3d printer? Please email

  • we can do that for you if you’re interested

  • Peshang Ahmed

    you just need a few basic modelings skills to make the room .. the rest of the difficult stuffs can be scanned

  • James Heinrich

    I want to take a picture of my character that’s like a real person and make a 3D character out of him, like a cartoon version but not quite.

  • it’s helpful for manufacturers