How to Convert an Image to a 3D Model

By Darrin Koltow

Converting a two-dimensional (2-D) image into a 3-D model is something you can do with a computer-aided design (CAD) program. These programs have a variety of tools for creating and shaping 3-D objects, including forming them from 2-D images. One essential function of a conversion to 3-D is reproducing the original 2-D image in the CAD program. Another is creating a 3-D object that has at least one side whose shape matches the 2-D image. Among these broad tasks are those needed to view and manipulate the 2-D image and 3-D object.

Things You'll Need

  • CAD program
  • Graphics file of image to be converted, in JPEG, PNG or other common format

Step 1

Make a graphics file of the image you want to convert to 3-D. Use a scanner or a digital camera to make this file, and ensure that it's in a common graphics format, such as JPEG, PNG or BMP.

Step 2

Open your CAD program and create a plane object whose dimensions match those of your image file. For example, if your image file measures 1260 by 1430 pixels, size the plane to 1260 by 1430 units.

Step 3

Open your program's material editor and load the image file into one of the material slots. Select the material slot and apply it to the plane object to make the image appear on the plane. (In many CAD programs, this action is done by clicking the material and dragging it onto the object you want to apply it to. For a detailed procedure, consult your program's documentation related to applying or assigning materials to objects.)

Step 4

Make another plane whose size matches the first plane's size, then position this plane in front of the first plane. You'll form the 3-D object from this second plane.

Step 5

Adjust the opacity of the new plane so that you can see through it to the image behind it. This action is typically done by adjusting a parameter in the plane object's properties.

Step 6

Apply your program's cut tool to trace the outline of the 2-D image onto the new plane. This action creates new edges on the plane. The new edges will allow you to match the plane's shape with the 2-D image.

Step 7

Select the faces lying outside the outline you just traced, then delete them. You'll now see a silhouette of your 2-D image in place of the second plane object.

Step 8

Select all faces composing the silhouette, then run your program's extrusion tool, which stretches 2-D shapes into 3-D objects. Your silhouette has now become a 3-D model.

Step 9

Increase the model's extrusion amount until the model's depth roughly matches its height. This amount is just a sample. Use your aesthetic judgment to set a depth that looks agreeable to you.

Step 10

Complete the model by selecting the cut tool again, and using it to trace the detailed (non-outline) lines from the original 2-D image onto the 3-D model.