[3D Scan and Print] Paintings!

I made a super-high resolution 3-D scanner for paintings. With that, we scanned two paintings by Rembrandts and a Van Gogh. In order to visualize the result, these were 3-D printed in full color and full dimension!


Paintings are not unlike sculptures, paint as a material has a huge impact on the way a painting looks. By illuminating a painting with light, it automatically gives highlights and shadows that form the way we see it. This is especially the case in the of late Rembrandt paintings and Van Gogh. This fact is often overlooked or not fully appreciated. In order to capture this topography convincingly, we needed to capture it in a very high resolution, which is already a problem for most 3-D scanners. Furthermore, the topography of the paint is very small compared to the size of the canvas and we want to capture color at the same time as we capture depth. This depth data is relevant for conservators and restorers (think of status-reports or analytical information about the craquela) and could in principle be used for exploitation using the museum shops (note that we as a university do not pursue this).

Explanation of our method from the Sunday Times

Explanation of our method from the Sunday Times

Therefore we devised a 3-D imaging method based on commercially available camera’s. We designed it such that it was dependent on the camera’s pixel count, so that by using 40 megapixel camera’s, we can capture large area’s at once with a very large accuracy. The camera’s were setup in stereo, and used triangulation in the exact way that our human eye does it. We also used a projector to project fringes to aid this triangulation. This yields an enormous depth map at the same time as we capture color. The scan of the Rembrandt’s Jewish Bride at the Rijksmuseum contains a billion points, all labeled with color information. In order to visualize this, we cannot use our computer screen (a billion points is more than 500x the amount of points a Full-HD screen can display. The logical step is then to print it. This was done by Oce (Canon Group) using their ‘state-of-the-art’ Fine Art 3-D printer that prints a depiction as large as the Jewish bride with a resolution of 50 microns in a few hours.

Although such a print might fool the regular observer, anyone with knowledge of paintings will immediately see that this is not painted with a brush. (Anyone with a microscope will see its drops painted mechanically with a nozzle.) If you consider such a print light-years ahead of a common poster reproduction, it is still light-years away from the original. We noticed that things like glossiness and transparency that are in each painting are very distinguishing in the original, and we are not yet able to reproduce. We are now working on further research in trying to model these facts as well. The goal of making such accurate reproductions, and comparing them with the original, is that we learn to understand exactly what we are looking at, and why it looks the way it does. What we learned so far is that there are many more elements that make the painting look the way it does, a part from the color and topography, that have an importance that we did not anticipate.

Scanning Equipment

The scanning equipment is actually very straightforward, and only consists out of these parts. The rest of the parts is just cables and stuff to make the camera move in X and Y.

Capture device Nikon D800E
Lenses Nikon 80mm PC-E scheimpflug & polarisation filters
Projector Picoprojector fitted with a crossed polarisation filter

Scanning the Jewish Bride at the Rijksmuseum

Scanning the Jewish Bride at the Rijksmuseum

3-D Scanning

Real all about our scanning method in my thesis: http://repository.tudelft.nl/search/ir/?q=zaman .
We used a hybrid system using stereo vision (2 camera’s) and fringe projection (using a projector). This system gives us unrivaled detail and capture speed, capturing 40 million points per capture, each point in 3-D space (XYZ) and in full color (RGB). Multiple captures allows us to capture the Jewish Bride for instance, a work that spans 160×120 cm; giving us more than a billion XYZ/RGB points. This is all done with proprietary camera’s that anyone can buy off-the shelf.

3-D Renders

3-D Printing

Printer and 3D printing technology (c) 2013 Océ (Canon Group). I was not directly involved in the development of the printer or the 3D pritning process. Nor did i push any buttons on the printer. The whole data-to-print part was all done by Océ.
3D Printing Technology by High Resolution Océ 3-D Fine Art Reproductions (more PR material at http://files.oce.com/video/hr3d.html). Printer by and with 3-D printing technology from Océ. Video (c) Océ, and if shown, should be shown in entirety including proper attributions including the Océ trademark.


For all images, see this link: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/90n5pectl08yk39/MJ_2oZtQqz


Thanks to our museum partners:
Mauritshuis, Kröller-Müller Museum, Rijksmuseum.
And our technical partners:
Delft University of Technology and Océ.


Nu.nl http://www.nu.nl/tech/3584817/nederlander-3d-print-werken-van-meesterschilders.html
TU Delta http://delta.tudelft.nl/artikel/tu-geeft-reproducties-diepte/27189
Engineering.com http://www.engineering.com/3DPrinting/3DPrintingArticles/ArticleID/6380/Analyzing-Rembrandt-and-Van-Gogh-in-3D.aspx
Huffington Post USA http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/04/3d-scanning-art_n_4037853.html
Huffington Post UK http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/09/25/3d-printers-used-worlds-masterpiece-paintings_n_3987420.html
Hackaday http://hackaday.com/2013/09/24/priceless-paintings-scanned-and-printed-in-3d/
Gizmodo http://gizmodo.com/3d-printing-fine-art-fakes-is-here-to-stay-1383456733
Engadget http://www.engadget.com/2013/09/24/3d-art-printer/
Pauw & Witteman http://www.uitzendinggemist.nl/afleveringen/1366849#00:22:35
Designboom http://www.designboom.com/art/oce-3d-printer-creates-identical-reproductions-of-fine-art-paintings-09-30-2013/
Core77 http://www.core77.com/blog/fine_art/what_happens_when_you_combine_hi-tech_scanning_and_printing_with_3d_printing_art_forgery_well_not_really_25618.asp
Habrahabr http://habrahabr.ru/post/195238/
TEDx Delft 2013 http://www.tedxdelft.nl/2013/10/looking-under-rembrandts-skin/
La Repubblica http://www.repubblica.it/tecnologia/2013/10/14/news/arte_i_capolavori_si_stamperanno_in_3d_copie_identiche_agli_originali_per_tutti-68564417
RTL-Z http://www.rtlnieuws.nl/economie/toekomstmakers/printen-relief
The Australian http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/d-prints-master-art-of-the-greats/story-fnb64oi6-1226747823212#
New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/24/arts/international/technology-mimics-the-brushstrokes-of-masters.html?_r=0
The Sunday Times http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Arts/article1332581.ece?CMP=OTH-gnws-standard-2013_10_26

TEDxDelft2013 Exhibition

Exhibited the reproductions at TEDx Delft 2013

Tim Zaman

MSc Biorobotics. Specialization in computer vision and deep learning. Works at NVIDIA.

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35 Responses

  1. Ari says:

    Hello, Looking to track down this printer. My company has need for it asap.

  2. Hi Tim Zaman, do you think that this 3D printer could create an image with reliefs and brush strokes from a digital painting or from a photo modified with artistic filters or painterly effects like those on photoshop? (without the need to scan an existing painting)

  3. Kim Thoman says:

    Hello Tim,
    I’ve been painting for over 30 years and have recently become interested in making sculptures that are 3D printed objects that use my paintings as skin and combining these objects with steel structures.

    Please send an email and I’ll send a pic.

    I’m dissatisfied that my 3D printed object (I call her Venus), printed on a 3D Systems Projet 660 doesn’t show the texture of my paintings. They are not highly textured like Van Gogh, but nonetheless, I’d like them to show.

    Any suggestions?
    Kim Thoman
    Artist Website: http://www.kimthoman.com

  4. Thank you for sharing your info. I truly appreciate your efforts and I will
    be waiting for your further post thank you once again.

  5. Keith Mangan says:

    Inspiring stuff; I’m mesmerised ..:)

    I’m really interested in the technical side of this; camera setups; rigging setups and software; is this info available to the public???

    I live in a 3d world (designing / modelling and visualisation) and just love the fine detail of this ( the craters of Mars is a a perfect analogy;inner space )

    I presume you have got to work with many works of art and on a purely conversational topic; I wonder if you have discovered any mistakes/errors in the paintings themselves (fingerprints; hairs etc )..

    Please let me know if their are any papers;further reading available.

    Many Thanks


    • Tim Zaman says:

      Yep, on a van Gogh we found a hair in the lower right corner that had not been seen before and is half embeded in the paint. it’s about 6 cm long and probably the artists [van Gogh’s]; this is actually not that special, there are multiple confirmed van Gogh hairs. Furthermore, the method is kind of public [read my thesis on that; Google], the code itself was mostly in Matlab but has now been rewritten to C++. Might open that up sometime.

      • Keith Mangan says:

        Wow that was fast…:) Thanks for the reply..
        I didnt know that about hairs 🙂

        I d’ont think my colleagues do either ; Can you send me a direct link to your thesis if possible.

        Keep up the amazing work..


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