Tutorial - Creating a Depth Map from a 3D Model for 3D Engraving!

Here is a quick and easy tutorial that I know a lot of you will find useful. Creating a depth map from a 3d file!
This will allow you to do 3d engravings like the ones youve seen me post.

First you will need to download and install Meshlab. Its free and open source: http://www.meshlab.net/

Next, import whatever file you want to make a depth map from. Im gonna use Han Solo in carbonite. [File -> Import Mesh]

(if you dont have a 3d model, just google what you are looking for + “3d model”. Youll probably find one on one of the many 3d model sharing sites like thingiverse, yeggi, etc)

Youll see your mesh in all its glory!

Next go to [Render -> Shaders -> Depthmap.gdp]

It should pop up this modal:

Now you need to adjust your sliders to set the proper zMax and zMin. The zMin will need to be further to the right generally in order for the highest point to be white, which is what you want. Youll also need to set the furthest point in the back to be black so you have a good range of values to engrave.

Tweak these as necessary to define the range of what you want to engrave.

Here is what I set mine at for han:

Youll see I have the full spectrum of grayscale values here.

Now youll need to save this to a file that we can use elsewhere. Before we do that though, make sure you resize the window so that just the model fits in it, without all the extra empty background, so you wont have a lot of empty space.

Now hit [File -> Save Snapshot]. I suggest using a white background. If you need it to be even higher resolution, just turn up the screen multiplier.

Youll end up with a file that looks like this:

Now its ready to be engraved. Take it into your favorite editor to trim off the white, or add any text and cutlines you need to get going. Happy engraving!


If I understand it, you start with a 3D model? That seems like where I would have trouble. - Rich


You can find tons of 3d models online from places like thingiverse, yeggi, etc. Just search for what you want + “3d model” and a lot of times it wont be difficult to find.


Wooohooo! Thanks for the step by step! Can’t wait to try it.


Thanks for the response and the tutorial. That’s great! I need to spend some more time searching for stuff like that. - Rich

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Very useful. I figured this process would be more complicated. Thanks for putting this together!

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Ive done it in a few applications, and its so much more complicated than it is in Meshlab. I snagged this software a couple of months ago for something different, but once I realized how easy it was to make a depth map in it, I had to share. It almost wasnt necessary to write a tutorial with how easy it was. Makes me happy though, because that means more people will be making more 3d engraves! I cant wait to see them


Thanks for tutorials like this!

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Great tutorial. I’ve added it to the lists.

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Tutorial doesn’t include a final engraving of the work -1 star. :smiley:


Thanks so much. This really simplifies the process. Looking forward to trying it over the weekend.

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Had a couple of surgeries in the last week, so pretty much bedridden atm =/. This just gives me something to do when conscious lol. Im sure some intrepid pre-releaser will try this out soon =)


Yikes! Rest up and heal quickly.


Really hope you start feeling better soon. Even from your bed you are still giving of your time, knowledge and experience! Props to you.



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Yep, surgeries are no fun - hope you’re back up and about soon.


Does anyone know of a way to reverse this process? I’ve had a few occasions where I’d like to turn something like a topographical map into a .stl for 3D printing and have had a hard time finding a successful way to do that (although to be fair I haven’t yet checked out the response to a similar question in the topographical map thread - not on a device with youtube video capabilities atm and thought someone browsing this thread might have an idea as well).

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I know there is software that can do it. Dunno it’s name though

Sorry to hear about the surgery, hopefully the issues that forced it are gone and you won’t have the problems anymore!
My major back surgery gave me my life back!

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How can you post a tutorial like this without posting the resulting engrave?!? That’s just teasing! :wink: