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Do it yourself 3D lenticular printing

Updated on June 4, 2012

Introduction

This article serves as an outline on how lenticular printing can be done with some basic office equipment such as inkjet printer and cold laminator. For the detail steps and the theory behind please refer to the lenticular printing tutorials found on the website of Visual Creative Graphics Innovations.

Lenticular vs Holographic Printing

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Lenticular printing vs hologram printing

A lenticular print is usually mistakenly referred as a hologram. Although both lenticular and holographic printing create optical illusion based on the principle of parallex, the underlying technologies are complete different. While lenticular printing creates parallex by selective reflection, holographic printing is based on interference and diffraction. Common to both technologies is the requirement for precision. But relatively speaking lenticular printing can be done with very basic office equipment while holographic printer must be done in an industrial environment with delicate equipment.

Steps to create a lenticular printing

In general, lenticular printing involves the following steps.

  1. Source picture preparation
  2. Pitch test
  3. Interlacing
  4. Printing
  5. Lamination

We will elucidate each of these steps in the following paragraphs.

Source picture preparation

There are two ways one can obtain the source picture, i.e. either by taking a series of pictures along a straight line at equal distance, or by converting an existing 2D picture into 3D using the layering techniques within Photoshop. Taking a series of pictures can render more realistic 3D effect and also makes the transition smoother. Converting a 2D picture to 3D is cost effective and stunning 3D effect can also be rendered with parallex manipulation. Two articles in our main site provide the detail steps on preparing the source file(s). They are

  1. 3D Lenticular Printing Interlacing Algorithm Illustrated Using Photoshop
  2. Converting a 2D picture to a 3D Lenticular Print - Theory and Tutorial

Pitch test

Pitch test is a very important step in the whole process. There is a misconception that pitch test is a test for the lenticular lens alone but in fact it is a test for the combination of lenticular lens and the printer. It is true that lenticular lens will be off from its specification values, same as the printer. By printing the testing stripes from a printer and then overlaid with a lenticular sheet we can determine the correct line density of the lens when using a specific printer. This concept seems to be confusing in the beginning. But it is generally true that for the same lenticular sheet to be tested on different printers, even printers of the same brand and model, the final results can still be different.

An interlaced picture

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Interlacing

Interlacing is the process of slicing the pictures into stripes such that when covered with a lenticular lens the stripes adjacent to one another will be directed to the left and right eyes respectively. Interlacing can be done within Photoshop by using the 3D plugin, or using the masking techniques in Photoshop if one knows the fundamental principles on how lenticular printing works. The two articles listed above have the detail steps on the latter way.

Interlacing can also be done by using software dedicated for lenticular printing. You can fine some good interlacing software from the Software Lenticular page.

Printing

Once the pictures are interlaced and combined, the resultant picture it will be printed on either an inkjet printer or a laser printer. If you choose to print on an inkjet printer remember the print head should always be travelling perpendicular to the grooves on the lenticular lens. This should not be a problem for most portrait size prints. But when it comes to landscape prints, your normal letter size printer will not work. A wide format printer should be used so that even printing in landscape mode the paper comes out should still be in the landscape orientation without flipping the paper 90 degrees.

Lenticular lamination

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Lamination

Lamination is the attachment of the lenticular lens on top of the interlaced picture. A double-sided 3M adhesive sheet is normally used on a cold laminator. Clamps should be used on the lower half of the page to fix the alignment of the lens and the paper for the top page to go through the laminator. When the first half page is totally inside the laminator then the clamps can be remove to let the whole page to get through.

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