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Bringing a Rembrandt painting to life using 3D printing

06 April 2016

Using a computer to analyse existing Rembrandt works, a team of technologists 3D printed a portrait to give it the same texture and style as an oil painting.

Image courtesy of The Next Rembrandt project website

They now had a digital file true to Rembrandt’s style in content, shapes, and lighting. Paintings aren’t just 2D, they have a three-dimensionality that comes from brushstrokes and layers of paint. To recreate this texture, a computer had to study 3D scans of Rembrandt’s paintings and analyse the intricate layers on top of the canvas.

“We looked at a number of Rembrandt paintings, and we scanned their surface texture, their elemental composition, and what kinds of pigments were used. That’s the kind of information you need if you want to generate a painting by Rembrandt virtually.” - Joris Dik, Technical University Delft

Using a height map to print in 3D

They created a height map using two different algorithms that found texture patterns of canvas surfaces and layers of paint. That information was transformed into height data, allowing the team to mimic the brushstrokes used by Rembrandt.

They then used an elevated printing technique on a 3D printer that output multiple layers of paint-based UV ink. The final height map determined how much ink was released onto the canvas during each layer of the printing process. In the end, they printed thirteen layers of ink, one on top of the other, to create a painting texture true to Rembrandt’s style.

For more information on ‘The Next Rembrandt’ project, click here.

Video courtesy of 'The Next Rembrandt' project website.

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