Huffpost Arts

Forget Dorm Posters, Now You Can 3D-Print Your Favorite Iconic Paintings

Posted: Updated:
Print

The days of cheap dorm posters are long gone, dear friends. Now if you want to hang your favorite classic painting in your personal quarters you can get painfully close -- and without spending a few hundred million to get the job done.

Dutch researcher and art enthusiast Tim Zaman has developed a 3D photographic scanning system that can capture the sculptural topography of a painted masterpiece down to every last brushstroke. Van Gogh's rhythmic impasto and Rembrandt's layers of perfectly crafted shadows can be recreated in their full sculptural integrity.

2013-10-03-Rembrandt_Delft_13.jpg

"Paintings are not unlike sculptures, paint as a material has a huge impact on the way a painting looks," Zaman explained in an email to the Huffington Post. "By illuminating a painting with light, it automatically gives highlights and shadows that form the way we see it."

Zaman devised a 3D imaging method that could capture a large area with very large accuracy. According to Zaman, the camera uses triangulation in the "exact way that our human eye does it." This data is then fed into a 3D printer and voila! A (copy of a) masterpiece is born.

Up until recently, art reproductions' flattened textures easily separated the replica from the original. Now viewers need a microscope to tell that the perfectly mimicked canvas was painted mechanically with a nozzle instead of centuries ago with a paintbrush. There are additional differences that, to an art-savvy viewer, would separate the classical piece from its 3D facsimile.

"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," Zaman explained. "We are now working on further research in trying to model these facts as well."

The ongoing journey to replicate a work of art illuminates what we really see when exploring and appreciating artwork-- spoiler alert, it's a lot more than content, color and texture. "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."

We're nervous, and excited, to see what researchers come up with next to more closely replicate the talents of the old masters. It's good to know the future isn't all about robots and world domination -- there's something out there for us art nerds as well.

Watch the process in the video below and scroll down for some close-up shots on the incredibly accurate texture replicas.

2013-10-03-_MG_0539.JPG

2013-10-03-_MG_6117.JPG

2013-10-03-_MG_0344.JPG

2013-10-03-_MG_6124.JPG

2013-10-03-_MG_6161.JPG

2013-10-03-_MG_6162.JPG

2013-10-03-Untitled1.jpg

Suggest a correction