How to use PStill to convert from a PDF (or any other supported format) to a STL for 3D printing

From 2D to 3D in a few simple steps...

Example for generating STL: Create a 3D printable cog from a drawing

This tutorial describes howto use PStill to generate 3D printable STL models from PDF, EPS, PS, PNG, TIFF, BMP or JPEG. As these source formats are 2D to convert, a metric for the 'height' must be defined. GPStill uses the 'lightness' as this metric, so darker areas become higher.

STL generation is available in PStill 1.90.10 and later.

Convert to STL

We use a PNG in this tutorial:

Source image
Source image, a PNG image file with transparency (Image source, license: CC BY-SA 3.0)

1. First start GPStill and drag and drop your source file from Windows Explorer into the window.

Select "STL" as output format:

2. Open the Options by clicking the button 'More Options' (will turn into 'Less Options' afterwards).

PStills Window will enlarge. Locate the 'Special output options' button and click on it.

3. Now you can set the parameters for the STL conversion.

The resolution is defined in DPI (1/72 inch), the higher the more and more finer 3D elements are generated.

4. You are now set and ready to go. Click on 'Start Conversion' in the main window to start the conversion process.

5. After a few seconds a STL file is created in the same folder as the source file.

When opened in the default STL viewer of Windows 10 the result looks like this:

The generated STL 3D model should be directly 3D printable.

More examples:

Source data, a PDF file (shown as PNGA preview)

Converting a terrain height map to STL with PStill, here the island of La Palma. See e.g. for suitable source files. Terrain data is often inverted (lower areas are brighter), use the 'Invert STL height data in output' option in this case.

Converting the logo of from PDF to STL.

Converting an traffic sign, source here, License: CC BY-SA 3.0 from PNG to a paint template / stencil by inverting the Z-axis. STL shown in Meshlab.

STL conversion FAQ:

Questions regarding this tutorial? Send me an email.