2D Meets 3D: Art Projects Combining 3D and Traditional Printers

Brian Prowse is a writer and self-proclaimed tech geek who, when not writing for tech sites like 247inktoner.com or selflessly sacrificing his time to play with test out the coolest new tech gadgets, enjoys traveling and graphic design. He can generally be found hunting through public domain archives or working himself into a geek-frenzy over the latest superhero movie casting news.
As is the case with pretty much every other new artistic medium, the art-sphere pundits have been engaging in a heated, but almost certainly wussy, debate regarding the artistic merits of 3D printer art. To avoid being labelled snobs and elitists, most have come down with both feet on the side of, “It’s a brave new world where pioneers pioneer some truly pioneering art pieces.” Of course, there’s always going to be the proudly-traditional-medium-supporting, bow-tie-wearing crowd which proclaims that 3D art is so much faddish, gaudy, cheap-looking drivel and real artists would be better served to stick with the ox-hair paintbrush and clay-cutting wire loop.
In my bountiful wisdom, though, I’ve decided that the proper place to take my stance here is in the middle ground. I say: if the 3D-printed art is good and really speaks to people (or a person), it’s good. If it’s poorly done, cheap-looking and lame, it’s… not good. Yes, I know it’s a both brave and original position for me to take, but that’s just how I do.
Art That’s Not Meant To Be Art
One of the amazing things about 3D art is its variety. Even the stuff being done for non-artistic or not-entirely-artistic purposes often strikes me as impressively artistic. Take for example the work being done in facial prosthetics, AKA anaplastology. While the following two 3D-printed examples are tools employed for medical and anthropological objectives, neither would be out of place in a tony New York gallery exhibit. (Admittedly, it might be a creepy exhibit on cyborgs or Phillip K. Dick’s nightmares.)
First, anaplastologist Jan De Cubber’s facial reconstruction project employing a 3D printer reveals a far more realistic human face than the older paper-mache and/or clay models. This sort of facial construction is becoming so realistic it’s actually already doing good. The last remaining terrorist from the Aum Shinrikyo group which killed 13 commuters and sickened as many as 5000 with their 1995 Tokyo sarin gas subway attacks was apprehended in Japan after police released a 3D-printed bust of the suspect on television.

Face 3D Reuters

Less creepy and more heartening is the printed prosthetic facial piece created for cancer survivor, Eric Moger.

Eric Moger

Striking as they are one their own, if exhibited as a compared and contrasted set the pair of pictures could be a statement about dehumanization, inhumanity or another impressively artistic theme.

Another great example of semi-art from the 3D printer is British artist Luke Jerram’s sculpture “Tōhoku Japanese Earthquake Sculpture”. While it looks like a large, stylized top or a fairly well-organized piece of abstract sculpture, as its title suggests, Jerram’s sculpture is a precise 3D representation of the seismographic readouts from the hugely devastating 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake in Japan. The largest rings represent the earthquake’s most powerful convulsions.

Earthquake Seismograph Sculpture

Art That is Meant to Be Art

That being said, there does seem to be a tendency for a lot of 3D art to conform to the “Weird White Shape” (WWS) category. Not that there isn’t awesome WWS art. For instance, this delicate-looking sculpture by Swiss artists Drzach & Suchy is called “Thru Religion” and when held to the light at different angles reveals a religious symbol in shadow:

Thru Religion

Star of David

Cool as many of them are, after a while even the most intricately-sculpted WWS can begin to feel a little repetitive. That’s where the use of traditional printers can de-bland any 3d printer’s artistic output. As versatile as 3D printers are for the creation of three dimensional shapes, standard two dimensional color printers can now easily match them for shade. This marriage of pieces and pigment is already being put to great use. Here we see Riusuke Fukahori’s resin goldfish are created by carefully implementing a sort of painstaking manual 3D printing that involves layering dozens of paint-planes and sealing each in transparent resin until a three dimensional “paint sculpture” is realized.


As for your own 3D-meets-2D printer project, for the sake of artistic growth and evolution I won’t poison your creative well by giving you specific recommendations. However, a brief net search will reveal millions of printable shapes, colors, illustrations, photos, characters and letters in innumerable fonts; patterns for decals, patches and iron-on t-shirt images, etc. Cliché as it is to say: the possibilities and possible combinations are literally endless. Even if it’s as simple as printing something you plan to use as a tracing pattern.

Although I won’t impose on your artistic sensibility with specific suggestion, I will suggest that you consider combing 3D-printing themes by blending the more practical with the artistic. Although the practicality of printing off guns and pieces of guns, it’s certainly a celebrated application among a certain portion of the population. So here is my artist’s rendering of what a poignant and profound 3D printing DIY sculpture would look like if a 3D-printed gun was made more cheerful with a beautiful printed flower on its magazine:

Assault Rifle With Flower

And please, agents now wishing to represent me as the next up-and-coming art phenomenon, contact me via my email. Good luck!

Mars Cureg

Web designer by profession, photography hobbyist, T-shirt lover, design blog founder, gamer. Socially and physically awkward, lack of social skills, struggles to communicate with anyone who doesn't have a keyboard. Willing to walk to get to the promised land. Photo and video freelancer, SEO. Check out more on my Google+

You may also like...