Software for relief carving from bitmaps?

I’ve been looking through the CAM software options and posts here for something that can convert a bitmap into a relief based on either line color or shading (e.g. lighter-colored is shallower, darker-colored is deeper). I think I’ve seen people mentioning having done this before, but I can’t find reference to the software that supports it.

Any insights would be greatly appreciated!

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I’m also poking around for an answer to this. All the software I’ve seen that seems built for it is crazy expensive. ArtCam (I think) is the one I’ve seen people use for it on YouTube but that software is no longer available. There is a replacement for it out there under a different name. It’s been a while since I looked, but I think the sticker price was like 8000 dollars.

Supposedly the latest vectric aspire can do it for ~2000, which I’m considering eventually since I use vcarve right now.

In any case, I don’t have any real answers. Following the thread tho, maybe someone else will.

I’ve found 2. Novam is freeware that converts a graphic into an STL with heights based on color. The STL can then be loaded into F360 or CamLab, etc. You may have to make a negative of your image so the dark colors are deeper than the light colors. I don’t think NOVAM is supported anymore so you may have trouble finding it. I can put the folder on Dropbox if you really want to try it.

DMAP2GCODE is also freeware and offers a lot more control of the process, including the zero, the tool to use, feed rate, whether dark colors are high or low, etc., and will output GCode directly, including a roughing pass.

I’ve used both to generate millable files, but have not actually cur anything. DMAP2GCODE is the one I would try first.


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After responding to your question, I decided to go back and look at NOVAM some more. Maybe when I looked at it the first time it was just something I did for future reference, but I just did conversions of some graphics I had and put them into both CamLab and F360, and they’re pretty respectable. I think they would work well.

Here’s a link to my DropBox if you want to try it.

It doesn’t install, just put the whole folder somewhere and run the .jar file. There are some tutorials, and demo files. Let me know how you make out.

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I believe that photo vcarve from vectric does this. It looks like it’s about $150 US. You can download a free trial from the site.

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Thank you both, I’ll check those options out :slight_smile:

I’ve heard of a handful here and there: CamBam, MeshCAM, DeskProto but am not familiar enough yet with any of them to give a recommendation. Found another thread on CNC Zone discussing a similar topic:

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I was just tinkering around in VCarve pro and figured out how to do this in it. I don’t think it has the capabilities for more comprehensive 3d modeling and converting color photos, but it can definitely handle shaded greyscale stuff.

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David: I believe you will find that want PhotoVCarve, not VCarvePro for this. I’m tinkering for lithophanes in photovcarve and it bases the depth of cut on the depth of colour in the photo.

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Thanks for posting this question and everyone’s answers, its very informative. I have been on the fence to buy Vectric Carve Pro, but keep finding the open source alternatives are pretty good.

Something else to check out for generating the height maps is I use it all the time to 3D print lithophanes - Once you have the height map you could follow Andy and Chris’s tutorial for relief carving I would assume?

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YouTube videos on Chris Powell’s channel I believe shows him using a grayscale png as a component and creating reliefs in a flag based on the design of the greyscale images. I’ve also seen a YouTube where another cam program was used in the same way, entering the greyscale as a component. This makes sense because when you look at a 3D stl file it’s is a greyscale image with shading used to differentiate the heights so it stands to reason that most cam programs would read a component this Way.