Exporting a model with Color and/or Texture Maps

Posted by LGM | Tuesday, May 20th

Exporting a model with Color and/or Texture Maps

3D Printing in Color can be difficult, especially the first time.  LGM accepts many native CAD formats and most color color file formats to make life easier, but we do need the files exported and sent in with all of the correct elements.  

The Basics

Format:  Color 3D printing requires particular file formats and each CAD package has different output options.  LGM makes life a lot easier here because we will accept OBJ, VRML, X3D, 3DS, Color STL (be careful here, most stl files do not contain color data), and in some cases you can simply save your model in the native format and send it over, but consult LGM first.  I fyou have an option to export your chosen file type as V1 V2 etc. choost the most recent (highest number)

Scale: You may have the option to apply a scale factor when exporting.  Your software may also change the scale of your model due to unit conversion that you are unaware of (mm to cm or similar).  Please verify the scale factor being implemented to make sure you want it applied.  You can review the linked tutorial for other means of informing LGM of the scale you are trying to achieve just to be safe.
color 3d printed sculpture
Above:  Venus 6 was created with Cinema 4d texture mapping 

Textures and Colors: You may have the option to write the file with the textures and colors embedded in the file or referenced.  Again, LGM does not care which, but if you have references .mtl and .jpg files, you must send those along.  We strongly suggest you put all of your files (3D mesh file, materials file and images) in a single folder and zip it before uploading to LGM.  Because we have never seen your file before and will not know if something is missing or mis-applied due tot he export, we strongly suggest you open your exported color file in a viewer such as the free Meshlabs to ensure the file you are sending is what you would like to see 3D printed.

Hollowing the Part: This is typically very easy for LGM to do if you have not already done this as part of our modeling process.  Please see information on encapsulated powder if your model has internal compartments.

Software Specific Notes:

Rhino - LGM will accept your native Rhino file or you can choose to export a VRML.
When exporting a VRML/WRL from Rhino, select vertex colors in the export dialog box. If using a texture map, export the texture coordinates.  
When mapping a texture in Rhino, you must specify a method of map projection. To do this, first assign a material or texture map. Then select the object, go to the properties tab, and select the Texture Mapping section. This is the third icon from the left. From there, you can select Surface, Planar, Box, Spherical, or Cylindrical mapping methods. 
Color per vertex 3d print
Above: Rhino/Grasshopper based texture per vertex 

3D Studio Max - LGM will accept a .3ds file or you can choose to export a VRML.
When exporting, make sure to generate Color per Vertex, and to Use Max’s Vertex Color Source.  If you use a texture map, make sure the source image file is in the same folder as your VRML file, then zip the file and upload it to LGM.  
To apply a texture map in Max, you will also need to have a material mapped to your object already, but you will not need to specify a mapping method. Max applies a texture map automatically. 

ZBrush - ZBrush works on much higher polygon models than 3D printing is optimized for.  Using the free Decimation Master plugin to get your poly count below a million triangles before exporting the model will help tremendously.  Having you decimate the model allows you greater control of the mesh and you can see the effect before the model is sent to the printer.  If you are having problems with this because your model is hollow, LGM can help.
To export a STL for a monochrome (white) print, download the free 3D Print Exporter plugin.  Make sure Binary is On under E-STL options in the Advanced Tab.
To export a VRML/WRL file you will also use the free 3D Print Exporter plugin.  Choose VRML instead of STL and make sure you choose JPEG  for your D-Texture Format.

Maya - When exporting from Maya, you will want to choose OBJ for your format.  When you export, make sure you select OBJ and in the Options, make sure Materials is on and the other 4 options are turned off.  Be sure to export to the same folder that your model and textures are in, then zip that folder and upload it to LGM.
Note: Maya will export your model in CM so please verify the scale of the model upon export by including a 1" cube with your model and/or letting the LGM staff know what the overall size of the model is supposed to be.  

SketchUp - LGM can accept your SketchUp model directly, and in most cases this is the best option, but be sure to send over any referenced texture maps (not included with SketchUp) in the format that SketchUp is pulling from.  
Alternatively, you can export a 3DS file.  Under Options make sure Export Texture Maps is checked and Use “Color by layer” materials is Unchecked.  If any textures are used in the model they will also be exported in the same directory as the *.3DS file.
Color 3D Print from SketchUp
Above: A color 3D print from SketchUp

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