What is a Lithophane?

Lithophanes are images that can be created by limiting the amount of light that passes through a material. By changing the thickness of the material the amount of lightpassing through creates a contrast.The material used must be translucent for the effect to work.

A lithophane presents a three-dimensional image – completely different from two-dimensional engravings and daguerreotypes that are “flat”. The images change characteristics depending on the light source behind them. Window lithophane panel scenes change throughout the day depending on the amount of sunlight. The varying lightsource is what makes lithophanes more interesting to the viewer than two-dimensional pictures.

The word “lithophane” derives from Greek “litho”, which is from “lithos” which means stone or rock, and “phainein” meaning “to cause to appear” or “to cause to appear suddenly”. From this is derived a meaning for lithophane of “light in stone” or to “appear in stone” as the three-dimensional image appears suddenly when lit with a back light source.

You can read more about lithopanes here: