Horizons · Friday, November 27, 2015

Painting in three dimensions

Horizons

With the advent of 3D printers, the experience of visiting a museum can now be enjoyed by visually impaired people. The Prado Museum in Madrid is embracing this bold, successful and innovative technology. Soon, you’ll be able to say that you have touched the works of great masters.

Many see three-dimensional printing as the sign if a new industrial revolution. It’s main asset is how simple it is to use.

To successfully create an object, the 3D printer slices up the shape of this object and then places and piles up the slices, one on top of the other, until a tangible three-dimensional volume is formed. The material used for 3D printing can vary. Different forms of plastic or liquid metal are primarily used.

There are currently many applications of 3D printing, particularly in the medical and aeronautical fields. This principle of 3D printing is bound to make an astounding impact on the world of art and culture. A phenomenon never seen before.

3D printing to see with your hands

Right now, it would be unthinkable to put your hands on a priceless painting in a museum. But in the summer of 2015, the Prado Museum in the Spanish capital organized an unusual exhibition. For six months, the renowned institution offered an unprecedented experience called Hoy Toca el Praco (“Touching the Prado” in English), which presented reproductions of its works in 3D.


Seeing with your fingertips

Each canvas is printed using an innovative process called Didú. First a chemical process provides volume to elements which start out flat (up to 6 mm in height). Then, the real image is printed overtop using the same colours found in the original, since many visually impaired people are still capable of perceiving colour.

During the exhibition, it was also possible for sighted visitors to wear a mask in order to appreciate the works using their hands. For six months, the Prado Museum made certain of its masterworks totally accessible through an exhibition that could be seen and felt by all.

Want to learn more? 

Watch a video about the Didú process (in Spanish, with English subtitles)

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