How to make a LANscape
How to make a LANscape

LANscapes is an interactive art installation that I created with my art collective Floating Point. It takes the form of an abstract projected landscape. Ceiling-mounted Kinects capture the forms and movements of visitors in the space, reflecting them in the projection. Visitors can build upon and modify the form. At the end of each day, a snapshot of the virtual landscape is saved into computer memory, then 3D-printed as a unique physical sculptures generated by crowd-sourced performance.

In this Instructable, I'm going to walk you through how these sculptures are created. From the software that generates the 3D-model, to preparing the model for printing, then finally printing and finishing the work using special color-changing holographic paints.

Step 1: The Software

How to make a LANscape

The LANscapes software is written using OpenFrameworks, and open-source library for creative coding in C++. You can view and download the software on GitHub here.

When LANscapes is installed, the Kinect camera is suspended overhead at about 12', pointing straight down. This way the software is able to get a depth map of the floor area below, this depth map is then applied to the previous frame using filter and blending techniques that build up over time.

Step 2: Preparing a LANscape for printing.

How to make a LANscape
How to make a LANscape
How to make a LANscape

The software automatically exports a PLY 3D model file once or more per day. I like to schedule the export to happen at the end of each day, that way we have a 3D model that is representative of the activity that happened in that space that day.

The PLY files get stored inside the data/exports folder of the application. You can find these on GitHub here:

I'll go through these and pick a file that looks nice to me and prepare it for printing.

These files right now are just flat meshes, with no thickness, so I need to extrude the model in order to give it some thickness for printing. I do this by importing the file into MeshMixer, which is a free software for 3D modeling and preparing models for printing. In MeshMixer, I rotate the file so that it is in the correct orientation (edit -> transform) and extrude it on the Y axis 3 millimeters (select all -> edit -> extrude).

Step 3: Print the LANscape

How to make a LANscape
How to make a LANscape

I printed my LANscape on the Stratasus Objet Connex 3000 at the Instructables HQ at Pier 9, however you can print yours on any 3D printer. I recommend printing in either white or some shade of gray, and as shiny material as possible. Since we will be painting it using glossy black paint, it's useful if the print itself isn't black, so that you can actually see where paint has and hasn't been applied as you paint it in the following step. Once the print is done clean it and remove all the support material.

Step 4: Prepare to paint!

How to make a LANscape

To finish the print, I use Spaz Stix paints, which are popular for use in the RC car community.

Spaz Stix paints are designed to be applied to clear-bodied car molds, so typically the paints are actually applied in reverse order from what I'm outlining here, and viewed from the inside-out, if that makes sense... (don't worry about it)

Finishing the prints will require the following paints:


  • Some combination of Spaz Stix color-changing paints, see the entire catalog of color-changing paints here. For this Instructable I use a combination of Green/Purple/Teal, Orange/Purple/Teal, Gold/Orange/Purple/Red, and Gold to Green.

  • A clear-coat to finish for protection. This also helps to bring the colors our tremendously! In this Instructable I use Krylon ColorMaster™ Acrylic Crystal Clear

    Step 5: Painting the sculpture undercoat

    How to make a LANscape

    To ensure proper paint-flow, you want to hold the can of paint upright when spraying, so I recommend propping the sculpture on its side while painting.

  • Start with the Surface Pre-prep. This only requires one light dusting coat. This is not a paint, but a preparatory coating that helps to reduce oil, dust and smudges from sticking to the surface of the sculpture. I'm not sure if this is actually necessary in the case of this type of painting, but it is recommended by Spaz Stix, so I've been using it.
  • Paint it black! Use the high-gloss black backer paint, apply several light coats and give it time to dry in between. It's best to prop up the sculpture on it's side and hold the paint can upright for proper flow of paint. Apply at least three coats of paint to cover the whole sculpture (top, bottom, and sides). Allow for 10 minutes drying time in between each coat, and flip the sculpture over to a different side in between each coat to get the most even coverage possible. Make sure to get paint deep down in all the crevices of the sculpture.

    Step 6: Applying the color-changing paints

    How to make a LANscape
    How to make a LANscape

    Since the original PLY file we used to make the print had color embedded in it, I want to try to recreate a similar color pattern using the color-changing spray paints. To do so, I printed out an image of the PLY file from Meshmixer to use as a reference. I then made a plan for which paints I want to use for with section of the sculpture, and labeled the print-out with the paint colors I plan to use for those regions.

    Hold the can of magical color-changing paint upright about 5 inches from the sculpture and spray the paint on in light coats, trying to isolate it as much as possible to the particular region you're trying to color. I find using a simple paper mask held in the other hand while spraying really helps to isolate the paint to a particular region of the sculpture.

    Step 7: Apply more coats of paint

    How to make a LANscape

    The first few coats of color-changing paint will be barely visible, if at all. Don't give up! Keep applying more coats, allowing it to dry 10 minutes in between each coat. Soon, the layers of paint will build up and begin to sparkle and shine! I recommend at least 6 coats of the color-changing paint. The colors may start to look faded at this point, but do not fret, the final step will fix that.

    Step 8: Clear coat to finish

    How to make a LANscape

    Once you are pleased with the paint job, there is one more crucial step... apply a clear coat in order to seal and protect the sculpture. I have found that this final clear coat also tremendously helps the colors to pop. The type of clear coat you use will effect how vibrant the colors are. I find that using a high-gloss clear coat results in more saturated colors, but also a more glittery appearance. Whereas a matte clear coat gives the surface of the sculpture a more smooth appearance, but less vibrant colors. I recommend using something in between; not too matte, not too glossy. In this Instructable I use Krylon ColorMaster™ Acrylic Crystal Clear


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