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3D-printed Clear-Sided Magnet Template

Magnet block front view

The latest project I’m making available for artists and mini art gallery managers is a customizable template for 3D-printing magnetic artwork holders. This isn’t a frame so much as a transparent shell that lets you present the art in a “wrap-around canvas” style while protecting the edges from handling with wet fingers, etc.

The front of the artwork is not protected, but you can Mod-Podge that if you want.

I previously described a way to do this with foamboard and glue, but if you have access to a 3D printer, this is less work and mess to get a tidier, more consistent result.

3D-printed magnet block, rear view, showing blank back and three round magnets
3D-printed magnet block, before assembly


This is a two-part, snap-together model. The artwork is designed onto a template and cut out to a specific shape, folded around the “block” part, and then the clear plastic “shell” slips on from the back and clips securely into place. No glue is needed to hold the frame together. If you choose to add magnet posts, you must glue the magnets on, and it’s not a bad idea to glue the picture to the backing block to force it to lie flat.

Where to get the code

This script is written in the OpenSCAD 3D modeling scripting language. To make use of it, you’ll need to install the free OpenSCAD client on your PC.

Visit the Mini Picture Frames project page for source files. There are files in the same repository for other types of picture frames, but the one we want in this case is MagnetBlock.scad.

Printing Considerations

The model is fully parameterized as to dimensions, has options for whether and how to attach magnets to the back, and is designed for easy 3D printing. No supports are needed and most printers will not need a brim.

The “shell” needs to be transparent so the edges of the artwork show through. The “block” part can be any color, provided it doesn’t show through the artwork. Therefore it’s generally best to print them separately, from separate STL files.

You may want to tell your slicer program to “iron” the big flat back of the block, to improve adhesion of any stickers you want to put on it.

Customizer Parameters


The Layout parameter of this script controls what aspects of the project you want to preview and export.

The default setting, “Assembly diagram”, shows in the preview window with both pieces in their assembled configuration. When you render this layout (F6 on Windows), the pieces are separated and moved into printing orientation — with their flat sides down.

“Shell only” or “Back only” display only the single part, oriented for printing. Use these to create two STL files each containing one part, since you’ll usually want to print them in different colors.

“Artwork template” is a 2D shape showing the outline for the shape the artwork needs to be to fit into the holder.


The tolerance setting corresponds to the precision of your 3D printer and filament. Only adjust it if you find the pieces are too difficult to fit together or too loose (but also check whether the “paper thickness” setting is correct).

Picture size

This is the dimensions of the part of your artwork that faces outward, so the size of the “block”. It doesn’t matter which of the numbers is smaller — the frame doesn’t have a “top” edge.

Flap width

The depth of the block, which is the same as the size of the flap that folds down around the edge.

Paper thickness

I suggest using an accurate number here. If you aren’t using the form-fitting template below, which gives you just one layer of paper between the two parts, you will need to adjust for that.

Shell dimensions

  • side thickness is the amount of clear material covering the edged of the work.
  • back thickness is the thickness of the bottom of the U-shaped cross section of the shell.

Block dimensions

  • front thickness is the thickness of the top surface of the block, which the artwork lies against.
  • block side thickness is the width of the box walls that make up the sides of the block. This also governs the side of the flap that folds under the edge of the block.

Magnet settings

  • Magnet option has four options for controlling what accommodation will be made for magnets you’ll glue to the block.

3 round magnets puts three holders for small round magnets, with one in the middle of a short side and the others at the corners of the opposite side.

4 round magnets puts a magnet post in each corner. This is generally overkill unless your magnets are very weak or the art is large and heavy.

none makes no particular provision for magnets.

platforms for magnet tape places two rectangular pillars near the short ends of the back.

  • magnet diameter is the diameter for a cylindrical magnet. Enter a number at least .5mm larger than the actual magnet — you’re gluing it on anyway.
  • magnet depth is the depth of the cup you’ll set the magnet into. If you want to recess the magnet all the way, that’s fine, but I like to enter a value about .75mm less than the actual magnet depth so they stick out a little from the back.

Preparation of Artwork

The artwork to go into the holder will need to be trimmed to the size and shape needed by the frame. The script can produce a template for export to SVG format, for you to import into a vector editor (e.g. Inkscape) and use as a design guide. Select “Artwork template for export as SVG” in the Layout field of Customizer.


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