A Vancouver-based company is using 3-D printing technology to recreate famous paintings — down to every brush stroke and even the little cracks that appear over time.

"It will measure the surface of the painting ... to ten microns, which is about one tenth of a human hair," said Paul , CEO of scanning technology company Arius Technology.

Arius partnered with U.S. firm Larson-Juhl and Oce in Holland to create Verus Art. They acquired the rights to scan Vincent Van Gogh's masterpiece The Iris.

After scanning the original painting with a laser for 18 hours, the data was sent to Holland where the reproduction was made from a polymer ink on aluminum canvas.

Touchable Van Gogh

Paul Lindahl, CEO of scanning technology company Arius Technology, shows off a 3-D version of Vincent Van Gogh's The Iris. (CBC)

"Today if you want a copy of a Van Gogh you get a 2-D print. With this you can see the brush strokes which are the impact that the artist intended in his work," said.

"This a great example of an application of 3-D printing that will impact everyone."

Lindhal said these copies of paintings could be sent to schools for students to touch. They can also be touched in museums and other places where art education takes place.

Reproducing Group of Seven paintings

Verus is currently working with the National Gallery of Canada to reproduce the works of the Group of Seven to be shared with schools.

With the technology, people also no longer have to be extremely wealthy to afford a famous work of art that offers all its dimensions of relief, warping, distortion and brush strokes. While the original of The Iris is worth millions of dollars, a 3-D printed copy of retails at approximately $4,000.

Lindahl said recreations of famous works is one side of the new art business. The technology could also change the way modern artists market their work by offering more affordable recreations with so much more depth than a simple print.

Each copy is numbered and marked in a way to prevent fraud — similar to the way fine art prints are numbered. And because the 3-D prints are copied onto aluminum, there is no way it will be taken for an original. 

In the video above Paul Lindahl tells Our Vancouver host Gloria Macarenko how 3-D printed recreations of famous paintings could change the art world.