To characterize and develop a patient-based 3D model of the compressed breast undergoing mammography and breast tomosynthesis. During this IRB-approved, HIPAA-compliant study, 50 women were recruited to undergo 3D breast surface imaging with structured light (SL) during breast compression, along with simultaneous acquisition of a tomosynthesis image. A pair of SL systems were used to acquire 3D surface images by projecting 24 different patterns onto the compressed breast and capturing their reflection off the breast surface in approximately 12-16 s. The 3D surface was characterized and modeled via principal component analysis. The resulting surface model was combined with a previously developed 2D model of projected compressed breast shapes to generate a full 3D model. Data from ten patients were discarded due to technical problems during image acquisition. The maximum breast thickness (found at the chest-wall) had an average value of 56 mm, and decreased 13% towards the nipple (breast tilt angle of 5.2°). The portion of the breast not in contact with the compression paddle or the support table extended on average 17 mm, 18% of the chest-wall to nipple distance. The outermost point along the breast surface lies below the midline of the total thickness. A complete 3D model of compressed breast shapes was created and implemented as a software application available for download, capable of generating new random realistic 3D shapes of breasts undergoing compression. Accurate characterization and modeling of the breast curvature and shape was achieved and will be used for various image processing and clinical tasks.