View Full Version : 3d Rendering of Topographical Maps

05-03-2011, 10:24 PM
Greetings all...

I've been using CC2 & CC3 for some time now, however, I have a need for something new.
I would like to take a standard topographical map, with contour lines and associated altitudes, and have a 3d image of that topography be rendered.
It doesn't have to look realistic or "fractalized", but I just want to be able to give someone a good impression on what the topography of the surrounding countryside would look like to someone from a 3d perspective.

Can anyone recommend some easy-to use software that does that?

I know that some of the higher-end CAD software, like AutoDesk Civil 3D, can do things like this, but they are more designed for survey system inputs.
I don't need or have any of that.

All I really wish to do is draw a map, set a distance scale, draw some contour lines, associate them with an altitude, and then have the software show me what that map would look like from a 3d perspective.

Does anyone have any recommendations?



05-04-2011, 01:02 AM
Hi Godpole,

The easiest way that I can think of doing this is by creating a heightmap and then rendering it out in a 3d application.

I suggest that to make the heightmap you download terrain editor (free) from here: http://hme.sourceforge.net/
This will allow you to make your heightmap by using clear colours rather than having to distinguish between barely discernible shades of grey - you would put your contour information in here.

Once you are happy with the heightmap then you can load it as a terrain in something like Bryce (also available for free) and view it in 3d.

05-04-2011, 01:10 AM
You might try looking at the BLACKART program from http://www.terrainmap.com/ if you're looking for scanned contour map-type things.

Another alternative is to use Wilbur from http://www.ridgenet.net/~jslayton/software.html to draw your basic terrain and view in 3D. http://www.ridgenet.net/~jslayton/FunWithWilburVol2/index.html has an example based on using the tesselation tool. Doing multiple contours is much the same.

It's also possible to draw the contours in CC3 shaded from black to white over the sourse of your contours, export to an image such as JPEG or GIF and then use a tool such as Wilbur to visualize the results in 3D ( http://www.jhendor.de/tutorials/cc2-ft.pdf shows how Ralf went from a CC2 map to a Fractal Terrains globe as a reference).

It's also possible to use Wilbur's freehand selection tool to draw your contour and then use Filter>>Fill>>Set Value with your contour altitude. Repeat for each contour segment.

05-04-2011, 10:34 PM
...BlackArt for smaller sized maps. For a fuller package, I'd suggest WinTopo pro- bit expensive but it's very good. Then there's Global Mapper if you really want to go the whole hog. WinTopo has the advantage of one click vectorisation of raster images (contours), Global Mapper has just about everything else.


05-05-2011, 08:10 AM
Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. Many of these I have already looked at and are a bit over my head. My only experience in mapping is making 2d maps for RPGs. <pause for laughter>, so a lot of the terms and functionality in these is foreign to me. I really appreciate the help though...thanks!

05-05-2011, 04:30 PM
We don't laugh at fantasy maps for RPGs here - it's our main bread and butter. So we don't look down at folks who do the nerdy things we do ourselves. :)