Laser cut map question

Does anyone have any insite on how these are made?

I’d love to make something like this for everywhere I’ve lived. I’ve seen the Google page for making custom maps, but I’ve never seen an option for having the building details.


I’ve never seen this exact technique but there is a lot of info online about similar.

I’d gather all the info online I can and then develop my own workflow that doesn’t look just like anyone else’s.


Go to a regular google maps page and zoom in as far as you can.
It shows building details for many (but not all) locations.

Not sure you you get from there to an SVG.
There is also the open street map project (i.e.

Which will export a file to their own .osm format and you can convert that directly to SVG!


I don’t know if I understand what you’re asking. Is it that you are looking for an automatic way to make what they’re making? They’re probably making the svgs for the buildings based on stuff that’s readily available online – like those diagrams where you pick your seats for an event, aerial photos, etc. I doubt there’s, like, a generator or something that’s going to give you everything exactly as you want, exactly like the site, ready to go.

For major buildings and stadiums they are probably either making their own models in Sketchup or other modeling software. Or even downloading from the Sketchup catalog (3D warehouse?). I’m not sure what the license is for those downloaded files but they have a lot of major buildings.

So using a process similar to what’s outline above and then adding the 3d models on top.

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Follow up: it seems that you can sell works for profit that use the 3D warehouse models. Interesting!


The first two responses were just what I was looking for. I’m on a cruise ship right now so I couldn’t comment right back. But thank you everyone who had some ideas.

@dystracktd take a look at this thread. Map all the things

Should be useful. I’ve made many of these using free software and available GIS data. Much like the info from openStreets. Sometimes there are even plugins for 3D modeling software that can read the GIS files and generate a full model based on the data within the file. Good luck!

Oh and enjoy your cruise!


3D maps are awesome. I cant wait to start creating my own. Thanks for sharing the link.

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There is a lot more out there. These days just knowing what to call something is half the battle as there will be more info than you can digest on most things you want to do.


I tried to follow his way. I am not having any luck. I think I will find my own, less complicated way.

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Here are a couple quick tutorials that may make this whole process super easy.


I knew there was a map post that was exactly what I was looking for. It just took me a bit to find it. This is the best one I’ve seen yet.

Laser etch a map of your city/neighborhood


The problem that I run into with that method is that you can only load a very small section of terrain; I don’t know exactly how much but it looks like maybe a square mile.

I found that out last night. I couldn’t get the entire area I needed in the small frame it uses. I will keep trying different ways and keep posting my progress.

The link in that other post no longer works. Or it’s just not working right now.

Try this one.

I don’t know if I would follow that tutorial. It might be good for a rough model but the topography in google earth is highly in-accurate. You would be much better off using a GIS application. There is a free one called qGIS which is perfectly capable of reading all the data needed for one of these maps. It’s not the easiest way but it will provide the best results. You can export to SVG straight from the software. Most states/countries offer this information publicly.

@dystracktd I can probably point you to a specific source if you need one.


Here is one that I am messing around with created completely in Illustrator. It’s more of a bathymetric than a topographic - but, the land in this area (Padre Island) is basically completely flat so their isn’t much sense in trying to even put topographic data on it. I’m envisioning it using 7 layers of 1/16th material. I’ve done a few things that will make it more difficult to put together but I think really enhance the assembled design.


Nice! The little bits will be a pain to assemble. Unless that are cut outs? If they’re peaks I would either make them all the same shape so you don’t have to be super organized or just score/raster them it might achieve the same effect.