Layering software

I’m wanting to try my hand at making 3D layered topo maps. Does anyone have any software recommendations for a program that will let me cut layers?

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There are lots of ways to do this, what data source are you starting from? That sort of narrows the methods.

Once we know what data you’re starting with, chances are someone’s developed a workflow to get you there.

Any GIS program, such as qgis, will output the vectors needed from freely available topo datasets, but the learning curve can be pretty steep. The vectors can be processed in any vector editor, e.g. Inkscape, Illustrator, Afinity Design.

It’s possible to use various bitmap-to-vector tracing apps & routines to work from bitmap images, too.

Good luck!


Not sure if the data source yet. I can picture what I want but I’m working on figuring out the steps between here and there. I’m assuming internet sourced topo charts.

I would definitely recommend QGIS. A bit of a learning curve but lots of flexibility as far as customizing it just like you need before its output.


I’m going to give it a try. Hopefully there’s some good YouTube tutorials out there.

Absolutely! Get started at Resources Archive - OSGeo

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I learned how to do this starting from here:

You can see a few posts here:


Thank you!

Here is another way as well if you use Sketchup. Rather than exporting .STL you export the vectors. It also allows you to set the distance (height) of your topo lines so you can be really detailed or very abstract.

Modeling Sliced Terrain from Location Data in SketchUp with Joint Push Pull and Slicer - YouTube


I really like the setup in Sketchup from what I saw in that video. I’m just hoping the free web version will actually do all that!

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