Topographical 3D Engrave

What sun angle and elevation did you use when you processed your DEM @ryanjpedersen ?

Normally, shadows should fall toward the viewer to make hills stand up. When they fall away from you, hills look like valleys. I need my GF so I can experiment! It is easy for me to control the sun direction and elevation, just have to open the file and move the sun around!!! Got to love computers!!!

When GF fixes the registration problem, I hope to first carve the terrain on a CNC router then enhance it with the laser.

Your work is great!


The way you need to do it is to remove the idea of light all together. You
don’t want a light source. With a height map, there are no shadows, and no

Look at my image: it’s colored by elevation. Where 0’ = black, 10’ = dark
grey, all the way up to 1600’ = white.

The shades of Gray tell the glowforge how to vary the laser’s power.
Black=full power (deep engrave or low elevation) and white = zero power
(not engraved or highest elevation).

With this kind of heightmap, you’re carving out the low elevation from the
highest (board height).

With your map, one side of the mountain (light) will be tall and the other
(dark) will be cut deep, even though the two sides of the mountain would be
the same elevation.


to latch onto that a little, the light source after you print will be the actual light in the room. you aren’t creating it because it isn’t a 2D print.


Well said.

Amazing work, this is exactly the sort of project I’ve been looking to break-in my Pro with. I took a quick look at Maperative, and… :open_mouth:

Any tips on where to start in the forums? I’m not even sure where to start right now.


This may come in handy:

I am looking forward to learning to work with Maparetive I have had trouble finding sources of smaller scale gray elevation maps I can get to work. I had someone ask me for the Giza Plateau but the scale was so big I could hardly make out the Pyramids.

For maps from 60km to 8 km that is easy, there is that can do anywhere in the world, though outside the US it gets a mite tricky as there is only the Open Street Map. Ink Scape could make the vectors that would make the cutting tine way down but would be a great deal of work. I use Blender that creates a full 3d object but that has detail issues in the smallest scales, But I have made a whole list (150+) of places (many in Oregon) that are of considerable interest.

You can find a nice collection here with key names to help find them


Wow, what a fantastic resource! Thank you!

I do love my Cities Skylines and just made a map of my own area for my next game


Thanks! I was more talking about the Maperitive forums - I’ve been reading around here quite a bit the last few days and I have to say whomever the folks are that put together the community help (like the one you linked, and many others), they are much appreciated.

I did manage get Maperitive rendering DEM data from the built-in sources, so now the quest begins for high-resolution data.

Thanks for all the info and clear explanation @ryanjpedersen!!!

You have a keen eye! The Idaho map is shaded relief and is being done for a book publication, I uploaded it to just show raster and vector together. The continental DEM was a true DEM.

What DEM source did you use for your Oregon map?

Well done. You can get actual public elevation data (DTED). Information on it can be found on nasa’s website: DTED is used by aircraft navigation systems. You can actually download the data from the U.S. Geologic Survey at: . I am sure there are many ways to convert DTED DEM data into a 2D raster image. The GIS has an opensource one: and some info on how to:


This may be a good source for height maps… haven’t dug too deep yet though:


This is outright spectacular - great combination of materials and textures! Now you can be a community advice-giver too. :slight_smile:


Nice link @jed_ike! Just wish the down load file was a Tiff with a Tiff World File instead of a png, but the link will come in handy for capturing DEM data quickly.

Thank you so much for that link! I got a fractal landscape painter back in Windows 95 and it came with tons of Mountain Data but when I first heard of Dry Falls near Spokane I went looking and it was not there. :frowning:

Since then I have been looking for databases that I could get a close view and your link finally got me there. :slight_smile:

and I made this with it

Not a laser cut but then I don’t have my :glowforge: yet


I think I see Wizard Island!

Make that a total WOW! Nobody usually does an elevation map of Florida because it does not have any elevations to speak of. So when I went looking at my old stomping grounds in Coconut Grove (Miami) the detail level makes a difference between the street and the yards, even the filled foundations the houses are on! This could make a very nice engrave.


What are it’s dimensions?

Stunning work! I think I’ll have to try something similar.

Really cool! Why did you send the first one back ?