How To Teach 3D Printing Terrains And Landscapes Like A Pro

Ever looked into 3D Printing Terrains, Landscapes and Maps? Well, here at Inov3D we show you how in a Step-By-Step Guide.

Why would I want to?

Do you have a school project, or are you a teacher that wants to teach your students about landscapes? By 3D Printing Terrains, Landscapes and Maps, you can see this from a bird’s eye view. Want a memory to the treasure of a mountain you have climbed? Perhaps a race track you have visited? Thanks to 3D printing, this makes this reality!

Where do I start?

The first place to start in 3D Printing Terrains is to go to Terrain2STL.


  • Find your location on the map. Ensure you try and get rugged terrain as this will show the best detail.
  • Once you have your location, the clock on the Center to View and this will place a red rectangle on your area.
  • If you now go to the Model Details section, this will allow you to change the size of the red rectangle to your liking. Have a play around with the sliders till you get what you want.
  • The Water and Base Settings allows you to change the model’s height then.
  • Once you are happy with everything, click on Generate Model and then you’ll be able to download your model within a ZIP file which contains the STL.

What’s next?

The next step in this process for 3D Printing Terrains is to choose the shape of your model now. An example is to use the borders of other countries to help create your shape. However, you can use any shape you like! As an example, we will use an SVG file to create the shape.

  • On Google, search for an image shape you’d want to use for your map, ensuring it is in SVG format. Ensure it has a transparent or white background, and search as a silhouette.
  • Download the SVG and save it somewhere for later.
  • We are now going to use Tinkercad to create the final model. Note: Tinkercad has a file size limit of 25mb, so you may need to split your file up into separate pieces if it exceeds this.
  • Create a new design and add a box by just dragging it over to your workplace. Adjust the size of this, so it covers the whole workplace area.
  • Import your SVG file and then set it as a Hole once it shows on the workplace.
  • Now make the SVG higher than the block we set earlier. Holding down the shift key, resize your SVG to the size you would like.
  • Select both items by pressing CTRL+A and then group them.
  • Select all again and set as a Hole.
  • Now is the time to import your Terrain! Once imported, change to the size to match the hole and then click outside of the objects. Select all then group.
  • That’s it! We can now export our model to an STL for 3D Printing!

I want to 3D print a city map

Of course, this is achievable too, but it’s not as simple as a terrain map. In this instance, we can use an online tool called Cadmapper. This utilises data from OpenStreetMap, which allows you to download up to a 1km area of your choice for free. If you want a larger area, a cost will then be involved.

  • Go to Cadmapper and Get started creating a file
  • Search for the area desired, or drag the map around to choose your location.
  • At the bottom, ensure it is set to Sketch2015+ program, check the boxes for 3D buildings and Topology.
  • Now click on Create file, and this will the give a kind of preview and the option to download the file. You can, of course, go back and amend any options if needed.

Now that the file is downloaded, we now need to use Sketchup Pro to prepare it for slicing. You can use the trial version for this. This will allow you to change the height of the buildings.

.It is worthwhile downloading the Eneroth Terrain Volume extension as it will make it easier to put a solid object underneath the terrain. Once downloaded you can install this by going to Window > Extension Manager and then Install Extension.

Let’s get editing!

  • Open up Sketchup Pro and open your file
  • Expand the layers section (right-hand side) and remove all layers apart from Layer0, Topography and Buildings.
  • Click on the terrain and then go to Extensions menu > Eneroth Terrian Volume. This will create a solid object underneath your terrain.
  • To change the height of the buildings to the base (if desired), you need to explore the terrain. You can do this by right-clicking your model then choose Explode. Using the Push/Pull tool, you can then change the height.
  • Once finished, go to File > Export > 3D Model. Ensure you save as an STL so you can load straight into your slicer.

You are now ready to add your file to your slicer and get printing! It is recommended you use a 0.15mm layer height for better results.

I hope you have fun with this, and if you do decide to print some 3D Printing Terrains and Landscapes, then please share with us on our Facebook page!

Feeling nostalgic? Sonic the Hedgehog Diorama – Going Large will be for you!


We will be happy to hear your thoughts

      Leave a reply

      This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

      On Key

      Related Posts