Real Estate buyer: 2D topographical map to Blender

First off: I’m not a professional. I’m just looking for creating one-time-use 3D models, that I can rotate with a mouse.

Like many people, I’m looking for a lot to build a house.

Where I live is very hilly, and the lots are less than ideal. One local lot had an 80 degree slope, with waste water dumps in the middle of it, and priced over $200,000. Another had a driveway that would cost $100,000 to build.

I want to quickly visualize lots. So I want to create a 3d model, and move around a box representing a house.

I know some people use Google Earth Pro, but their resolution is 15 meters / yards, so no good for a small lot.

Anyhow the local city council produces high resolution 2D topographical maps. Resolution is 1 meter / yard.

Is there any techniques / cheap-to-free third parties tools for converting these 2D maps to a 3D model?

And a follow-up question: what’s the easiest way to simulate excavations, filling, or earthworks? For instance, digging down to create a retaining wall.


Perhaps Blender can help you visualize some of the issues you have, but we can only speculate – your post is not very specific. For example, what do these 2D topographical maps look like? Knowing that, some of the wonderfully creative people on this forum could give you pointers.

Also, if you’re new to Blender I should say that its orientation is toward artists. Yes, we can produce 3D models to a certain scale if we wish, but Blender is not a CAD program. I say this because it looks like you might want to use civil engineering software for some of your issues, such as the earthworks you mention (sorry, I have no experience with that kind of software so I can’t make suggestions, but Goggle will be happy to help!).

Finally, don’t let me discourage you – post some specific questions and let us help!


Here’s an example of a topographic map.

I found free software from Google, that does the job, called Sketchup
“SketchUp is a powerful grading program. The SketchUp Sandbox and Extension Tools are able to generate organic modeling surfaces with relative ease. The tools can be adapted to most models to create conceptual site terrain. Put on your grading hat, and watch how to grade retaining walls, walks, and objects into even the most basic site plan. Learn how to create grading profiles for accessible ramps, steps, roads, and buildings.
The webinar will walk you through the step-by-step process of creating organic surfaces that represent grades and terrain. The tutorial builds on each step and demonstrates different grading typologies and approaches. The method explores the big picture approach to completing a site down to grading details that allow users to incorporate varying site elements, like steps, walls, and ramps, into an overall conceptual grading model for an entire project”
“Creating Terrain from Scratch”

TopoShaper 1 1 Altitude Editor, add-on

Good research. You’d be surprised how many petitioners here don’t bother.

If Sketchup will do the job for you, then I think you should use it. Aside from the principle “use the tool that’s appropriate for the job,” I am given to believe that it doesn’t have as steep a learning curve as Blender… and that will probably contribute to your overall happiness :slight_smile:

This might be of interest:

And a BA thread in regards to trouble-shooting the addon:

I suppose once you have a sufficient grid-based displacement mesh made, you could use the sculpt tool (locking to z axis) or shrinkwrap to add the kind of modifications you plan on doing to the landscape. Might also be a good idea to add keyframes (normally used for deformation animations) so you can transition between original and other displacement modifications.

Blender has much, much more features than Google’s Sketchup.

However for building scale terrains from topographic maps, and quickly transforming blueprints to 3D houses and gardens, to me Sketchup seems easier.

Perhaps the two software suites could be used together: quick mockup with Sketchup, finished with Blender