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Relief Map Techniques
¤ This page describes techniques for making your own image tiles.
 

If you want to try making your own relief maps, there are two resources you will need : Data and Software. The subject of Data is already covered extensively in my Map Data pages, so I won't repeat it here. Sotware is also covered in my Map Tools pages, but it will be useful to mention a few programs especially useful for relief maps.

As usual, Software is available in three types: Paid For, Trial, and Free. The 'Paid For' types don't get a mention here, as I'm sure they know how to do their own advertising. The 'Trial' types are either time-limited, or more usually have some features disabled, such as export. In other words, this means that you can experiment with the features and create images, but you can't use them elsewhere.

However all is not lost, when you can capture the current image of your screen ! Forget all about fancy screen-grabber programs - the facility is already there. Simply get the screen the way you want it, hiding toolbars and making your image as big as possible. Don't worry where the cursor is - it won't be included in the shot. When all is ready, press the 'PrintScreen' button, usually located in the block above the arrow keys. Your computer has now saved a snapshot to the Clipboard. All you have to do now is to open an image editor program - even something as basic as Window's 'Paint' will do. Paste the contents of the Clipboard as a new image, or into a blank one, and hey presto, you have your relief map.

Useful Trial Software

The most useful trial version of a program that can create relief maps is Global Mapper. A more detailed report is to be found Here. Global Mapper is an easy program to use, and though containing some useful tools, is essentially a data viewer. It can produce some very good results, and is well worth downloading. Global Mapper can load DEM files directly. Once loaded, the result can be zoomed and re-positioned as you would expect, then colored in a number of ways. A variety of shaders are built in, or you can create your own quite easily, choosing colors that will apply to any elevation point. The program generates the required gradients. A scale bar is provided, which can be turned on and off as required. Daylight shading can also be added, to simulate light on the mountains at a variety of directions and altitudes. The toolbars are rather disappointing - most of the exciting settings are to be found in 'Tools>Configure'.

Useful Free Software

Without doubt, the best free software for creating relief maps is Richard Horne's 3DEM program. It can load a variety of file types, including USGS DEM, Globe, and GTOPO30 Tiles. The resulting display can be colored with up to 14 color points assigned to any elevation. The program then fills in the remaining gradients. Only such two lots of settings can be saved - this is a great pity, and one option that we hope will be changed in future versions. The zoom control is very good, with 1 pixel increments, and the resulting image can be saved in a large variety of formats, including bmp, jpeg, tga, and geotiff. Other features, such as its ability to generate 3-dimensional scenes, are discussed Here.

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