Turning hand drawn 2d map into 3d landscape

I’m trying to figure the best way to do something that seems so very simple, but as usual is turning out to be impossible for me to figure out. I just want to take an image of a hand drawn map and turn it into a very basic 3d terrain model in sketchup. My idea was to import the map image (using multiple tiles to increase resolution), then lock it as a group and move it to it’s own layer. Then use it to trace all the island and land shapes using the freehand tool, creating irregularly shaped closed faces all on the same plane. Then drape a sandbox grid over each closed face and use the smoove tool to work each one into simple 3d terrain. Apparently this way is not possible, since the sandbox grids refuse to be draped onto the shapes, unlike the sandbox grids in videos I’ve watched like this one or in forums like this or this or following the steps in instructional SKP files like TIN_Planter from here. Maybe my intended strategy is not the most efficient way to do what I want, so any ideas are appreciated.

With Fredo6 TopoShaper plugin:

or with Sandbox Tools > From Contours

I’m not sure why you are having an issue doing this.
Here is a simple example.


Yes, It works by the methods described. I find that first I must use the Soften/ smooth window to UN-soften the diagonals in the grid or they will not drape.

Yes I’m beginning to think this is the only way it might work. I currently don’t have contour lines on the map, and they’re a pain to draw from scratch, but if building it with the sandbox/smoove tools proves impossible, I’ll probably have to. Thanks

I try to drape it exactly the way as shown in the gif and it won’t do it. After I select the grid, choose the drape tool, then click the closed surface shape, Entitity Info box just says “No selection” and nothing happens. Maybe if I UN smooth the edges as mentioned it will work, I’ll give it a try.

If you attach an example that won’t drape we can check what the problem is.

The Freehand tool is a poor choice for tracing the contour map.
Reason being, there’s no control over the segmentation.
And creating overly complex geometry invites problems.

Default 12-Segment Arc vs Freehand

Use the Line tool and the 2-Point Arc tool to trace the contours.
As you draw an Arc, don’t be too concerned about following the contour map precisely.
You can tweak the geometry after drawing the Arc.

Right context click on the Arc > Explode Curve
Now hover the Move tool (nothing selected) over an endpoint and simply click-move-click to position the geometry as needed.

The goal is to keep the segmentation length generally uniform.
Try using 6-segment Arcs. You can always use Divide to break an Edge for more segmentation.

Here’s a demo model from a long-lost topic in the old SU Help Forum.


• Import the Image(s) > Scale to real-world size > Group and lock them.

• Trace the contours. Delete the Faces when finished, you don’t need them.

• Move each contour vertically to the appropriate height.

• Run the plugin of your choice … Sandbox-From Contours or TopoShaper

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I think this might be what’s causing the problems. This is similar to using the pen tool in Illustrator, so at least it’s familiar. So far the grids seem to be working on each little island shape. Thanks a lot!

If the grids start acting up again, then I think I will have to try this method. It seems like the best one, actually, as long as I was importing map images with contour lines already on them. As it is, they don’t have any and I would have to make my own, which is harder to visualize and plan compared to just messing about with the smoove tool. However, the biggest advantage to this method is that it allows the topography to “stick” to the ground/water level unlike using the smoove tool. I assume there is no way to use the smoove tool but tell the edge itself to stay adhered to the “ground” level?

No. Artisan can do this in a way. You need to make the grid fine enough and the tool small enough so you can leave the perimeter alone if it has to go to ground. Also you can add more area and then raise the waterline or whatever flat surface up to the desired height (so some of the edges are submerged–they can be cut at the waterline if you want).

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@pbacot, you could select the border edges and go to Tools > Artisan > Crease Selection, and then use Sculpt Brush, and those edges will stay in place.

In Artisan but not SandBox which OP is using. : )

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I just watched some explanatory videos for Artisan and I have to say that looks exactly like what I want. Thanks so much for turning me onto that amazing toolkit!

You are welcome. Good luck. Keep in mind Toposhaper (for when you have contours), SoapSkinBubble, and Vertex Tools as well for working with terrain surfaces.