About a year ago, Velimir approached me with the idea we mash up a geological map and a 3D shaded relief. We did it successfully, and the Twitter audience seemed to love it. It was a fun adventure, him tackling all the heavy (CPU) lifting for rendering and me helping with geo-transformations.

Geološka karta Republike Hrvatske

Note: You click on the maps to get a high-resolution version of the image.

Then, Velimir challenged me to pull the same trick on the ‘Europa Etnografica’ image he found on Reddit. But at the time, I didn’t have the proper hardware for that adventure, so it all fell behind.

Then finally, in September, I got some free time, and I acquired a computer powerful enough to pull this off. But, in the meantime, I forgot all the steps and tricks. So, I had to remind myself of the famous Creating Shaded Relief in Blender tutorial. I will not go into nerdy details here about how I made the maps, as all you need is in that tutorial.

To warm up before tackling the big EU image, I started playing with a smaller area, my country Croatia. I built the DEM based on the Copernicus EU data and overlayed the Mapbox Satellite coverage. It was an easy map but was merely only a start.

Copernicus EU & Mapbox Satelitte

To improve the overlay, I started exploring Sentinel-2 images. It is a bit complex to download all the small tiles and merge them into a giant mesh. In the end, I used Sentinel-2 cloudless - https://s2maps.eu by EOX IT Services GmbH (Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2019).

Croatia - Copernicus EU & Sentinel-2 cloudless 2019 by EOX IT Services GmbH

Sentinel-2 cloudless 2019 by EOX IT Services GmbH is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Finally, I was ready to tackle the EU map. Tho, this map came with its own set of problems. The biggest issue is the pure size of the area. I figured DEM 1.1 would be overkill, so I stepped down to version DEM 1.0. Since I am doing a small-scale map of the whole of Europe, the precision of the 1.0 should be sufficient. Another benefit is I could download one file instead of dealing with 27 different 1000 x 1000 km tiles. Still, the file is 26GB. 😅

Once I wrangled the data and re-project it to a proper map coordinate system, I was ready to send it to Blender to do its magic. Now it is on you to judge the final results.

Europa Etnografica

Europa etnografica. Propr. Artistico-letteraria del T.C.I. Ufficio cartografico del T.C.I. (1929)