Blender Tutorial

As promised several months ago, I’ve finally put together some instructions on how to create shaded relief using Blender. I’ve created a 72-minute, six-part video series that walks you through the process (don’t worry; it doesn’t take that long to do it every time, just your first time). Please share it around! I’d love to see other people making use of this technique, and extending it beyond what I’ve done.

Make sure you’re watching these in HD, otherwise you may have trouble following along when I click buttons. If you want to follow along with the DEM I am using, get it here:

Ryan Lash (@RRLash) has put together an awesome step-by-step explanation of everything that goes on in the video, so that you don’t have to hunt around to find the step you missed:

Meanwhile, if you just want to look at pretty things, here’s the relief I made during the tutorials:


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13 responses to “Blender Tutorial

  1. dario 7th January, 2014 at 08:39

    Hi Daniel,

    your tutorial is great and i really thank you for time you passed made this video series!! I follow it in every step and it looks great, it’s also giving me suggestions for doing 3D maps with this software. I will save this settings and do it for next shaded reliefs, it looks really better than QGIS shaded relief calculator.

    Just two question.
    I use your same version of Blender (2,69), but there’s some panels you use that I haven’t on my Mac and I can’t find on Blender options.

    a) first, when you try to change color and roughness (Video 3, minute 16,55). I’ve a more complicated panel, especially without roughness parametres, no way to change that.

    b) second, most important, about the Sun Strenght. (video 5, minute 7). Same thing that Roughness, I’ve a more complicated panel.

    c) about last video, all “Light Paths” panel it doesn’t exist in my Blender user interface.

    Results is that my shaded relief is different than yours.
    Do you have any suggestion to change that? I can send you by mail some screenshot of my panels…
    I really thank you again for your time and great tutorial.

    I wish you all the best for 2014.

    • Daniel Huffman 7th January, 2014 at 09:13

      Did you make sure to switch to the Cycles Rendered? That will cause your panels to be different

      • dario 7th January, 2014 at 09:30

        That it is! I switched yesterday but i forgot to do it today. Thanks a lot !

        Did you use this software for 3D rendering too ? It could be awesome if DEM could be adapted as a vector file in Illustrator. Well, this is another story to tell…..

        thanks again, bye !

  2. Thorfinn Tait 19th January, 2014 at 19:47


    Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this method. I had a go, and the results are indeed vastly superior to what I was using before.

    I am in the midst of writing a series of articles on creating and mapping fantasy worlds, and I’d love to incorporate your techniques into my shaded relief article – with full credit given to you for the method, of course. I will link to your blog article, and provide text instructions, which I think would be a great complement to go with your article. How would you feel about that?


    • Daniel Huffman 19th January, 2014 at 21:57

      Thanks for the kind words, and I’m glad you had a good result! Please do feel free to share this technique. If you do a written set of instructions, I might want to link back to those, as well, as I agree that it needs them. I just haven’t had the time to write everything down.


      • sarvesh randy 5th February, 2014 at 04:33

        Hi Daniel, great video, I loved the way you approached your subject, so simple and beautifully explained. One question though, how do I import my 2d image?

        • Daniel Huffman 5th February, 2014 at 14:30

          Thanks for the kind words. If you’re talking about importing your own DEM, that’s covered in video 3, starting at about the 10:30 mark. If you’re talking about saving your final relief, that’s in video 6 at about the 8:45 mark. Hope this helps!

  3. kascy 7th March, 2014 at 05:14

    Blender 2.69
    Hi Daniel, apart from your informative video, can you please tell me how to convert a .Blend file to another format, and how can I save a Blender file as JPEG? I’m sure many guys are asking the same question.

    • Daniel Huffman 7th March, 2014 at 06:37

      It’s not possible to save a .blend as a JPEG or other graphics format, since they’re such different things. Perhaps you’re looking to save your rendered relief, instead? That’s covered in the last video, at around the 9 minute mark. Hope that helps!

  4. Ryan Lash 4th April, 2014 at 11:54

    Thanks again for the great tutorial. I’ve been trying to repeat the process for several different areas, and found I frequently needed to reference information from the videos. To make this easier, and useful for others, I’ve compiled a spreadsheet where I attempted to: 1) transcribe the process you describe in your video, and 2) generalize the steps in the process with specific reference to button clicking sequence. I’m sharing it here as a Google Doc for others to edit, copy, and reference if they want. Here’s the link-

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