Adding Shaded Relief in Photoshop

I’ve had occasion, from time to time, to show my colleagues in the UW Cartography Lab the technique I use to combine shaded relief with other map layers in Photoshop. After a recent request to share the technique again, I decided to make a video, so that people can watch at their own convenience. So, if you’re interested in this:


then watch this:

(make sure to view in HD, so you can see the details I’m talking about). If you’d like, you can also follow along with the same file I’m using:

This tutorial is, and will remain, free, but if you derive some value from it, you are welcome to make a donation to support my continued work.

10 thoughts on “Adding Shaded Relief in Photoshop

  1. Hi, this is a great tutorial. May I ask how you generated the hypsometric tint? was that in GIS or Photoshop? And is it also a copy of the hillshade with color applied? I would like to try generating my own.


    1. For this example, I believe I did it in Photoshop, though I have also done it in GIS. It doesn’t use a copy of the hillshade, but a copy of the DEM itself. So, in ArcMap, for example, you can load in a DEM and then colors are automatically applied based on the values in the DEM — usually the default setting is a black (low areas) to white (high areas) setting, but you can go in and change that to a variety of other ramps. If you have a similar black-to-white image in Photoshop, you would use the Gradient Map tool to alter its colors, which is what I did in creating the example. Hope this helps!

          1. Ah that’s too bad. I’ve been looking around at other maps trying to sample them. Harder than I thought.

            I’ll have to look into land cover and learn a bit more about that. Would make for a much more realistic map if I can make lots of masks for a desert or forest etc


  2. Your tutorials are the best. It’s so hard to find good Adobe/Cartographic/GIS resources on the interwebs. Cheers!

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