Tradition + Technology

3D printing provides the opportunity for more markets to benefit from obtaining affordable, accurate topographical models. 3D printers can still print high-quality maps for museums, national parks and universities, but it can also provide 3D printed maps for city agencies, sports companies, research organizations, property developers and more.

Topographical Model of Big Sky Montana Topographical Model of Great Smoky Mountains National Park Topographical Model of a planned development in Colorado

Topographical maps created using 3D printing technologies are durable, portable and reasonably priced. 3D printed maps can be printed in thousands of colors and texturized. Popular uses include 3D displays of ski runs, marathon routes, hiking trails, underwater terrains, new development areas, underground earth features, geographical features and much more. One of our most recent topography projects was of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and some surrounding area. The large topography mapped over 1.2 million acres in a 91" x 56" frame! Potentially, there are no limitations in the geography, geology, cartography, sports and residential development planning industries.

Topographical Model of a suburban development Topographical Model of a map Topographical Model of planning roads

WhiteClouds even offers customized work such as building the bases that a display may rest on, hand painted details, 3D CNC cutting, and 3D foam fabrication. In fact, the WhiteClouds facility supports a large model-making shop for creating supporting elements to its 3D printed designs. We are a full-service 3D model-making company.

Features and Benefits

Topographical Model of Kettle Creek Pennsylvania
  • Extremely Strong: As the video below shows, you can drive a 1 ton truck over the model itself.
  • Accuracy: 3D models can be printed to scale as accurately as are the files and images provided.
  • Excitement: It is much easier to excite your customers with 3D models of your ski runs or trails compared to flat printed maps.
  • Stain and Water Resistance: Spills are easy to wipe up.
  • Communication: Some people cannot read topographical maps. Everyone can interpret 3D printed raised maps. As you can see in the video below, you can specify extremely detailed raised maps.
  • Affordability: Using 3D printing technologies, you can order custom 3D maps for a reasonable price.
  • Testability: 3D prints are affordable enough to test designs, such as several versions of planned work.
  • Consistency: Using modern print technologies, you can easily recreate identical 3D topography maps.
  • Portability: Maps can be created using lighter materials than what was available in the past, making them easier to transport.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park Model

Park City, Utah Terrain Model

Sample Terrain Model (Big Sky)

Strength, Stain, and Water Resistance

Gallery of large 12' University Architectural Diorama

Click here to view

Campus-wide Architectural Model of BYU with Lights on Campus-wide Architectural Model of BYU with Lights off
Model of BYU's Cannon Center Campus-wide Architectural Model of BYU BYU's Administrative Building Cabinetry around the BYU Campus Diorama

Technology and Materials

Topographical Model of landscape topo
  • With 3D printing technology, you aren‘t limited to straight lines and boxes. A 3D printer can easily print curved walls and rounded rooflines.
  • We can 3D print models in different materials including sandstone-like, digital plastic, and UV-cured resin. The type of model determines which material will produce the best results. We can help you choose the material that is best for your project.
  • We use foam fabrication technologies such as CNC Cutting, Hot Wires, Laser Cutting, Hot Knifing, and Sculpting.
  • 3D Printed Topographical models and architectural models, and terrain models show incredible detail. The resolution of our printers is finer than a human hair.
  • Topographical models can be 3D printed in full-color (over 750,000 variations of color) for awe-inspiring presentations and displays. No painting required!
  • Our in-house spray booth gives us flexibility in different types and grades of paint and finishing capabilities.
Topographical Model of Park City Topographical Model of a mountain range Topographical Model of Park City Ski Resorts

Topographical Model of Huntsville, Utah Topographical Model of mountain range Topographical Model of Watershed


Cost of topographical 3D models is based on the volume of material (size of the model), the time it takes to create the 3D printable file and other elements of the model.  Each model is bid individually and the best way to determine cost is to contact us and let us bid your project.

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Whiteclouds topographical model creation workflow

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Common Questions

Topographical Model with added foliage Topographical Base

What file type is required to 3D print a model?

We work with all architectural CAD programs including AutoCAD, Revit, Chief Architect, ArchiCAD and Sketchup, just to name a few.  If you design in 3D, we will start with your 3D files.  If you have 2D blueprints and elevations, artist's sketches (or even napkin drawings), we can build a model from these as well.

Do the printers print in color?

Yes.  Most of our topographical models are printed in a sandstone-like material and print in full color (up to 750,000 different colors).  Anything printed in UV-cured resin materials are a single color but can be painted.

What is the material used?

We match the correct material and fabrication process to your requirements in terms of presentation, size, and transportability.  We fabricate in our model shop using different types of foam, wood, metal, resins, and acrylics.  We can also 3D print in full-color sandstone, uv-cured resin, plastic, rubber-like acrylic, and nylon.

What is the largest model you can 3D print?

There is no limit to the size for a topographical model.  If we are using 3D printing technologies for building the topo, our 3D print envelope on our larger printers is 9" x 15" x 20".  This is the largest model we can print in a single piece.  We can 3D print larger models in multiple pieces.  We have built many topographical models that are finished anywhere from 2'x2' to 4'x6' (including base). Large models are sometimes known as architectural dioramas. If we are using a foam type structure, it is very easy to build out very large models.

What is the turnaround time for a 3D-printed topographical model?

We usually ask for four to six weeks from the time we take the order to when you will receive the model.  We understand that sometimes deadlines are tight and we can accommodate rush orders in as little as one week.

Can you 3D print homes, buildings, swimming pools, arbors, hardscaping features, etc.?

Yes.  We 3D print many of these items in our topographical models.

Do you have a question we didn‘t answer? Don't hesitate to contact us at 1-385-206-8700 or

Worldwide Delivery

WhiteClouds has delivered models around the world.

History of Topographical Models

Topographical Model in monochrome, made from acrylic

Way back in grade school many of us were already experienced 3D model creators when we built our first volcano for a science class.  However, the first raised maps were built in the Qin Dynasty over 200 years BCE.  In the past, maps were made of wood, clay, beeswax, wheat paste and rice.

Later maps were created from layering sheet material, sometimes over a plaster mold.  Then plastic formed maps became common in the late 1940's.  This was the first type of 3D raised maps that could be quickly produced.  They were not known to be highly accurate and had a difficult time forming sharp points, like high-pitched mountain ranges.

One of the most famous terrain relief models is the Great Polish Map of Scotland.  This map was created using concrete in the 1970s.  The map was designed by a cartographer and is currently being restored.

Now 3D printers can create raised topographic models more accurately and affordably.  Also, the maps can be designed to be much more portable than versions of the past.  While printers can print plastic raised maps, they can also print using various powders, resins and metals.  Emerging 3D printing technologies is opening the opportunity for 3D maps to be used in more industries than what existed even just a few decades ago.