Morph 2d map in to extruded 3d globe

Maya is not only used for animated movies and special effects but also for Motion graphics works. For Motion graphics you have to create 3d maps and globe once in a while. During my motion graphics career I have to face the same problem several times. Each time I have tried different ways and never satisfied with the result. I used Displacement maps, sphere with transparent maps etc. They served the purpose but not the satisfactory look.

                             And one day I have to create a 3d map morph in to a 3d globe with continents extruded for a project (a satellite map is morphed in to 3d globe with glossy effect). First I thought it is an easy one. But the final result was not that much 3d looking. So I have to find a way to work it. At last I got an easy way. Hope you will also like it.
Here we go.
Tools needed
            You may use either Photoshop or Illustrator. But I prefer Illustrator because it will create smooth and crisp curves while Photoshop produce jaggy curves.
1. Get a high resolution earth map. You need the alpha map separately if you are using a geographical map. For this tutorial I am using a vector earth map which can be downloaded here.
2. Open it in Photoshop and by using magic wand (w) select the outer region representing ocean and delete it.
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
3. If you have Adobe Illustrator save the file as PNG and skip to step 6.
4. In Photoshop go to paths and click ‘make work path from selection ‘tool to create a new path.
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
Now we have a work path.
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
5. Go to File > export > path to Illustrator and save it as Illustrator file by selecting the work path from drop down box. It is already selected there.
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
6. Skip to step 13.
7. Open Adobe Illustrator and create a new document with Basic RGB pre-set with 1024X768 formats.
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
8. Now go to file>place and select the saved PNG file, we have created at step 3.
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
9. Scale it down if necessary. Do a proportional scale only.
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
10. Click the drop down option under live trace (click the arrow key) and select tracing options
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
11. Adjust the parameters as seen in Figure.
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
12. Now press trace and save the scene as Illustrator file. Select the Adobe Illustrator 8 option if you are using latest Illustrator.
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
13. Now create a new document in Maya and go to Create> Adobe Illustrator object> options
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
14. Select curve as final output and press create. You will get something like this.
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
15. Drag select the entire curve from viewport and group it. Centre pivot and snap the group to the base of the grid. Freeze transform and delete the history. You can safely delete the unwanted groups from outliner.
16. Now create a nurbs square and rotate, scale it exactly to match the map.
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
17. Select the Adobe Illustrator curve 1 group and duplicate it once.
18. Shift select the nurbs square 1 from outline and go to surface menu and surface>planar> options and do as the figure below
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
19. Delete the history and assign a Phong material and change the colour as desired. We have our outer ocean.
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
20. Go to outliner and select Adobe Illustrator curve 1 and do a planar. Delete the history and apply new material.
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
21. Now we have our complete map. The ocean and Continents are separated so we can have separate animation and textures.
22. Select the continent mesh and do extrude. Don’t delete the history if you need extrude animation.
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
23. Select both ocean and continents and go to animation mode and do Create deformers> nonlinear> Bend.
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
24. And rotate the bend handle in 90 degrees in Y axis and change the curvature to 1.75
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
25. Select both ocean and continents and go to animation mode and do Create deformers> nonlinear> Bend. Rotate the Bend handle to 90 degree in X and Y. And change the curvature to 3.142. Adjust the curvature accordingly.
fermicg_2d map to 3d globe tutorial
Now we have the complete globe. Select both the bend handle and animate the curvature or set a set driven key and animate it for morphing effect.
You can replace a sphere for ocean once the animation is completed.And play with the visibility key.
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Mark said...

Good solution to a common problem!

Anonymous said...

I am facing a problem at step 18

Sameer.T said...

What is the problem? If you are not getting the planar plane,select all the curves not the group and then do planar. Still having no mesh generated then closely examine the curves, if the vertices are shifted above/below plane it will create the problem. if so scale down.

Anonymous said...

Hi !

I am getting this problem -

Sameer.T said...

The problem is the same. Your curves may be opened or the cv s mis aligned. Just select all the curves represents Australia ( the curves failed to produce mesh) and do planar again. If it fails select the same curves and closely examine if there is any mis aligned cvs ( use isolation tool). If found so align the cvs parallel to the curve. You can try open/ close curve option also (only helps if the curve is sngle).
Better cleanup the curves. You can delete the unvanted broken curves and retain the long curves and try closing the curve. then repeat from step 18.
You can personally send the scene file to fermicg@gmail.com if need further assistance.

Anonymous said...

please make a video tutorial... :D

Anonymous said...

how to do this in 3ds max ?

FermiCG said...


FermiCG said...

Same procedure. Export the desired map as illustrator file and import in 3ds Max. Convert the curves in to editable mesh/poly and extrude. Rest is the same. Add the bend(???) modifier and animate.

Anonymous said...

I can't make a sphere with bend modifier.
With bend modifier I just can make like step 24 in 3ds max...
Specific please ^_^

FermiCG said...

First of all I used 3DS Max long ago. And now I don't have access to it.
In 3DS Max the up axis is z while in Maya it is Y.
So you need to apply the Y value in this tutorial to Z in Max.
Before applying the bend add a subd modifier to add sub division to your planar mesh. Then extrude and bend.
Try the different values for bend angle,bend value and axis.
Still problem exist specify it.

Rob D said...

Hi there. I am a newbie at this but have managed to get to step #16. I try to create a nurbs square but when I drag the tool nothing happens. Please advise.

Fermi CG said...

May be you are using the interactive creation turned off. Click the tick below the nurbs creation panel located under create.

Jeff Salman said...


First, thanks for sharing this method. I'm having 2 problems at step 11 ...

1) The figure/image showing how to set the parameters for step 11 seems small in resolution. I can't tell what the numbers/settings are, and if I zoom into the image, they just get even blurrier. Combine this with the fact that ...

2) The settings for tracing seem to have changed quite a bit for Illustrator CS6.

No one else has mentioned any problems with being able to see the image/parameters in step 11, so maybe I'm missing something. Or, since it's been 2 yrs since the last comment I see, maybe something else is going on.

If you have a link to an updated tutorial or if you have any suggestions regarding these issues, I'd appreciate it.

Thanks again for this tut!