Software for Relief Shading

Eduard (macOS)
Eduard is our recommended software for creating beautiful and accurate Swiss-style shaded relief images. Eduard includes advanced tools for creating generalised shaded relief, rotating the direction of illumination, and adjusting the amount of aerial perspective simulation. Results are simply stunning.

Below is a selection of other software for relief shading from digital elevation models. This compilation is not exhaustive, and it focuses on specialised or low-cost applications.

Adobe Photoshop (Windows, macOS)
Photoshop is the professional image-editing standard, and an essential tool when working with shaded relief or other images. Adobe Photoshop can produce rudimentary grey shaded relief images from a digital elevation model, and it can be used to colourise shaded relief, as shown in a tutorial by Alex Tait, a tutorial Daniel Huffman, and a tutorial by Tom Patterson.

Blender (Windows, macOS)
Blender is a free and open-source 3D computer graphics software used for creating animated films, visual effects, interactive 3D applications and video games. Daniel Huffman wrote a tutorial for creating shaded relief with Blender.

Global Mapper (Windows)
Global Mapper can view, merge, and export a large variety of vector, raster, and elevation data sets. It can also create coloured shaded relief.

Manifold System (Windows)
Manifold System is a relatively cheap geographic information system (GIS) that supports different types of spatial data and offers a wide array of tools. It produces shaded relief and perspective views among other things.

Natural Scene Designer (Windows, macOS)
A 3D program for designing, rendering and animating natural outdoor scenes. It also renders two-dimensional shaded relief and plan oblique relief.

Pyramid Shader (Windows, macOS, Linux)
Pyramid Shader is free and creates shaded relief, illuminated and shadowed contour lines, hypsometric tints, and other visualizations from digital elevation models.

QGIS (Windows, macOS, Linux)
QGIS is a free and open-source geographic information system (GIS). It supports numerous vector, raster, and database formats and functionalities. It can create shaded relief with optional multidirectional illumination.

Surfer (Windows)
Surfer is a contouring and 3D surface mapping program. It converts spatial data into maps with contours, surfaces, wireframes, vectors, images, and shaded relief images.

Terrain Sculptor (Windows, macOS, Linux)
Terrain Sculptor is a free application for the generalization of digital elevation models for relief shading. Terrain Sculptor removes irrelevant terrain detail and accentuates important terrain features.