Relief Map FAQs

Shaded Relief Map FAQs


What goes into making a shaded relief map?

Making a shaded relief map from a vintage map is a multi-step process that involves restoration, color correction, and digital shading. The shading being the most important component of a shaded relief map. This is what makes the landscape appear to jump off the page.

Are the shaded relief maps 3D printed?

Our shaded relief maps are printed on 2D Fine Art Matte Paper. All prints sold on East of Nowhere are 2D, which means they are flat to the touch. 3D printed products do not have this level of detail, coloring, or shading. 

But they really look 3D!

We take that as a compliment, thank you! The shading technique we use creates an incredibly realistic illusion of a 3D landscape. Even in print, it will appear 3D on your wall.

Why are there shadows on the margins of the map?

This particular shading technique creates the illusion that the map area is elevated relative to the rest of the paper. To do this, shadows are cast both within the map space and on the margins of the map area. These margin shadows are critical, without them the map would look flat and unnatural.

Because the shadows are created with a digitally rendered "sunlight" there are also highlights that pair with the shadows, found on the opposite side. In most cases, we cast a digital "sunlight" from the northwest, so the top and left side margins will have highlights while the bottom and right side will have shadows.


Are the small labels and text legible in print?

Although the shading of vintage maps creates a brilliant piece of visual art, it can interfere with the text on the map itself. Especially in heavily shaded areas, the text may no longer be legible. These maps look stunning in wall art settings, framed or unframed, but are not intended to be used as a reference or browsed at close range as you would an atlas or digital map.

Are the apparent elevation changes to scale?

For all of our relief maps, we exaggerate the elevation scale to create a more dramatic looking landscape. Without this exaggeration, many of the relief maps would look nearly flat.

Could you print these in 3D?

We really wish 3D printing technology could handle such detailed and multi-color prints as the ones we design. But our museum-quality prints are stunning regardless. 

What about the raised relief maps I remember from grade school?

The plastic raised relief maps we all remember from our childhood were incredible teaching tools, and have made a lasting impression. However, these maps have been out of production since the 1990s and furthermore would not make for fine wall art. 

Where can I learn more about this all?

Wikipedia has an excellent article on Terrain Cartography, a great starting point for those looking to learn about the subject: