Working with 3D Models

Global Mapper supports loading and exporting a number of 3D Model formats.

Unlike standard vector data 3D models contain a 3D mesh structure, where various 3D points are connected via edges and faces. While 3D vector features can only contain elevations at the edge of an area, the 3D mesh format contains internal vertices that allow for representing more complicated 3D geometry.

Supported 3D Model formats:

Collada: *.dae
PLY (Stanford Polygon Library) : *.ply
Blender : *.blend
OBJ (Wavefront): *.obj
3DS (3DS Max): *.3ds
STL (StereoLithography) : *.stl
FBX (Autodesk Filmbox): *.fbx

Sketchup: *.skp

Google Earth KMZ (may contain SKP or DAE model)

Loading 3D Model formats

To integrate 3D Model formats with other spatial data, the projection and model orientation and units must be specified.


Most 3D model formats use a custom Orthographic Projection, where distance is measured away from the origin of the X,Y and Z axes.

Some 3D model formats support geo-location of the model, which specifies the Latitude and Longitude location of the origin. If this is not available for the model type, or it is not recognized from the file, manually specify the Central Latitude and Central Longitude to correctly locate the origin of the model in Geographic Coordinates. The Planar Units and Elevation Units can also be set to match the model units.

The 3D model can also be placed in a location using the Pad Site placement tool.

3D File Import Options

The 3D File Import options dialog will also appear when loading most 3D model formats.

Load Z-up model as Y-up - Different 3D model formats label the axes differently. Global Mapper recognized the Y axis as the vertical axis for 3D model formats. If the model labels the vertical axis as Z, check this option to orient the model correctly.

Load left-handed model as right-handed- Global Mapper recognizes a right-handed Cartesian system for 3D model formats, where the Z axis is positive coming forward. Check this option to correctly load a model that stores coordinates in a left-handed Cartesian system.

Ignore units information for this model - some 3D model formats include unit information that does not scale properly . If the 3D model is not scaled correctly, use this option to ignore the unit information in the model.

Use Setting for All 3D Models Currently Being Loaded- check this option to skip the dialog and use the same load settings for subsequent 3D models.

3D Textures

Some 3D model formats support applying image files to the faces of the model for a more realistic looking model. Global Mapper will load these texture files if they are included in the model, and they will display in the 3D viewer. The 2D Planar map view does not show the textures, and will show solid color faces.

If Global Mapper is unable to locate the folder that contains the texture files, a prompt will appear to specify the location of the texture folder, or skip loading the texture.

Keyboard shortcut: 3D texture display can be toggled on and off in the 3D view using the hotkey T.

3D Point Symbols

3D models can also be applied to point features as a 3D point symbol. 3D point symbols ideal for use with models that represent more generic types of objects, rather than a specific model that represents something that only appears in one location, such as an exact building replica.

Global Mapper has built in 3D models, or custom 3D symbols can be created using any of the supported 3D model formats. For better performance in the 3D viewer, it is recommended to use more simple models for custom point symbols that will need to render many times in the 3D viewer. For more recommendations for custom 3D point symbol models see Recommendations: 

To render a 3D point symbol, the point feature must have a recognized elevation value and height value. [If there is not height value specified, or the height is 0, the model will be scaled based on the 2D symbol size].

To render a 3D point symbol, the feature must have a 3D symbol specified for the point style, either for the point individually, for the layer the point is in, or based on the feature type.

The Altitude Mode and Model Placement settings determine how the 3D model is placed in the location.

Create 3D points example:

There are multiple ways to implement 3D point symbols depending on what the elevation and height attribute values represent, and how the model is oriented. This is one example of how to create 3D point symbols.

Create 3D Trees

  1. Create a new point features using the . Create Point/ Text feature tool in the Digitizer (Create) Toolbar representing the locations of the tree.
  2. In the Configuration Dialog go to Point Styles and locate the Tree Point Type. Select this type and assign in a 3D Model. There are built in models for Tree and Pine Tree to choose from, or use the Custom Symbols page in the Point Styles folder to load another model.

  3. Open the 3D Viewer to see the 3D point symbols.