Terrain synthesis from digital elevation models

Howard Zhou, Jie Sun, Greg Turk, James M. Rehg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we present an example-based system for terrain synthesis. In our approach, patches from a sample terrain (represented by a height field) are used to generate a new terrain. The synthesis is guided by a user-sketched feature map that specifies where terrain features occur in the resulting synthetic terrain. Our system emphasizes large-scale curvillnear features (ridges and valleys) because such features are the dominant visual elements in most terrains. Both the example height field and user's sketch map are analyzed using a technique from the field of geomorphology. The system finds patches from the example data that match the features found in the user's sketch. Patches are joined together using graph cuts and Poisson editing. The order in which patches are placed in the synthesized terrain is determined by breadth-first traversal of a feature tree and this generates improved results over standard raster-scan placement orders. Our technique supports user-controlled terrain synthesis in a wide variety of styles, based upon the visual richness of real-world terrain data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)834-848
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Digital elevation models
  • Terrain analysis
  • Terrain synthesis
  • Texture synthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Signal Processing
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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