Terrain Sculptor

Terrain Sculptor is a specialized application for the generalization of terrain models for relief shading. Terrain Sculptor removes irrelevant terrain detail and accentuates important terrain features.


August 10, 2015: Version 2.1 has improved memory management and fixes a memory leak. Larger DEMs are now properly handled.

August 7, 2015: Version 2.0.2 adds patch mode processing (contributed by Adrian Weber, University of Bern), and updates the Mac application’s internal structure. Moved to GitHub repository.

February 20, 2015: Version 2.0.1 fixes bug on Mac OS 10.10 and updates Windows EXE file.

May 31, 2011: Released version 2.0, which is much faster than previous versions.

Change log


Terrain Sculptor is free and open-source software. Version 2.1 is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.


Terrain Sculptor requires Java 6 or higher by Oracle, which is available for most major platforms.

Java 8 is not supported on Windows XP.

Java 6 is not supported on older Mac hardware based on PPC processors. Macs with Intel 32 bit processors need Mac OS X 10.6. If you have troubles starting on Mac OS X, see here.

Required Memory and Troubleshooting

Terrain Sculptor's memory requirements depend on the size of the input elevation model. 2 GB of RAM or more are recommended.

To estimate the amount of memory required in MB multiply the rows times columns and divide by 15,000. Hence, a DEM with 5000 columns and 5000 rows will require 1.65 GB of RAM.

On Windows with a 32-bit Java version, Terrain Sculptor cannot currently use more than 1.2 GB RAM. If you run into out-of-memory exceptions on Windows, try installing the 64-bit Java version. On Macintosh this limitation does not exist, but larger DEMs are likely to slow down your computer.

If you have troubles starting on Mac OS X, see here.

Source Code

Java source code for Netbeans 7 or later is available from a GitHub repository.


Terrain Sculptor is free open source software developed at the Institute of Cartography, ETH Zurich by by Bernhard Jenny, and Anna Leonowicz. © by B. Jenny and A. Leonowicz, 2010–2012.

You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License version 2 as published by the Free Software Foundation.

Data Import and Export

Use File – Open Terrain Model to load a terrain model from a ESRI ASCII grid file.

freegeographytools.com has a tutorial showing how to convert terrain models to this format.

Use File – Save Filtered Terrain Model to store the terrain model in an ESRI ASCII grid file.

Batch mode processing

Launch the JAR version of Terrain Sculptor from the terminal using:
java -jar TerrainSculptor.jar [optional arguments] “input file” “output file”

To learn about the optional arguments type:
java -jar TerrainSculptor.jar -h

Batch mode processing is a contribution by Adrian Weber, University of Bern.