I've spent time hand-drawing, and then scanning, and colorizing a world map using Paint.Net. The map uses a rectangular projection (something like an Equirectangular, Plate Caree, or Behrmann Projection). I'd like to take this map and project it onto a globe like Google Earth: I'd like to be able to rotate the globe and zoom in to see additional detail.

How do I take my rectangular map and put it onto a globe like Google Earth?

Presumably, this is going to require specific software:

  • What software can I use to allow me to do this?
  • If the software requires me to split my rectangular map into tiles to handle different zoom levels (this is my understanding of how Google Earth works), does it help with this process? Is there different software that will help with this process? Do I have to do it by hand?
    • If I have to provide tiles for the most-zoomed-in-level, it would be preferable if the software automatically built the less-zoomed-in-tiles based on them.
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Look up map axis transformations and map coordinate transformations. You might also want to poke around Geographic Information Systems. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Sep 17, 2014 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ The following Javascript plugin will do all of that for you. It's not free, and I've not actually tried it, but according to it's description it does what you want. codecanyon.net/item/earth-viewer-3d-globe/2283700 $\endgroup$
    – Allerion
    Sep 18, 2014 at 6:55
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know why no one pointed this out (maybe because Software Recommendations didn't exist back then) but this question clearly falls within the scope of another SE site, Software Recommendations. $\endgroup$
    – fi12
    Feb 7, 2016 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ I would migrate, but this question is too old so I'm going to flag as off-topic. $\endgroup$
    – fi12
    Feb 7, 2016 at 17:57
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @fi12 It may be on-topic there, but it's still on-topic here. Cartography is okay on Worldbuilding. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Feb 7, 2016 at 18:21

5 Answers 5


If your map is equirectangular, you can use Google Earth. Here are the steps you should take.

  1. Check the size of your image: (If you have Google Earth Pro you can skip this step, the Pro version automatically creates image tiles from your image) In Google Earth, go to Help > About Google Earth and look for the field labeled Max Texture Size. This is the largest size image you can use. On my computer it's 16384x16384, but your result will vary depending on your computer hardware.
  2. Create an Image Overlay: Right-click My Places and select Add > Image Overlay. Give the overlay a name, and then either put the URL of the image in the Link box or click the Browse... button to use a file from your computer.
  3. Position the Image: On the Location tab change the borders of the image so it covers the whole globe, i.e. North: 90N, South: 90S, East: 180E, West: 180W.

Remember to turn off any layers that will interfere with your map, such as roads, borders, labels, terrain, etc. If the borders don't line up with yours, you probably have a map projection other than equirectangular. As long as the distortion is not too bad, just turn off the borders and ignore the mismatch.


This does not answer the entire question, but GProjector can get you part of the way there.

As described on their site:

GProjector is a cross-platform application which can transform an equirectangular map image into one of over 100 global and regional map projections. Longitude-latitude grid-lines and continental outlines may be drawn on the map, and the resulting image may be saved to disk in GIF, JPEG, PDF, PNG, PS or TIFF form.

In order to make a globe-like projection, change the projection type to "Sinusoidal" and then change "Format" to "Interrupted: 30deg Gores". I've used this to print out a map and glue it together into something that resembles a globe. It's not digital and you can't zoom in, but it's awesome seeing a physical representation of your world.

Image of printed and glued globe


A few other utilities not already mentioned that allow you to upload maps and stick them onto globes;

Kevin Gill's PlanetMaker, or Redditor /u/notcaffeinefree's MapToGlobe and Drawable MapToGlobe.

If you have minimal web-programming experience, you might try the jQuery Planetarium, or this WebGL globe tutorial, or this Three.js globe tutorial.

Also worth looking into are GIMP's MapToSphere, the third-party extension Flexify for Photoshop, and AfterEffects' native CCSphere (not available in the demo).

For low-tech methods, you could always try Shrinkwrap, Light projection, or good old-fashioned Paste. ;)

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    $\begingroup$ Remarkably comprehensive. Congratulations, have some internet points. $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Jun 10, 2015 at 22:00

I have used the freeware (but not open-source) Windows application Wilbur to do this. It supports a number of map projection modes.

It is also a handy tool for playing with height data such as DEM files that you can download from various US government sites (including NSAS's DEMs for Mars). It is not always the easiest piece of software to use, but it is a way to try out some things for free.


Here they are some online tools, standalone software, images repositories and scripts for building globes:


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