Learning curve timeline

My boss wants me to create a detailed terrain model of an area about 600 acres in area using Rhino. He wants me to give him an estimated completion date. I have no experience with Rhino and basic experience with CAD software (AutoCAD, Sketchup). Can anyone give me some insight on how quickly I might be able to get this thing done? Thanks!

This might save you some time.


I believe it can import Google Earth data (too)…

I’ve seen a video where Sketchup was used to bring Google Earth data into Rhino.

Michael VS

Thank you! I will definitely look into that.

That’s awesome! However, the model is of how we plan to reclaim the site, not of the current topography. I should have mentioned that before.

Hi Erin,

What data do you have to work with?
For example, do you have spot heights from a survey, or contour lines etc…?

Hi David. I will have contour lines of the topography. To give you a better idea, we want a large pond around 100 acres large with a lot of vegetation surrounding it.

You may be interested by Lands Design if you need also the vegetation.
I have not tested the vegetation part but relief was ok.

Thanks Alan! Is Lands Design a free plug-in? I know RhinoTerrain is not.

oh nevermind. I see that it’s a free work in progress version. Thanks!

Hi Erin,

If you are able to upload your contours I’d be happy to take a look for you.

There are quite a few native Rhino modelling techniques you can use to generate a terrain surface, depending on how sophisticated and detailed you want your result to be.

  • The most basic method to start with would be to use the ‘patch’ command to try to fit a NURBS surface through your contours.
  • Alternatively, you could extract the edit points of each contour and use those points to generate a mesh. The Grasshopper plugin would be useful for this, have you come across this already?

Hi David,

We don’t yet have the topo lines for the reclaimed site (still working on the plan), but I uploaded the current contours as we want to model this in Rhino, too. The uploaded terrain is used for agriculture right now and there are five houses on site. We want to make the model as detailed and realistic as possible.

I downloaded Grasshopper as per your suggestion although I’m finding it kind of confusing to use. How do you generate the mesh?

Thanks for your help!

site topo lines.3dm (985.3 KB)

Hi Erin,

Here is your file with a surface patch, and a Grasshopper generated mesh. I’ve attached the GH file also so that you can see the file, it’s very basic.

Here are the patch settings I used. I also joined your contour lines together before running the command. If you tweak the settings you will see how it affects the result.

I use the Contour command through any new patch surface to see how closely it tallies with the original contour lines.

The GH file simply extracts the control points from the original polylines and generates a mesh through those points. The slight downside here is that it makes flat-spots for each enclosed contour line.
You may find it best to view the mesh with the FlatShade option toggled on in the View Menu.

site topo lines.3dm (1.4 MB)
site topo lines GH.gh (5.2 KB)

Hope that helps?

Wow thanks, David! That was so kind of you. Do you have any insight or recommendations on populating the terrain possibly using the above mentioned RhinoTerrain or Lands Design?

Thanks again!

Your welcome Erin.

I thought Lands Design recommended by Alan looked good, although I’ve not used it.

Perfect. I’ll look into that. Thanks!