SVG, Vectors, and Autodigitization

I am not a scientist, but an artist and a game designer.


  1. GPlates should be able to read vector data and use that instead of users having to rebuild in GPlates with the slower and less accurate Drawing Tools.

  2. Autodigitize from vector or raster image

Longer version below

I came across GPlates form other designers who are using it in conjunction with QGIS to create fantasy worlds with real coordinated and what have you.

Though GPlates imports SVG’s, it doesn’t import the vector data. Is this perhaps something that the team has considered? Making it easier for someone like myself who sets stuff up in Adobe Illustrator. Then I can import the vector SVG, do what I need to in GPlates and then export it for further GIS work.

The vector data can be quite detailed for coastlines or tectonic plates. Having to retrace something I did in Illustrator or other vector daring program is a hassle in GPlates.

Being able to take that data on this path:

Vector Drawing Program > GPlates > GIS Software (QGIS, etc.) > World Machine > Video Game Engine (Unreal/Unity) or to Print for Table Top Games

Would make creating full fleshed out worlds amazing and easy.

Links to how some people are using it:

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Is it possible to convert your vector data into shapefile or geojson formats? GPlates can load from esri shapefile, geojson and some other less popular formats.

Not that I’m aware of. There’s no way to creat non existent geo data from an SVG to a Shape File. I can take a Shaoe file and turn it into an SVG though.

But it would be more beneficial to have the ability to read vectors and place them on the globe in software.

This seems useful…

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Oh, I guess your svg does not have geo-referencing tags.

Hi Jeff,

It’s a bit of a workaround, but it is reasonably easy to georeference a vector in GIS software to then bring it into GPlates. The only problem would be that it depends on how accurate your georeferencing is, but that would be the case for any non-spatially referenced vector. The other alternative would be to do your illustrations in GIS as shapefiles, which is a bit more clunky than typical vector art programs.

Cheers, and I’d love to see what you’re doing with GPlates in this context.


Hi Jeff,

as others have pointed out - your key problem is georeferencing - AI is not geospatially aware and you need to make sure to within the 0 to 360/-90 to 90 frame or run a script to re-scale your drawing canvas. One way to go about this is to do all your artsy work in QGIS or ArcGIS as Tom eluded to. There are a few plugins which allow more artistic/technical drawing in QGIS - this way you can either directly work in a geospatial format (Geopackage is the new preferred format over Shapefiles and GPlates can read those). This is probably the most efficient, albeit bare-bones approach that might not suit the artistic side of your work.

The other option if you want to stay within Illustrator is to use AutoCAD DXF or DWG formats and then use the GDAL library (a tool called ogr2ogr) to convert DXF to SHP or Geopackage - you would run something like ogr2ogr -F GPKG myoutfile.gpkg myinfile.dxf. If you search for Illustrator and DXF export or so this should give you a few hints.

It reflects on my age - but about 20 years ago we didn’t have an easy to use open source GIS (neither did we have GPlates) but only Corel Draw and GPlates’ father/mother, the PLATES software - at that time we did georeferencing in CorelDraw (using the DXF/DWG format) and then ran a script (infamously called the walterizer) to convert it to XY or the old PLATES native *.dat format which GPlates is still able to ingest. I can dig out the workflow/manual and make that available if you think this is useful.


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Hey Christian,

Thanks for a solid suggestion. I’ll try that out, however, I would still like to leave this as a suggestion for the improvement of GPlates. I know it’s designed for scientific use, but so was LiDAR (At least not for art initially), but then came VFX use of the tool.

I have nothing against trying the DXF export round tripping. It might even prove to be easy and useful.


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Sure, Jeff. I will discuss your suggestion with GPlates dev team. Thanks.

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Thank you very much.