I am a student and initiating a thesis project for MS specialize degree in geophysics. I am working on tectono - stratigraphy of some area and want to do the 3D subsurface modelling of the same area but have lesser idea, besides am unable to get some proper guide on this too but since i love doing this I want help plzz... As far as i have studied 3D analyst is not very much suitable for this job yet "may be" used in thesis.

  • 1
    This might become a good/interesting question after some serious editing, but right now it just seems unfocused and lacks prior research. Do you have a thesis statement?
    – blah238
    Oct 18 '11 at 18:08
  • This question may help: gis.stackexchange.com/q/7249/162
    – julien
    Oct 19 '11 at 7:34
  • Commit to this SE site to get it into beta and you might get some help there as well... Oct 19 '11 at 14:42

3D Analyst can visualize existing models exported from other applications as 3D DXF but it's very difficult (if not impossible) to create subsurface geology solids in ArcGIS.

Geological 3D modelling software = VERY expensive (But that is not a part of your question)

My personal favorite for subsurface modelling and 3D interpolation is Leapfrog Mining by Seequent in New Zealand. The software is very polished and aimed at "Accelerated Geological Modeling". The features are very intuitive what this software can do is simply "jaw-dropping". (so is the price of the software unfortunately)

Leapfrog ships with a manual, tutorials, reference guide and tutorial data and I must say that the tutorial is very well written. According to the tutorial you should be able to go trough it in 6 - 8 hours and cover most of the features. Personally I needed a lot more time but I went trough it in detail.

There are other options: Geosoft uses voxel gridding to create solids but it's not its main focus

Gemcom GEMS allows you to digitize geological formations, define trend, etc and generate solids that are based on interpretation and knowledge of data rather then interpolation.


I agree with Jakub's points, generally that ArcGIS's 3D Analyst is not good for creating subsurface geology solids, and that there are no "free"/open source options. Prices generally start at a few hundred $ and go up to close to $1M. Ask about education discounts.

Here are a few other software packages that are used by me or my colleagues:

  • Petrel, integrates nicely with seismic data, very expensive (aimed at oil & gas exploration)
  • EarthVision, can do complicated modelling of faults
  • GMS, mostly for groundwater model construction, possibly too simple for serious 3D modelling
  • GSI3D, non-profit software developed by the British Geological Survey, €300 for a student

This is, by all means, not a comprehensive list, as there are many other software packages out there.

  • thx a lot jakub n mike... :) im pleased to hear from u guys... :) Oct 19 '11 at 12:33

Geomodelr might be what you are looking for. Geomodelr allows you to create cross sections from boreholes, or use geophysical data in the form of images. For geophysicists it's particularly cool because you can download your models and use python to query them, so you can couple them with your simulation tools.

It's also pretty good for students, because it's free for public geological studies, and cheap for private.

Disclaimer: I'm a co-founder at Geomodelr.


You can build 3D Geological Structural and Property Models using Mathematica. I developed these scripts to make geological modelling available to a wider audience. Mathematica also works with many GIS and CAD formats. This makes it easy to construct models using information from multiple sources.

Further details are available on the UNSW Connected Waters web pages. https://www.connectedwaters.unsw.edu.au/resources/articles/3dmappingdatabase.html

You can download a tutorial example from here: http://library.wolfram.com/infocenter/Conferences/7457/


The Petrosys plug-in for ArcGIS may be helpful. Our organization provides free academic and research licenses to qualifying students and university programs.

Petrosys sub-surface modelling integrates effectively with GIS and Petroleum data sources and is used globally by professionals in the industry. Our sub-surface modelling is focused on the geophysical and geological domains for E&P exploration and development.

For more on the academic grant see: http://www.petrosys.com.au/about/education-grant/

For more on the modelling and plug-in see:





I would suggest that you take a good look at Geo-reka.

It's a new kid on the 3D modelling block, but it is polished, intuitive and very easy to learn. It is and will be constantly evolving and is priced perfectly for consultants and students and universities are encouraged to ask about academic discounts

There's a free one-month trial


  • This reads more like an advertisement than an answer (particularly the second sentence of the second paragraph) and doesn't describe how the software features address the question.
    – Erica
    Aug 13 '14 at 17:18
  • I reopened this question, Andy, because a quick look at the Web page shows it responds to the question at least as well as other answers in this thread. It would be nice to (a) have some quick discussion of the strengths of the software in the present context and (b) to include explicit disclosure of any relationship you might have with the vendor.
    – whuber
    Aug 13 '14 at 17:44

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