I am fairly new to GIS.

I have been reading through this site and have not quite been able to figure out what I am doing wrong.

I am trying to create a contoured topographical map that I can cut on my laser cutter. The issue is that the area I am working on is coastal and there are lots of areas at or around sea level. As a result, the contour map does not include the general outline of the island/coast and is, consequently, largely unrecognizable.

How do I adjust the settings in QGIS to take into consideration the outline of the land mass I'm working with?

  • Sounds like your data lacks some features, that can't be helped by adjusting some settings.
    – Erik
    Apr 24, 2019 at 13:06
  • I would find some coastline data for your area of interest. I would start with Open Data SE and then once you have your data we should be able to assist with integrating it into a map.
    – user2856
    Apr 28, 2019 at 4:21
  • Thank you! After many hours of scratching my head with the current version of QGIS, I downgraded to 2.18 and then it was able to handle the DEM files I was trying to upload. From there, I was able to add a coastline layer and I ended up with a pretty solid topo map from the laser cutter! It needs some editing but I'm heading in the right direction. Thanks for all of your help! Apr 29, 2019 at 19:26

1 Answer 1


It looks like you'll have to add the boundary of the island in manually. There are a few ways you could go about doing this:

The easiest way would be to search for a shapefile of the island (or country) boundary.

If that doesn't work you could find it on openstreetmap.org, use the identify tool to see what type of feature the island boundary is, get the QuickOSM plugin for QGIS, and use that to download that feature type within the map canvas.

Otherwise (if it's not too big or detailed) you could add in some aerial imagery or a basemap and then digitise the outline of the island manually.

  • Thanks so much! I will work on that this afternoon :) Apr 24, 2019 at 14:09

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