Creating Photos & Image Overlays in Google Earth

In Google Earth, you can easily drape your own images or maps over the terrain, as well as overlay your photographs in the places they were taken to create a photographic tour!

For this tutorial, we will use the example of draping a scanned trail map of Glacier National Park as an image overlay, and placing a photographic overlay of Grinnell Point at sunset in Glacier National Park, USA. The images used in this tutorial, including a map of Glacier National Park and a photograph of Grinnell Point are both from Wikimedia Commons.


This video demonstrates how to add photos and overlay images or maps in Google Earth (1:21).

Prerequisites

  • Absolutely no programming skills needed!
  • You will need Google Earth installed on your computer. Download the latest version here. (It's free!)

Let's Get Started!

1. Open Google Earth.

2. Zoom to the area where you want to overlay your map. For this example, search for "Glacier National Park, USA". Google Earth will automatically zoom you into the Glacier National Park area.

3. You can optionally turn on the Parks/ Recreation Areas layer, which may help you find Glacier National Park. To do this, go the Layers panel on the left-hand side of Google Earth, expand the folder More, and then check the box next to Parks/Recreation Areas.

4. Find the tools toolbar and the Add menu.

5. Now, let's add overlays!

Add an Image Overlay

1. Click the Add Image Overlay button to add a new image overlay. A New Image Overlay dialog box appears, and a green outline is placed on the Earth.

2. In the New Image Overlay dialog box, type in a name for the image overlay in the Name field. In this example, we typed "Glacier National Park Map".

3. Copy and paste the link below into the Link field, or click "Browse..." and find an image to add from your local hard drive. In this example, we will use the following URL from the Internet:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/31/Map_of_Glacier_National_Park.jpg

4. Move the Transparency slider to the left to make the image a little transparent, which will assist you in placing the image in the correct location. Use the park boundaries to help you align the park boundaries on the map with the boundaries in Google Earth.

5. Use the center cross-hair marker to move the image overlay on the globe and position it in the right location.

6. Use the triangle marker at the left to rotate the image for better placement.

7. Use any of the corner or side anchors to stretch or skew the selected corner or side. If you press the Shift key when selecting this marker, the image is scaled from the center.

8. Click OK when you are finished. The map is now listed in the Places panel, and can be saved to a KML file with other Google Earth project data you have created.

Add a Photo Overlay

1. Zoom to the area where you want to overlay your photograph. While you are in Glacier National Park, search for "Grinnell Point". Google Earth will automatically zoom you to Grinnell Point.

2. Orient the view (heading and tilt) to match the heading and perspective of the photograph of Grinnell Point that we will be adding to Google Earth. You want to be looking at the same view in Google Earth that the photographer was looking at when they took the photograph. In this example, we will tilt Google Earth so we are looking at Grinnell Point.

3. Go to the Add menu, and choose Photo. A New Photo Overlay dialog box appears.

4. In the New Photo Overlay dialog box, type in a name for the image overlay in the Name field. In this example, we typed "Grinnell Point at Sunrise".

5. Copy and paste the link below into the Link field, or click "Browse..." and find a photograph on your local hard drive. In this example, we will use the following URL from the Internet:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/92/Grinnell_Peak_Sunrise.jpg

6. Move the Transparency slider to the left to make the image a little transparent, which will assist you in placing the image in the correct location. Adjust the Earth's position behind the photo by using the Look joystick to change your perspective, as if you were slightly turning your head.

7. Click OK. The photo has been added to Google Earth in the location you set.

Now, when people double-click on your photo's camera icon in the 3D viewer or Places panel, they will be flown into the photo. Notice how the navigational tools change into photo navigation tools so you can get inside and explore the your photograph!

Discussion & Feedback

Have questions about this tutorial? Want to give us some feedback? Visit the Google Earth Outreach Discussion Group to discuss it with others.

What's Next?