Video Lesson Summary:

In this lesson you’ll be working on creating a map that will be the foundation for all our lessons to follow.

basemap is the starting point for your permaculture design because it is the base template on which you’ll be putting all the other information – the site assessment and the design.

In order to create a basemap, you need to combine two things; an aerial or satellite photo of your site and a topographic map of the area.

The easiest way to do this is by using Google Earth. It already has up-to-date satellite photos in most cases, so you just need to import a topographic map and plot the contours.

There are three ways to do this and which method is the best depends on the required resolutions of the contours.

Action Steps:

STEP 1. Download the Google Earth program, and get to know its user interface. (Est. time required: 5 -15 min.)

STEP 2. Download and open the Google Earth Basemapping .kmz file in Google Earth. Follow these instructions for the initial setup of Google Earth. (Est. time required: 5 min.)

STEP 3. Overlay contours on the satellite imagery background in Google Earth. 

Download and read the appropriate step-by-step instructions:

STEP 4. Map the property boundary in Google Earth. (Est. time required: 15 min.)

STEP 5. Proceed to the next lesson: Site Assessment.

M2. Curated Resources on the Subject:

Peer Support Discussions:

Note: Please post links to country-specific digital mapping services you might know of in the comment section below.



    I downloaded Google Earth Pro for desktop, but Chrome did not recognize the .deb file type.

    • papprentice

      Hey Rob, do you have Mac or Windows? On a mac, it should be a .dmg file.


        No my device is a chromebit stick pc. I do not have access to windows or mac.

  2. Rick Albers

    Hey William,

    Loving the course so far!!

    Hey having a problem mapping my property boundary in Google Earth. When I click on the link it takes me to GOOGLE EARTH – SHARING YOUR FILES AND GETTING FEEDBACK

    What am I doing wrong?

    Thx man! Rick

  3. Joi Fedance

    Thank you so much for the step-by-step instructions. Being computer challenged, I was able to finish the contour mapping because of your clear directions.

  4. Rigelle Disu

    Hello William. I am having challenges with the contour map tool as the lines I am seeing are not detailed enough to work on. I had a lot survey done by a licensed engineer that has topography which I believe will be more useful for me however it’s in CAD form. I tried converting it to .KML so I can overlay it on Google Earth but has been unsuccessful so far. If I have the topography of my lot, can I still follow the succeeding instructions without the use of Google Earth?

    • papprentice

      It might be possible to convert CAD to KML. Send over the file to my email, and I’ll have a go.

      You can do your design in any way you want. If you have an image of a basemap – satellite view of your property overlaid with topographic contour. You can print that out and design it with pen and paper or import that image to any program on your desktop computer with drawing capabilities.

  5. Dashiele Haskin

    Hi William,
    I already have both a topographical map and the municipal property lines map– is there a way to import them into Google Earth? I was trying to do it as an image overlay, but really couldn’t figure it out. Instead I ended up importing the Google Earth satellite photo and contour map into photoshop and aligning everything using landmarks. Is there a disadvantage to doing it this way?

    • papprentice

      Hey Dashiele, if you want and know how to use other types of software for your design, that’s ok. You will, however, miss out on some helpful tools that only Google Earth has and the design template I’ve created for it.

      You can still use Google Earth for doing the site assessment, though.

      Also, I’m not sure if you are aware of it, but there is a way in Google Earth to make your image overlay transparent so that you can align everything using landmarks as well. Do you know what I’m talking about?

      • Dashiele Haskin

        No, I really couldn’t figure it out. Maybe it’s more complicated because I’m on a Mac? I was never able to successfully import an image overlay– I would see an icon of a camera on the map, but not my image…

        I guess my main interest in importing the image is to have the true property lines, since I already have that map from the municipality. Also, the contour line (I have 1!) is the same on the maps from the government and one that I ordered, but not the same on Google Earth. I would like to transfer the line from the government map to the Google Earth map so that I can refer to both. Our land is pretty flat, but it does have a general slope running the length of it that leads down to a municipal drainage ditch– along with all the water that falls on our property! This is a main challenge that I am hoping to remediate with my design.

        • papprentice

          Why don’t you reach out to me via the big red button below and give me your address and anything else (the image, the contour map…), and I’ll try to import and overlay it for you in Google Earth.

  6. Robin Znetko

    I use AutoCAD for my business. If I were to send you a file, what kind of files can you open?

  7. Robin Znetko

    I use AutoCAD for my business, so I will be using it for my site planning. If I were to send you a file, what kind of files can you open?

    • papprentice

      Hey Robin, can you export to Google Earth kmz. or kml. files?

  8. Gabrielle Chadowitz

    Hi William, Do you know how I can change the view to satellite view . I added the contour map to

    my Base Map folder in My places , however it is not showing me the view in satellite. likewise, I can’t seem to advance the date to the most current. It seems to be set on 1985, which might be the reason it is now showing me the image in satellite view?

    I took a screen shot if you want me to email it to you? Thanks, Gaby

    • Gabrielle Chadowitz

      Hi again, nevermind, I figured it out..Thanks 🙂

  9. Gabrielle Chadowitz

    Hi William is there an online website offers parcel lines that you can download onto Google Earth Pro or do I need to go my county. In order to make my property line, I kind of “eyed” a real estate website parcel map but I if I could create a property line layer and trace, that seems to be more accurate? I also would like to make measurement. I am doing a professional survey but I would like to know how to do this with a survey. Thank you

    • papprentice

      Hey Gabrielle, sorry for the late reply. I wasn’t notified of your message.

      I’m not aware of any website that would do what you are looking for.


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