I am looking for help with creating spherical map similar to provided in picture: the 6 parts spherical map image setup (bent):

unwrapped balloon texture

I want to put together a promotional balloon vinyl,and I want to print on advertising material and thus put together a balloon, when put together to be whole advertisement.

My problem is, write logo like this in the figure that, when cut dlove and merge into the sphere of painting merge and be whole

  • 2
    It looks like you are attempting to print balloons? Have you talked to the company that will print your balloons yet?
    – DA01
    Apr 7, 2014 at 19:51

7 Answers 7


I was hoping someone with experience of this sort of vinyl print design would answer but since they haven't yet, here's what I'd try if it was me dropped in at the deep end on this project:

enter image description here

I haven't tried actually making the sphere but it looks like all the joins and curves would be in the right places to straighten and match when the template is printed and folded (horizontal centres pulled up and down, tops and bottoms pulled "out", etc). Test it!

But don't use the grey shapes from my image, I just drew them by hand, they're not a real sphere template.

If this works, that has fun implications: all sorts of complicated projections could be simulated on Illustrator using envelope distort and a traced template. I might try making Waterman Butterfly versions of things (cf xkcd)...

If that didn't work I'd try this approach:

  1. Take an existing sphere vinyl template like the one you've shown previously
  2. Trace the outline, print it out, cut it out
  3. Fold it up into a blank paper sphere
  4. Draw horizontal and vertical grid lines around the sphere, half way, quarters, eighths, etc
  5. Unfold the sphere flat
  6. Scan the flat sphere with grid lines, put this scan as a locked layer in Illustrator to use as a guide. I might draw over them in illustrator on this layer to neaten it up
  7. Use things like the Illustrator envelope/mesh distort tools to make the design follow the scanned grid lines
  • 1
    I can't imagine an easy way to physically draw grid lines on a spherical object off the top of my head. It is theoretically the absolute best thing to do though. Incidentally, it's also very similar to figuring out where the faces are on folded origami.
    – Dom
    Apr 8, 2014 at 12:07
  • 1
    Yeah, I'm very glad I don't need to actually do this! If I had to, I might hang the sphere from a string (so it's 100% vertical) then use a light, spirit level and ruler to cast 100% horizontal and vertical shadows on it, then draw across those with something like an ink brush or graphic pen that needs no pressure to make a mark Apr 8, 2014 at 12:12

We'd likely need to refer you to this question--namely the first line of the first answer:

Ask your vendor.

Alas, that's the only 'correct' answer here as whatever solution you come up with, you're going to have to be partnering with your vendor that will be printing it. And they are going to help you figure out the specific software, layout, templates, etc to accomplish this.

As for general suggestions, JohnB is on the right track with this likely being a cartography issues. The most common need to print on a sphere is in mapmaking. And there are a number of ways to go from flat-to-globe or vice versa. The term is 'map projection'. I imagine a quality vendor will have software that can help convert your 3D imagery to a globe surface.

Another potential resource would be a manufacturer who deals in balls--another common 'globe' that gets printed on. It appears they even make machines to handle exactly that.

  • True, but just because a problem can be solved with heavy-duty mathematics or engineering, doesn't always mean there's not a simpler way. Often the mathematics or engineering is itself a way of automating what was originally a simple or intuitive process (e.g. isn't Mercator essentially a mathematical version of putting a candle inside a globe, putting a paper cylinder around the globe then tracing the shadows of the country outlines on the paper?) Apr 7, 2014 at 16:30
  • @user568458 not sure what part of my question you are referring to. But, sure, there may always be a simpler way. In the end, though, you need to provide the vendor with what they need to get your job done.
    – DA01
    Apr 7, 2014 at 16:50
  • The references to cartographic map projection techniques (mathematics) and ball-making machines (engineering) - relevant and interesting, but sometimes when people see high tech solutions like those they become intimidated to try low-tech approaches. Apr 7, 2014 at 16:54
  • While I agree there is math involved, I don't know that math = 'high tech'. You answer, btw, is essentially just that...a map projection. :) Again, though, the emphasis of my answer is to ask the vendor. We can come up with all sorts of ideas--both complex and simple, but none are relevant unless they happen to be what the vendor wants.
    – DA01
    Apr 7, 2014 at 16:56
  • Indeed! And it's also an approach to working with map projections that doesn't require doing any specialist mathematics or engineering knowledge (and the 'unfolding grid lines' version doesn't require pressing buttons to use someone else's mathematics or engineering) Apr 7, 2014 at 17:12

Spherical projections onto a 2D surface can quickly get complicated and confusing. The image in that forum post is what's known as an "interrupted projection". It's quite similar to an interrupted sinusoidal projection.

I understand you're probably not making a globe of the Earth, but you might have better luck searching for cartography solutions. This question posted at the Geographic Information Systems Stack Exchange site has a few software solutions that might be of some value to you.


If you are looking for an opensource program there is Inkscape. Some apparel/embroidery shops do use Coredraw. There is always Illustrator but if you purchase Adobe's design package it does come with InDesign which can be used, too.

In regards to fitting a sphere, from your prior questions, it would depend on the artwork setup and you should consider the bleed. IF you are working on just vinyl cutout instead of digitally printed vinyl you would measure the total area and generate your own template. Each application does have a means of measurement. So to answer clearly. There is no automatic way you will be able to use a program with out some effort, possibly testing, when creating custom templates for printing on non-standard flat surfaces.

  • Someone please explain their downvote. I don't mind trying to edit my answer if its unclear what Im saying.
    – user9447
    Apr 7, 2014 at 15:27
  • 1
    No idea, but I'd guess they ignored the second paragraph and just thought "you can't just easily do that in Inkscape/Illustrator" Apr 7, 2014 at 16:00

The most effective way to tackle this project would be to start in a 3D app like Maya, Cinema 4D or Blender, unfold the UV map and export the distorted texture.

Experimenting in Photoshop CC, I applied this

world map

as a texture map to a simple 3D sphere:

3d globe

Then, using the (new in 2014) 3D > Generate UVs... command like this

enter image description here

I came up with a texture map and UV wireframe that allowed me, with a couple of extra steps using the Magic Wand and a Layer Mask, to extract this mapping from the modified texture file:

enter image description here

Photoshop isn't the best tool (or even a good tool) for this job, but this indicates the general approach to creating a wrappable, pre-distorted template. Rather than trying to create the template directly as a 2D file, apply it to a 3D object as a texture map, then unfold the map.

Using well-chosen seams and UV unwrapping in Maya or a similar 3D application, you would be able to create whatever slices you needed (and much more effectively than this simple Photoshop demonstration).

  • +1 never come across the term "UV Unwrapping" before - is it the industry standard term for this? Apr 8, 2014 at 9:52

Depending on what you have to print, hydrographics might come in handy. Basically, you start with a 2D film and dip the object in water. The film sticks to it. I've seen helmets and various objects done but if it requires to be very precise that may not be helpful.

  • Good suggestion on helmets...another common 'globe' that gets printed on.
    – DA01
    Apr 7, 2014 at 16:04

Sure this thread is old but I found an answer. There is a tool created by NASA that helps called G.Projector. You import an image (sized 1800x900) and it turns it into a globe. You can fiddle with the options to make a Sinusoidal map (Interrupted 30° gores). It was the fastest way I could find to go from a flat image to something I could mount on a yoga ball.


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