A general framework for processing high and very-high resolution imagery in support of a Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL) is presented together with a discussion on the results of the first operational test of the production workflow. The test involved the mapping of 24.3 million km2 of the Earth surface spread in four continents, corresponding to an estimated population of 1.3 billion people in 2010. The resolution of the input image data ranges from 0.5 to 10 meters, collected by a heterogeneous set of platforms including satellite SPOT (2 and 5), CBERS 2B, RapidEye (2 and 4), WorldView (1 and 2), GeoEye 1, QuickBird 2, Ikonos 2, and airborne sensors. Several imaging modes were tested including panchromatic, multispectral and pan-sharpened images. A new fully automatic image information extraction, generalization and mosaic workflow is presented that is based on multiscale textural and morphological image features extraction. New image feature compression and optimization are introduced, together with new learning and classification techniques allowing for the processing of HR/VHR image data using low-resolution thematic layers as reference. A new systematic approach for quality control and validation allowing global spatial and thematic consistency checking is proposed and applied. The quality of the results are discussed by sensor, band, resolution, and eco-regions. Critical points, lessons learned and next steps are highlighted.