Create Elevation Grid from 3D Vector Data

With any vector data loaded containing an elevation component, create an elevation grid by choosing this option in the Analysis Menu or using the Analysis Toolbar button. This is also available by right-clicking on layers in the Overlay Control Center, under the Analysis sub menu.

Using this dialog, you can configure how you want the elevation grid to be created using the selected vector data as well as what portion of the selected overlays to use when creating the elevation grid. You can also use the Tiling tab to specify that your data should be tiled in sections.


The Elevation Grid creation options will provide a larger dialog with additional options when Lidar Data is loaded.

Description - Layer name and description for the resulting Elevation Grid

Vertical Units - Specify the output elevation units for the grid.

Grid Method

Select the grid method you would like to use, the default is Triangulation. With the Lidar Module, Binning (Minimum Value, Average Value and Maximum Value)  options are available.


This setting uses a triangulated irregular network connecting the known elevation values.

Binning an Elevation Grid

Binning is a processing data modification technique that takes point data and creates a grid of polygons, or bins. The value of each bin or polygon is representative of the point values within it. This will reducing the number of data points and speeding up the grid, operation. While it will speed up an operation, Binning changes the way data is shown at small scales and can result in decreased accuracy, but will also reduce 'point congestion'.

Binning lays a regular grid over the point cloud within the defined boundaries of the operation. The minimum/ maximum/ average of point elevations (or the value specified in Grid Type) in each bin rectangle are found. An inverse weighted distance algorithm is used to fill in the gaps, the Grid Tightness setting allows you to customize how 'Loose' or 'Tight' the interpolation is. Make the bins at least 2-3 point spacings apart to reduce/ eliminate the spikes or troughs where just a single point is in a bin.  

For bare earth/ ground points only (DSM), select Minimum. Use Maximum for the highest level points (i.e. buildings and trees includes) for a DTM.

Grid Type

This option will appear when gridding Lidar data. Elevation Values are the default input, with the Lidar Module grids may also be created with intensity values, or from calculated NDVI/NDWI options for Lidar data with NIR values. Height Above Ground may also be used.

Grid Spacing

With the Automatically Determine Optimal Grid Spacing option selected grid spacing calculations will be automatic.

With Lidar data loaded, the grid spacing may be calculated as a multiple of the calculated point spacings using the option Automatic Spacing Multiple of Point Spacings and specifying a point spacing value.

Alternately the Manually Specify the Grid Spacing to Use option will allow you to select the grid spacing to use.

Elevation Grid "No Data" Distance Criteria

This setting controls how far from a known data-point that an elevation grid cell has to be before it is considered invalid. A tight setting will only create grid cells close to known elevation values, and leave 'No Data' holes where the distance is too far. A loose setting will interpolate using the Grid Method to fill in all elevation values in the extent.

Breaklines and Flattened Areas

Use 3D Area/Line Features as Breaklines (Soft Edge)

The Use 3D Area/Line Features as Breaklines (Soft Edge) option is available when gridding lidar data using a Binning Grid Method. The elevations of area and line features (in layers selected for use in the grid creation) will be enforced in the output elevation grid. This will burn the are and line features into the grid, using interpolation to smoothly transition to the surrounding elevation values based through the Soft Edge Distance.

This setting is useful for hydro-enforcement, to ensure that water modeling flows correctly through the terrain and water bodies appear flat. It may also be used to automatically flatten building sites, or to enforce culverts, contours lines, etc.

The input vector data may contain single elevation values for the feature (i.e. breaklines, contours, etc.), or may contain per vertex elevation values (i.e. streams, inclined area features, etc. ). Vector features with no elevation values, or elevation values relate to ground will be ignored. The line features will be burned into the elevation layer first followed by the area features.

Elevation Grid using binning and 3D Area/ Line Features as Breaklines Elevation Grid using binning and no breaklines Input lidar points, and area and line features

Soft Edge Distance

Specify how many pixels surrounding the area and line features will be used as a transition zone between the vector features and lidar data. The elevation values inside of the soft edge will be calculated using inverse distance weighting (IDW).

Terrain Grid with a soft edge of 3 samples Terrain Grid with a soft edge of 10 samples Input lidar points, and area and line features

Use 3D Area/Line Features as Breaklines (Hard Edge)

This option is available when choosing Triangulation as the Grid Method, or when creating an elevation grid with no Lidar data.

When checked line and area features with a defined elevation will be used as the precise elevation for every pixel all along the line. This will ensure that elevation values along the line boundary will exactly match the elevation, for example with contour lines. When not checked, the elevation values are only applied directly at the vertices, and other elevation values are interpolated.

Flatten 3D Area Features

When creating a terrain surface from a vector area feature, this option will flatten the interior area based on the Z value given in the area feature. When unchecked the area feature will inherit variable elevation based on the underlying ground elevations, and the area Z value will only apply at the area vertices.

Taper 3D Area Features Using Curve Value

When this option is checked the elevation data will taper to the highest most point using the given curve value.

If there are 3D area features and the option to flatten 3D area features is checked, the taper option specifies that rather than making the areas absolutely flat, the edges will be tapered. The area elevation value will be applied to the centroid of the area, dwindling to zero as you reach the area edge.

The curve value specifies the exponent to apply to the percent distance a sample location is between the area centroid and the area edge, to adjust the height applied at that location. A value of 1 provides for a linear taper. Values less than 1 will make the edge steepness progressively greater (i.e. flatter at the middle, then steep edges), while values larger than 1 cause the steepness to be near the area centroid and flatter towards the edges. For example if you want to simulate a sand bunker for a golf course, a value of around 0.5 provides a decent simulation of a bunker.

When unchecked the elevation data will shift sharply in order to exactly match height values at any given point.

Additional Options

Ignore Zero Elevations - Checking this option will cause all values with a value of 0 to be ignored on elevation creation. This is useful if you have a data set where features with no known elevation are marked with an elevation of zero.

Save Triangulation Network (TIN) as a Vector Layer - Checking this option will cause the TIN layer that is generated during the gridding process to be saved in a separate layer. A TIN is a vector layer with an area feature for each 3D triangle connecting known elevation values. This is created as part of the triangulation process.

Heights Relative to Ground (Using Loaded Grid Layers) - If there is already elevation data loaded into Global Mapper then checking this option will cause all height values generated by this process to be relative and use the existing elevation data as a base. This is very handy for doing things like creating building models where the building height above ground is known, but not necessarily the height above sea level.

Fill Entire Bounding Box Instead of Just Inside Convex Hull - When checked this will generate a rectangular area surrounding all given data and will fill that area with data. Otherwise, the valid values will only fill out to the convex hull polygon of the data being gridded.

Export Grids Directly to Global Mapper Grid Files - This option will automatically save out a Global Mapper Grid File upon elevation data creation. Data will still be loaded into Global Mapper upon creation.

Tiling Panel

Grid Bounds