Dynamic Hill Shading

The dynamic hill shading tool controls the 3D shading effect displayed on terrain layers and other raster layers with texture map enabled. The Light Direction control allows for dynamic manipulation of the sun angle and height and the resulting shadowing and highlighting effects on the terrain layer. Sun effects will also display on 3D vector features with extruded sides.

This tool can be used for cartographic effect to show height texture, or it can be used to simulate real world sun exposure.

The dynamic hill shading tool is located in the Viewer Toolbar.

Press the Dynamic Hill Shading button to display the Dynamic Hill Shading dialog.

Drag the light source sun icon around the gimbal graph to dynamically update the highlight and shadowing effect from the sun on the terrain.

Optionally adjust the settings on the right side to modify the Hill Shade display.

Light Direction

The gimbal graphs the direction and altitude of the sun in relation to the terrain. The four axes represent the cardinal directions (North, East, South, West). The distance from the center represent the altitude of the sun.

Drag the light source symbol around the gimbal to dynamically update the Altitude and Azimuth values, and see the impact of the light direction on the terrain surface.


The direction of the sun, measure in angular degrees from North. An azimuth of 0 means the sun is to the north, 90 azimuth means the sun is to the east, etc.


The angle of the sun above the horizon. An altitude of 90 means that the sun is directly overhead, while an altitude of 0 means the sun is on the horizon.

Use Multiple Light Sources

Select this option to add multiple light sources to the terrain. Press the Define... button to setup the light sources using the following settings:

Number of Sources: This is the number of light sources to use with the shader. When a number greater than one is specified, additional light sources will be distributed evenly in a circle, starting from the Azimuth specified above.

For example, if the Azimuth is 45°, and the user specifies 4 light sources, the sources will be positioned at 45°, 135°, 225°, and 315° degrees.

Blending Algorithm: The intensity values calculated for the multiple light sources can be handled in the following ways:

Additional Settings

Shader Drop-down

The Shader selection box allows for the selection of the algorithm used to color and shade any loaded elevation data.

The shader drop-down is found on the Viewer Toolbar. It can also be accessed from the Configuration Vertical Options section, or the Dynamic Hill Shading tool.

The following default shaders are available:

Ambient Lighting

Use the Ambient Lighting to brighten up dark looking data sets or dim bright looking data sets.

Vertical Exaggeration (for hill shading)

The Vertical Exaggeration setting is used to control the exaggeration of relief features for hill shading in terrain datasets and other texture mapped images. Increasing the terrain vertical exaggeration increases the effect of shadowing and highlighting from the light source. This setting is independent of the 3D vertical exaggeration and path profile settings.

Hill Shading Shadow Darkness

The Hill Shading Shadow Darkness setting is used to control how dark the darkest shadows are in hill shading. By default, the value of 0 allows shaded areas to go all the way to black. By moving this slider to the right shadowing will be capped in high relief areas, thus allowing the use of other controls to better bring out detail in low-relief areas.

Hill Shading Highlight from Direct Light

The Hill Shading Highlight from Direct Light setting is used to display a whitened highlight area in terrain areas that are getting direct sunlight based on the lighting angle selected. The slider controls the amount of whitening highlight applied to those direct sunlight areas.

Elevation Display/ Export Units

This option allows you to modify the units that elevations will be displayed in on the status bar as you move the cursor over loaded elevation data.

Native Overlay Units

The status bar display and exports will use the vertical units the layer has assigned in the Elevation Units Interpretation.


The status bar and export will use metric units.

Statute (ft)

The status bar and export will us statute units.

Color Elevation Values Based on Visible Elevation Values

Check this option to color elevation values based on the min and max in the display extent, rather than the min and max of all loaded data. This option only modifies shaders that use the option to Scale Shader to Loaded Elevation Values.

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