Updated hillshade toolbox

By Aileen Buckley, Mapping Center Lead

I just posted a newly updated Hillshade toolbox on the ArcGIS Resources – Models, Tools & Scripts page. This replaces the toolbox of the same name that was there earlier. The new toolbox includes:

  1. The addition of some sample data that you can try the tools out on,
  2. Corrected path and environment settings, and
  3. Updated and complete documentation

If you haven’t tried this out already, the Hillshade toolbox has two models — one that you can use to create the Swiss hillshade effect and another that creates a multi-directional oblique (MDOW) hillshade. Here are brief descriptions of both:

Swiss Hillshade Effect

The Swiss hillshade effect is created using two modified hillshades that are displayed together with a layer tinted DEM. The first modified hillshade is a generalized hillshade produced by using a median filter on the default hillshade – this creates a smoothing effect and generalizes the terrain to emphasize the major geographic features, minimize the minor features, and smooth irregularities on the slopes; however, it still maintains the rugged characteristics of ridge tops and canyon bottoms. The second modified hillshade is created from both the original DEM and the default hillshade in such a way as to simulate an aerial perspective that makes the higher elevations lighter and the lower elevations darker. These two modified hillshade and a layer tinted DEM are displayed with transparencies to produce an effect similar to the Swiss-style hillshade.

Hillshade Toolbox - Figure 1

MDOW Hillshade

As Dr. Mark of the USGS, who originally developed the model as an Arc Workstation AML, stated: “Traditional computer-generated shaded-relief maps emphasize structures that happen to be obliquely illuminated, but wash out structures that are illuminated along the structural grain. This method produces a surface that emphasizes oblique illumination on all surfaces, … providing more detail in areas of an image that would otherwise be illuminated by direct light or left in darkness by a single source illumination…” In essence, the hillshade is created by combining four hillshades generated from 225 degree, 270 degree, 315 degree and 360 degree azimuths, all at 30 degrees altitude.

Hillshade Toolbox - Figure 2

To install the toolbox:

  1. On the ArcGIS Resources – Models, Tools & Scripts page, click on the link for the Hillshade Tools accept the Software License Agreement, and save the .zip file to a location on your computer.
  2. Unzip the file to a directory that you want to store the toolbox in — remember the path to that directory.
  3. Start ArcMap.
  4. In the ArcToolbox window, right click the word at the top, “ArcToolbox”. (If the ArcToolbox window is not showing, click the red toolbox on the top bar menu to show it.)
  5. Click “Add Toolbox…”.
  6. Navigate to the directory where you unzipped the hillshade_tools.zip and click “Open”.

One other tip – you can also download some color ramps that might be useful for the layer tint. These are on the ArcGIS Resources – Styles page – they are in the Color Ramps style.

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Leave a Reply


  1. sterlingdq says:

    I added the toolbox as instructed, but there aren’t any tools in it?

  2. StinkyJoe says:

    I added the toolbox as instructed, but there aren’t any tools in it?

  3. mikeboruta says:

    I have the same problem, I added the toolbox but there are no tools within it. What am I doing wrong?

  4. cfrye says:

    Okay I tried this with Firefox and sure enough I got a ZIP file that had been stripped of all but two files. Then I tried it with Internet Explorer and it worked fine. Just to verify it I tried with Firefox again, and of course it worked?!?

    So, try with IE. I’ll get our systems folks to check it out. Thanks for letting us know.

  5. david17tym says:

    Third try and still no joy, everything seems to extract ok, but when I load the toolbox in arcmap no tools appear?

  6. bbulla says:

    I just downloaded the tool also, and cannot see any tools after I add the Toolbox to ArcToolbox.

    I searched the ESRI Support Help, but no answers.

    Does anybody know how to get this to work???

  7. maphew says:

    To solve the missing toolbox problem:

    * R-click on ‘ArcToolbox’ in the table of contents
    * uncheck ‘Hide locked tools’

  8. mjbrown says:

    After unchecking ‘Hide locked tools’ I still cannot see the tools. Is there an update?

  9. tvahak says:

    I´ve done everything suggested here, but I am still missing tools from the toolbox.
    Any other suggestions, please?

  10. jakubsisak says:

    SO how would one do this manually with Spatial Analyst? 4 hillshade models and combine?

  11. jakubsisak says:

    hm. i tried the the MDOW Hillshade in raster calculator and the difference is not as darmatic as i thought it would be. Could not say that i see any more detail other than maybe some mountain ridges appearing a bit sharper but that is likely due to the lower altitude…

    Maybe i am doing it wrong. To be fair i used a a generic 20m resolution DEM rather then something like LiDAR…

  12. abuckley says:

    Dear jakubsisak:

    I assume you are talking about the MDOW model. You can see the steps in the model if you right click it and click Edit. The documentation also outlines the steps used. To do this in Spatial Analyst would require the Map Algebra Raster Calculator tool, but I built it in Model Builder to make it easier for myself.

    The critical steps you are asking about, I think, are the Single Output Map Algebra (SOMA) equations in the model to weight each of the outputs. Then all four are combined in the final SOMA equation:

    INT((([W225] * [H225]) + ([W270] * [H270]) + ([W315] * [H315]) + ([W360] * [H360])) / 2)

  13. abuckley says:

    You should not be seeing any problems with the downloads anymote — we added tools for both 9.2 and 9.3 and they will also work in 10. If you are using an older version of the software, these may not work for you and we cannot go back any further to create tools for the older versions.

  14. abuckley says:

    You could try varying the weights used in the SOMA statements to create more dramatic results. Though I am not sure if this would work as I have not tried it myself.

  15. RickFourroux says:

    Bear with me; I’m a student:

    Is this MDOW the only way to use the map algebra function for SOMA in Arc10 now? I ask because I’m a student and the computers on campus DO NOT allow downloading of software files. Also, the campus recently updated to Arc 10 from 9.3, and I can’t seem to find a way to aggregate multiple hillshades for a method that I am “playing around” with as before(with 9.3). In Arc 9.3 I would use the following process:

    Toolbox>spatial analyst>map algebra>SOMA…..but then there was a dialogue box that gave the ability to add the multiple, independent hillshades……

    ……within Arc 10 I am not given this option……am I missing something obvious, or has the function been renamed/moved for Arc10?

    Thanks for your patience and any help,

  16. abuckley says:

    You can either string together the mathematical statement using the operators in the Math toolbox, or, more easily, you can use the Map Algebra > Raster Calculator function in Spatial Analyst to input a statement like the one in SOMA in the MDOW model.

    We also answered this on Ask a Cartographer: http://mappingcenter.esri.com/index.cfm?fa=ask.questionAdmin&q=2072

  17. sbullrich says:

    How to use the tool?. Sorry but I don’t understand how to use it. When I open the toolbox i can select my DEM, without problem, then I have to selec the out hillshade and aerial perspective, but I got yellow caution signs and I cannot select or create a raster file. What I’m doing wrong.
    I have run the crater model without problem but it’s impossible to make it work with my data. If somebody can help me. I’ll appreciate it. Thx

  18. abuckley says:

    The answer to your question is posted on Ask a Cartographer here:

  19. deschlong says:

    Oddly, the images for this blog post do not / no longer load. Can they be fixed?

  20. mdymdymdy says:

    Hi tks for your work
    unable to find the exe in the ARCGIS REssources
    would you be so kind to drive me