ArcGIS Living Atlas

Make this AI-inspired topo landscape please

Many weeks ago I saw an achingly beautiful bit of AI-generated terrain art shared by Esri’s glorious instagram account. Initially I was a bit intimidated by the robots; it was so charming and tactile and wondrous and dreamlike and sinuous. But also…inspiring.

Esri's instagram post showing AI-generated topos.

I wondered if I could take a crack at re-creating this aesthetic in ArcGIS Pro, with actual for realzies honest to goodness geographic data. Here is my attempt, using NASA SRTM elevation data of the Mount Hood / Columbia River area of the American Pacific Northwest…

0:00 Dazzling intro

0:34 DEM elevation download, thanks NASA!

0:50 Blur the DEM for smooth generalized contours with Raster Functions

1:20 Create contours from a DEM using Spatial Analyst

2:02 Ferris Bueller style summary of the hack

2:16 Hack that turns 2D elevation polygons into isometric 3D-looking things

3:34 Color thievery

4:11 A crisp edge highlight

5:18 Isolating the shading into a separate layer with delicious blend mode

8:15 Poster paper texture from Living Atlas

9:58 Pepper gets a scratch

Here are some exports from this Pro-ification of AI-inspired topo art using real geographic data. I use them as my desktop background because it’s a fun way to start the morning.

Isometric contours in ArcGIS Pro. Click to embiggen.
Isometric contours in ArcGIS Pro. Click to embiggen.
Isometric contours in ArcGIS Pro. Click to embiggen.
Isometric contours in ArcGIS Pro. Click to embiggen.
Isometric contours in ArcGIS Pro. Click to embiggen.
Isometric contours in ArcGIS Pro. Click to embiggen.

Here are some without the cartoonizing outlines. I sort of like these better…

Isometric contours in ArcGIS Pro. Click to embiggen.
Isometric contours in ArcGIS Pro. Click to embiggen.
Isometric contours in ArcGIS Pro. Click to embiggen.
Isometric contours in ArcGIS Pro. Click to embiggen.

I hope you give this a try and apply your own riffs and styles. It’s a beautiful world we live in and the source of unlimited inspiration. Thanks for reading!

Love, John

About the author

I have far too much fun looking for ways to understand and present data visually, hopefully driving product strategy and engaging users. I work in the ArcGIS Living Atlas team at Esri, pushing and pulling data in all sorts of absurd ways and then sharing the process. I also design user experiences for maps and apps. When I'm not doing those things, I'm chasing around toddlers and wrangling chickens, and generally getting into other ad-hoc adventures. Life is good. You might also like these Styles for ArcGIS Pro: esriurl.com/nelsonstyles

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