ArcGIS Pro

Dot Matrix Elevation

Ah, the lovely ghostly ethereal beauty of a Digital Elevation Model (hereafter referred to colloquially as a DEM). I just love em. They are so versatile, laden with potential. One time I cobbled together a hack of a DEM using the Vector Field symbology option in ArcGIS Pro to make fantasy map styled mountains. Then Craig Williams wondered if you could use the same technique to make a minimalist dot-matrix-like hillshade effect. Why not?

Let’s give this a Pro, I mean a go…

Here is a trusty ol DEM, stretched along a default black to white color ramp.

But if you expand the symbology dropdown you see a mysterious little option there called Vector Field. Actual cartographers use that to make wind and current maps, but where’s the fun in using tools the way they were intended?

Wham! a cool little dot-matrix-looking thing of elevation. Just play with the symbols to get it the way you like.

It might be a handy, stylized, graphical background for your map. So what about the original goal, which was to make a hillshade version of this? No problem, just open up the Raster Functions and apply a hillshade to your DEM. The vector field symbology works on the derived hillshade image, too…

Crinkle-tastic, right?

Play with the symbol spacing and symbol size range to get the look you want. Here’s a pretty detailed dot matrix elevation…

And here it is with a sparser, minimalist, symbol density…

Here’s a closer look at the dot matrix hillshade…

And here is a version of the dot matrix hillshade that is about to die of dysentery…

Hang on a second, all this talk of “dot matrix” and no actual ascii art dot matrix map? Ok, just toss in a background image and make your symbols printer fonts…

Which, when ripped off the spools with gusto, looks like this…

Happy Dot Matrix Elevation Mapping! John Nelson

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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