Hillshading of terrain using layer tints with aspect-variant luminosity

Patrick J. Kennelly, A. Jon Kimerling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Hillshading provides a rendering of topographic surfaces by assigning brightness to surface elements based on the orientation of these elements and a selected direction of illumination. Users easily visualize many topographic features, but some areas lack detail, as one shade of gray does not define a unique surface orientation. We clarify some of this ambiguity by varying the color of layer tints with aspect direction. We use the CIELAB color model to quantify color specifications and map variations in luminosity onto slices of the Hue-Saturation-Value (HSV) color model. Traditionally, cartographers assign an aspect-invariant color (or colors) based on H and S and vary V with the hillshading values. In our research, we assign aspect-variant H and V values in close proximity in HSV color space. We use values of luminosity and saturation from the CIELAB and HSV color models to select colors that are least saturated, most saturated, least luminous, and most luminous to represent the northwest, southeast, southwest, and northeast directions, respectively. We then vary V in the traditional manner with hillshading from the northwest. Topographic details not apparent in the original hillshaded maps are highlighted with this technique.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-77
Number of pages11
JournalCartography and Geographic Information Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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