Contour Polygons

04-22-2010 10:11 AM
Status: Open
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New Contributor II

In some cases, it would be useful to have contour polygons (that could then be color-filled or used for further polygon intersections) instead of just polylines.  There would be some semantic issues with the boundaries of the rasters, though.

According to ArcGIS help docs,  "The current version of Contour with Barriers only supports polyline output. If the polygon output option is used it will be ignored and polyline output will be created."


Got Esri tech support to put this on the "like to have list":

In Nautical Solution Contour Polygons is already implemented in the Create Depth Area tool, now we just need to get in into ArcGIS Core ;o)
Mining and Petroleum Industry users have asked for a tool to create contours as polygons in addition to the traditional polylines. The need for the polygons was for a better representation of the “contour” data as polygons for input into analysis questions like queries of features within a particular contour “area” or for easier visualization of the contour data. In the past, these “color filled contours” were possible to create but it was several steps and linked tools.

At the request of the PUG and as an IDEA, the Esri GP team has created a free GP script tool that is described at:

and can be downloaded at:

The tool works with ArcGIS 10 and 10.1, but will not work with ArcGIS 9.x.
Great to find this GP script.  Unfortunately, it is woefully inadequate. 

For full rectangular grids with no interior or exterior null values, it is fine.  But then, the stretch and classified raster renderer is just as adequate, and much less trouble. 

The primary objective of this functionality is to honor barriers for an aesthetically pleasing geological representation of the surface.  However, with internal or external null values, very unappealing scallop-shaped artifacts are created, which are completely unacceptable.  On March 21, 2013 I posted a comment to the posting on ArcGIS Online, and sent more detailed feedback to the developers.

What is really needed is to finish the "Contour with Barriers" tool to honor the "Polygon" option.

For additional information, contact
The Petroleum User Group (PUG) originaly posted this item to the List way back in 1999, and some of that history is still present at

As in my previous comment to this Idea, the solution should be to finish development as part of the Contour_with_Barriers tool, packaged as part of the Spatial Analyst extension.  Following are more specific  comments:
  1. Arc Objects:  is this available as a method on some object that I can not find?  If not, why not?
  2. Type: hopefully you would make “both” an option, rather than requiring two passes through the data for lines and polygons.  And why do you confuse things by putting a poly in front of lines?
  3. Barriers:  well and good to be able to use simple lines as barriers, and polygons also work.  But also desire two types of polygons, per below.
  4. Mask: offer input of inclusive polygon layer to limit the extent, and to terminate the contours at the edges.
  5. Blank: offer input of exclusive polygon layer to blank the grid, and to terminate contours.  There should be no contours (or at least an option) inside these polygons.
  6. Nulls: consider an automatic step to generate additional clipping polygons using the grid_to_poly functionality, which makes a reasonably clean and smooth polygon around the ratty stair-step edge of a grid.
This tool still reports "The current version of Contour with Barriers only supports polyline output. If the polygon output option is used it will be ignored and polyline output will be created".

I believe this requirement is still needed.  Other leading GIS products have been able to do this for many years.