I am trying to get nice smooth contours using ArcGIS. I have already smoothed out the DEM using focal statistics, simplified and smoothed the contours. The current result looks like this, which is way too pixel-y whenever the line is not straight: Ugly Jagged contours. Captured in ArcScene.

And zoomed in on my peeve: enter image description here

What I am going for is something less raster-y and more vector-looking like this: Low resolition, but nice non-pixely lines.

I don't know if something like that is even possible within ArcGIS or whether I need a different application. Nevertheless I hope someone can guide me onto the right path towards perfect contours.

  • 1
    It's not clear to me whether the contours are already in vector format or not. If they are currently in raster format, it will be difficult to vectorize them in a satisfactory way. The better approach would be to generate the contours as vectors from the outset.
    – blah238
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 21:31
  • I have generated the contours from my DEM using the contours function. This creates a polyline shapefile with attribute table and the lot, which should mean that it is a vectorfile. However, I don't know hot to export a shapefile as vector in ArcGIS
    – lifemapper
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 7:22
  • Ok, I have now partially solved my issue when exporting to Illustrator using ArcMap. Still, when I use ArcScene, trying to export vectors does not work.
    – lifemapper
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 7:57
  • 1
    "Therefore I'd like to extend my question to how I am able to export a 2D scene from ArcScene that still has editable vectors for Illustrator." This sounds like a completely separate question, so please create a new question for this.
    – blah238
    Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 17:05
  • I just rolled this question back so that the answer by @blah238 is not stranded.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 7:54

1 Answer 1


You might try turning on anti-aliasing in your graphics drivers. ArcScene should benefit from this since it uses OpenGL to render in 3D using your graphics hardware. Be aware though that this tends to require a lot more graphics card resources.

Also note that ArcMap will not benefit from this, since it renders in software.

If you have ArcGIS Pro, it should have a display option to perform anti-aliasing.

See also: How to replicate QGIS vector smoothing effect in ArcGIS for Desktop?

  • Turning on AA helps in-app and I have to say it looks pretty good considering my 94 dpi screen. The thing is, once I export it doesn't render it using AA, bringing me back to square one. And exporting to AI also does not work, as it compiles everything into one layer, making the much needed vector-edit impossible.
    – lifemapper
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 7:35
  • Well you did not mention exporting in your question. Could you elaborate on what you are exporting for? Video, screenshots, print, web, etc. Try to put all important details in your question by editing it to provide clarifications, rather than adding important details to the comments, which can be hard to follow.
    – blah238
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 18:54
  • Added edit. Thanks for pointing it out, I'm new to SE.
    – lifemapper
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 14:44

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