I have a DEM built from LiDAR data and the file extension is .tif. When I open this file in ArcMap it seems to be a shaded relief DEM (see the screenshot below).

It happens I want to visualize the DEM colored by elevation. How should I proceed?

enter image description here

  • 2
    It looks like you have a shaded relief and unfortunately there is no way to backwards engineer the results to derive elevation values. Commented Mar 5, 2016 at 22:03

1 Answer 1


What you have is a hillshade surface built from a LiDAR point cloud. According to ESRI:

A hillshade is a grayscale 3D representation of the surface, with the sun's relative position taken into account for shading the image.

So each pixel of your .tif raster has an hypothetical illumination value given a reference position of the sun.

What you want is a DEM (a bare-earth surface) where each pixel in the raster represents an elevation value. As stated by Jeffrey Evans it is not possible to backwards converting hillshade values into elevation.

The best alternative would be to try acquiring the raw LiDAR data and built the DEM from scratch. For example, see:

Determining bare earth DEM from unclassified LAS file?

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.