Which is better DEM or TIN?

What are the benefits/negatives of each?

1 Answer 1


It is all very dependent on your needs. You know that TIN is a vector-based representation whereas DEM is represented as a raster from grid of squares. Actually TIN is a type of DEM and derived from the raster DEM.

The TIN representation has information about altitude, slope and aspect and you can use them to extract the areas you require.

There is an information here about TIN and raster DEM.

Raster DEM and TIN examples:

raster dem vs tins

Why You Might Want to Use a TIN

(From http://www.srnr.arizona.edu/rnr/rnr420/dem2/tsld006.htm)

Raster DEM

Data redundancy in areas of uniform terrain

Inability to adapt to areas of differing relief complexity

Exaggerated emphasis along the axis of the grid


Non-redundant data

Allows extra data in complex areas and less data in non-complex areas

The ability to use natural features as break-lines

Of course, you have to like triangles

I hope it helps you..

  • thanks, also which would be better for creating a relief map?
    – Sam007
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 20:37
  • 4
    TINs can also be created from elevation points, without first creating a DEM.
    – user3461
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 21:06
  • 2
    Two of them will have some errors due to surface of earth. But TIN is less error than DEM. When dem has a regular grid, TIN has non-overlapping triangles(irregular network of triangles) which fit better to the Earth surface.
    – urcm
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 21:13
  • 2
    Any DEM or TIN is as good as your input data. Any other information than your input data is an interpolation. In order to assess, which form of data suits your needs better, you need to understand how it is created and what processes it involves, then you'll know best. Usually my opinion is, that TIN will be more accurate. However depending on your workflow it may be more difficult to handle it, as there is more tools to work with raster data than with TIN. Both of those data systems have their pros and cons.
    – Tomek
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 5:57
  • 2
    I can also add: DEM is easier and faster in processing. There are already many tools for DEM to perform analytic tasks. On the other hand TIN usually is more precise and should be used for such tasks as calculation of volumes (in engineering calcs). Commented May 14, 2012 at 7:39

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.