I am running ArcGIS Pro 2.8 on Windows 10.

I have a DEM from which I am generating contour lines. In the map layout, I would like to have every 5th line labeled with the elevation value.

When I use the contour tool in raster functions, I am able to generate the contours I want, with 200 ft between each contour line, and every 5th line bold (i.e. every 1000 ft). However, I can find no way to symbolize labels so that in the layout, you would be able to discern which bold line is 6000 ft and which is 5000 ft, etc.

I have read that I can symbolize labels on the contours if they are a feature class and not a raster. So I used the contour tool in 3D analyst, but now I can't seem to make every 5th contour bold, as that is no longer an option when creating the shapefile in the tool's options.

How do I get contour lines from a DEM where every 5th contour line is bold, and add labels to those bold lines so you can actually tell what elevation they are?

2 Answers 2


Shapefiles (or feature classes) don't have symbology (such as bolder/thicker lines). They simply store the geometry/shape and attributes.

What you need to do is create the shapefile, then add an attribute to it that represents whether it is an index contour or not. Then calculate the value for the index contour attribute according to your needs (eg, if it is evenlty divisible by 50 metres, give it a value of "index", otherwise give it a value of "intermediate").

Then you add it to you map (if it's not there already), as a layer. Layers are what contain the symbology (line thickness, eg). Define the symbology for categories based on your index contour attribute, and give a different symbol (line thickness) to the index contours than for intermediate contours.


When you use the Contour tool in ArcGIS, it creates a feature class from your DEM. So you are working with vector data already. And you can add a label.

Setting up labels in ArcGIS Pro is done in two steps: first enabling label display, then deciding what value to display.

  1. To enable lable display, right-click on your layer name in the content panel, and click on "Label"
  2. To set your label value, right-click on your layer name in the content panel, and click on "Labeling Properties". I believe the field you are interested in is called "Contour" by default.

In your particular case, you can create two sets of contour lines from your DEM: one that's 200ft apart, and one that's 1000ft apart. Change the symbology of the second one so it's thicker and add labels to this layer only. There might be a "cleaner" way that I am unaware of.

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