Can anybody give me advice on how to label contours as shown in Figure 2 below? I would like to be able to put the label "on" the line, which is easy enough. But I'd also like for the contour line to have a break in between the label, as shown in Fig. 2. Without the break it is very hard to read the label, unless I use a mask with white background as in Fig 1. Maybe there is some sort of "invisible" masking option that creates the break?? I'm using ArcMap 10.1 on Windows 7 (64 bit)

Figure 1 enter image description here

Figure 2 enter image description here

  • which license level of ArcGIS you have?
    – Jens
    Aug 21, 2013 at 14:09

1 Answer 1


Labeling using the Contour Placement style

Required: ArcMap

Clean (good) Data

Maplex Labeling Enabled. (see http://resources.arcgis.com/en/help/main/10.1/index.html#/A_quick_tour_of_the_Labeling_toolbar/00s800000014000000/)

The Maplex Label Engine groups the segments of contour features, if the symbology and label match and the features are connected, and treats them as single, long features

enter image description here

Official Documentation on Contour Label Placement


  • Under properties, label position, choose "Contour Placement". I don not see this option. I am missing something.
    – derelict
    Aug 21, 2013 at 14:28
  • 2
    (+1) Maplex is a great tool for labeling contour lines. But as far as I know it can not solve the halo/mask problem. After you have created the labels with Maplex you can convert the labels to annotation and create masks to block the contour features but not the other underlying symbology. To create the mask you need Feature Outline Masks tool which is available with ArcInfo license only. Here is a detailed instruction how to mask your labels.
    – Jens
    Aug 21, 2013 at 14:43
  • Interesting that this is flagged as a duplicate and yet this is the best answer by far! Sep 4, 2015 at 14:45

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