I would like to utilize the "contour placement" options of "Uphill alignment" and "Laddering" while positioning the label above the contour not over it. This does not seem to be an option under the contour placement where it's forcing me to place the contour over the line. (Which makes no sense in ArcGIS since there is no easy way to mask that portion of the line efficiently. Possible but very cumbersome and not dynamic) I tried the other placement options in Maplex but then "Uphill Alingment" and "Laddering" is not longer an option.

Does anyone has a good way of doing this? enter image description here

  • Don't have Maplex currently and it's been a while, but isn't there a "offset" setting somewhere? Apr 14, 2011 at 17:58
  • Not that i can see. I could offset the label symbol itself but that would not work correctly with the "Uphill Alignment" option as it only offsets on X,Y axis. Apr 14, 2011 at 18:03
  • in your question the line reading "no sense in ArcGIS since there is easy way to mask" did you mean "since there is NO easy way to mask"? I think I can help with that also if you prefer the contour placement and constrained laddering.
    – Brad Nesom
    Apr 14, 2011 at 19:28
  • Yes. That is what i meant. I am talking about masking the portion of the contour line that the label is intersecting. I can only do it by exporting labels to annotations, creating buffers from the annotations (made a tool for that) then using the advanced drawing options to mask the contours using the buffered annotation polygons. Wished there was a dynamic option for that. Apr 14, 2011 at 19:55

3 Answers 3


If you use the regular placement in maplex there are options to offset.

Label Offset

With this result...

label contour

You can set the offset units to points, mm, or mapunits. There is not a specific ladder constraint but as you notice these did ladder fairly nicely. I have seen that it is hit or miss though with out the constraint.

  • Thanks Brad. It will do. That's what I used instead. Still not sure why anyone would use the "Contour Placement" with the contour showing behind the label. Masking that out is quite the procedure. Was hoping for something "in-between" Apr 14, 2011 at 18:50
  • You could fairly easily mask the area behind the label with either a simple halo, or create a "Feature Outline Mask" (online help: help.arcgis.com/en/arcgisdesktop/10.0/help/index.html#//…) Apr 27, 2011 at 16:01

I've answered your post on the arcgis forum: basically, we'll look into adding offset contour labels in the future, but as a workaround have you tried adding a halo?

  • Thanks Jon. I commented on your post there. Take a look: forums.arcgis.com/threads/… Basically the offset itself I would like is already an attempt at a workaround. Ideally dynamic label mask (a true mask not a halo) would be the ideal solution. Apr 27, 2011 at 16:19

What about adding a halo to your contour label to mask out the portion of the contour line that it crosses. That is what I do and is produces decent results. Contour Labels with 0.7 Halo

My big issue with contour labels is that they can overwrite project data. I'm trying to figure out how to get the labels to draw in the background, any suggestions?

enter image description here

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