The Contour (Spatial or 3D Analyst) tool generates an output vector file containing elevation levels (contour lines) from an input raster (in most cases a DEM). Contour lines are frequently used in cartography as they can easily be combined with other raster images (like aerial photos or pixel maps).

To generate contour lines from a DEM:

  1. Open the Search window.
  2. Type “contour” (or browse to Spatial Analyst Tools > Surface > Contour in the ArcToolbox).
  3. Use a DEM as the Input raster.
  4. Choose a location to save the Output polyline features (vector format).
  5. Define the Contour interval which will be the distance between the contours (if you are using the Swiss projection this will be in meters).
  6. Set the optional Base contour value, if desired (contours will start after the base value).
  7. If using a different unit than meters, click the Z factor input box.
  8. Click Show Help to learn about Z factor conversions.
  9. Click OK.

The new vector line file will be generated and added to the document. To achieve better results for visualisation, a smoothing algorithm could be performed on the line feature, e.g. with the tool Simplify or Smooth Line (Cartography Tools > Generalization > Simplify or Smooth Line from the ArcToolbox).