Color Relief Map

Color relief maps are raster maps based on grid files. These maps represent Z values (e.g. elevations) with user specified colors. NoData regions on color relief maps are shown as a separate color. Hill shading or reflectance can be enabled to enhance contrast and visualization.


This hill shaded color relief map shows the Grand Canyon. Colors show elevation in the area.

A colormap is used to map Z values to specific colors. Surfer automatically blends colors to produce a smooth color gradation over the map. 16 million colors are available (true color definition), creating smooth color variations.

The color schemes for color relief maps can be saved in Color Spectrum .CLR files. With such a file, the colors defined for one color relief map can be used with any other color relief map. Since the colors are stored as a percentage of the grid data range, a single color spectrum file can be used for multiple maps, even if the associated grid files cover significantly different data ranges.

In previous versions of Surfer, shaded relief maps and color relief maps were different layer types. Now the two layer types have been combined under the color relief layer reflectance shading (shaded relief) and hill shading options.

Creating a Color Relief Map

To create a color relief map:

  1. Click the Home | New Map | Color Relief command or use the button.
  2. Select a grid file in the Open Grid dialog and click Open.

The map is automatically created.

Editing an Existing Color Relief Map

To change the features of the color relief map, click once on the color relief layer in the plot window or in the Contents window to select it. The properties are displayed in the Properties window.

Adding a Map Layer

When color relief maps are created, they are independent of other maps in the plot window. For example, creating a color relief map while a contour map is present in the plot window yields two separate maps, each with its own set of axes and scaling parameters. To create a single map with the color relief layer on the contour layer, select both maps by clicking the Select All command.  Overlay the maps using the Overlay Maps command.

Alternatively, you can add the color relief map directly to the existing contour map by creating the color relief map using the Home | Add to Map | Layer | Color Relief or Map Tools | Add to Map | Layer | Color Relief command. This automatically adds the color relief layer to the contour map axes.

Another alternative, is to create both maps using the Home | New Map commands.  Then, select one map and drag the map layer to the other map object.  This is equivalent to using the Overlay Maps command  to overlay maps. For example, create a contour map with the Home | New Map | Contour command. Create the color relief map using the Home | New Map | Color Relief command. This creates two separate maps. Click on the color relief map, hold down the left mouse button, and drag the color relief map into the contour map. A single map with two map layers, using one set of axes and scaling parameters is created.

Color relief maps cannot be added as a map layer to 3D wireframe maps, but a color relief map can be added to any other map layer, including 3D surface maps.

Color Relief Layer and the 3D View

When the map in the 3D view contains a reflectance or hill shaded color relief layer, the 3D view Lighting is turned off. This is because the map is already shaded by the color relief layer hill shading. The cumulative effect of both lighting systems would result in very dark regions of the map in the 3D view.

To use the 3D view Lighting properties instead of the color relief hill shading, the Enable hill shading option on the color relief layer General page must be cleared.

Color Relief Layer Properties

The color relief layer properties contains the following pages:



Coordinate System


Map Properties

The map properties contains the following pages:





Coordinate System


See Also

Introduction to Map Layers

Overlaying Maps

Map Add

Color Relief Map General Properties