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Note: This document is for an older version of GRASS GIS that will be discontinued soon. You should upgrade, and read the current manual page.


r.relief - Creates shaded relief map from an elevation map (DEM).


raster, elevation, relief, terrain, hillshade


r.relief --help
r.relief input=name output=name [altitude=float] [azimuth=float] [zscale=float] [scale=float] [units=string] [--overwrite] [--help] [--verbose] [--quiet] [--ui]


Allow output files to overwrite existing files
Print usage summary
Verbose module output
Quiet module output
Force launching GUI dialog


input=name [required]
Name of input raster (typically elevation) map
output=name [required]
Name for output shaded relief map
Altitude of the sun in degrees above the horizon
Options: 0-90
Default: 30
Azimuth of the sun in degrees to the east of north
Options: 0-360
Default: 270
Factor for exaggerating relief
Default: 1
Scale factor for converting meters to elevation units
Default: 1
Elevation units (overrides scale factor)
Options: intl, survey
intl: international feet
survey: survey feet

Table of contents


r.relief creates a raster shaded relief map based on current resolution settings and on sun altitude, azimuth, and z-exaggeration values entered by the user.

The parameters controlling the shading are:

  1. An input raster map to provide elevation values for the shaded relief map. Typically, this would be a map layer of elevation; however, any raster map layer can be named.
  2. The altitude of the sun in degrees above the horizon (a value between 0 and 90 degrees).
  3. The azimuth of the sun in degrees to the east of north (a value between 0 and 360 degrees; clockwise from north)
  4. The scaling parameter, which compensates for a different horizontal scale than vertical scale. If scale is a number, then the ewres and nsres are multiplied by that scale to calculate the shading. (Default=1.0 for equivalent horizontal and vertical scales.)
  5. The zscale exaggeration factor that changes the apparent relief for the shaded relief map. This can be any positive (or negative) floating point value. (Default=1.0)
  6. Horizontal distances are calculated in meters, using geodesic distances for a latitude-longitude projection. With an elevation map measured in feet, the units option can be set to automatically convert meters to international feet (0.3048 meters = 1 foot) or survey feet (1200 / 3937 meters = 1 foot). The units parameter overrides the scale parameter.

r.relief assigns a grey-scale color table to the new shaded relief map.


To visually improve the result of shade maps from low resolution elevation models, use r.resamp.interp with bilinear or bicubic method to resample the DEM at higher resolution. r.relief is then run on the resampled DEM.

The current mask is ignored.


Shaded relief map

In this example, the aspect map in the North Carolina sample dataset location is used to hillshade the elevation map:
g.region raster=elevation -p
r.relief input=elevation output=elevation_shade
GRASS r.relief result (subset)
r.relief: shaded elevation map (subset)

Colorizing a shaded relief map

Color can be added later using r.shade or d.shade:
r.shade shade=elevation_shade color=elevation output=elevation_shaded

Using the scale factor in Latitude-Longitude

In Latitude-Longitude locations (or other non-metric locations), the scale factor has to be used:
# Latitude-Longitude example
g.region raster=srtm -p
r.relief input=srtm output=srtm_shaded scale=111120

Exporting shaded relief maps to GeoTIFF

The data range of shaded relief maps usually does not permit exporting the map to GeoTIFF format along with its associated color table due to limitations in the GeoTIFF format.

The most simple way to export it while even reducing the file size is to export as palette byte map. This requires a conversion done in r.mapcalc, using the # operator to convert map category values to their grey scale equivalents:

# using the map created above

# create new map from map category values
r.mapcalc expression="elevation_shade_byte = #elevation_shade"

# verify data range elevation_shade_byte

# assign grey color table
r.colors elevation_shade_byte color=grey

# export (optionally: createopt="COMPRESS=DEFLATE,BIGTIFF=YES")
r.out.gdal input=elevation_shade_byte createopt="COMPRESS=DEFLATE" \

# add overview images in GeoTIFF file for faster zooming
gdaladdo --config GDAL_CACHEMAX 2000 elevation_shade.tif 2 4 8 16


d.shade, d.his, g.region, r.shade, r.blend, r.colors, r.mapcalc, r.resamp.interp


Jim Westervelt, U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory
Markus Metz: Enhanced fast C version of r.relief for GRASS GIS 7


Available at: r.relief source code (history)

Latest change: Thursday Feb 03 11:10:06 2022 in commit: 547ff44e6aecfb4c9cbf6a4717fc14e521bec0be

Note: This document is for an older version of GRASS GIS that will be discontinued soon. You should upgrade, and read the current manual page.

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