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Can analytical shading be art?

Reflections on the canvas of experiments with ArcGIS and Surfer

Jerzy Siwek and Wojciech Wacławik


Despite numerous theoretical and experimental studies of analytical relief shading, devised about half a century ago, its quality has not yet reached the excellence of traditional (manual) shading. The paper discusses its basic principles and the main factors affecting the quality of shading. It also stresses the crucial importance of the digital terrain model used as the basis for shading as well as the proper generalization of the relief. Experiments with shading modules of ArcGIS and Surfer, aiming to explore the functionality of algorithms they employ, have demonstrated significant similarity of the results. In conclusion, the authors attempt to answer the question posted in the title of the article. In their view, analytical shading is not art because shading algorithms are incapable of producing the visually beautiful effects that an experienced cartographer with artistic talents can create.