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Pyramid Shader

Pyramid Shader is a specialized application for visualizing terrain models and other digital raster data.

Pyramid shader can create:
  • Shaded relief
  • Illuminated and shadowed contour lines (“Tanaka contours”)
  • Hypsometric colors
  • Local hypsometric colors
  • Exposition colors
  • Bivariate colors
  • Slope
  • Aspect
  • Profile curvature
Pyramid Shader can generalize terrain by removing small high-frequency details and/or large landforms.


Pyramid Shader is free and open-source software. The latest version is available for Windows, Mac OS X and as Java JAR file. Pyramid Shader requires Java 8.

Mac users please see how to start Pyramid Shader on OS X.


See this excellent tutorial by Charles Preppernau to get started with Pyramid Shader.

Data Import

Pyramid Shader reads Esri ASCII grid files. has a tutorial showing how to convert terrain models to this format. We recommend the free Landserf software for converting to Esri ASCII grids.


Pyramid Shader is free open source software © by Bernhard Jenny, Charles Preppernau and James Eynard, Cartography Group, Oregon State University, 2015.

You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License version 2 as published by the Free Software Foundation.

Java Source Code is available on GitHub.