Knowledge Base - Technical Articles

Technical Article   HowTo:  Create labels on contour lines using Mask and Halo

Article ID: 15470
Software:  ArcGIS - ArcInfo 8.0.1, 8.0.2, 8.1, 8.1.2, 8.2, 8.3, 9.0, 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 9.3.1
Platforms: N/A


Follow these steps to place a contour label in ArcMap.


  1. Right-click the layer name in the ArcMap table of contents and select Properties.
  2. Click the Labels tab to set the contour line properties. -show me-

    A. Verify the label features box is checked.
    B. In the Method dropdown box choose 'Label all the features the same way'.
    C. In the Label dropdown box choose the field that contains contour values.
    D. Click Placement Properties.
    E. Set the constraint placement to 'On the Line'. Make sure you uncheck the 'Above line' option on the left.
  3. Click the Symbol button to view the Symbol Selector window and adjust the labels. -show me-

    A. Select the desired label font, color, and size.
    B. Click the Properties button.
    C. Click the Mask Tab.
    D. Click the Halo button and adjust the Halo to the desired size.
  4. Click OK to close the Editor window, and OK again to close the Symbol Selector window.
  5. Click Apply > OK, and Zoom to view contour labeling. -show me-

    [O-Image] Contour Line label example

Created: 10/23/2000
Last Modified: 4/28/2011

Article Rating: (3)
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By jjensen - 04/02/2013 1:43 PM

The article is incorrect or the solution didn’t work.

Labeling using the Contour Placement style provides a contour map with the contour lines masked out below the contour label. Problem is the background is a uniform color. I have an aerial photo as the background, so how do I just mask the contour line itself below the contour label?


By Anonymous - 05/05/2006 10:35 AM

Mask is a deceptive term here. The halo is not really a mask of any kind, just a halo. I would assume that a mask would not be symbolized, instead it would cause other symbolization not to be drawn.

By Anonymous - 10/21/2004 11:48 PM

This works fine as long a there is no other data to be displayed such as coloured polgons or imagery. If you have an image with coloured ramp, the halo colour doesn't look right, so the problem is not really solved.


By Anonymous - 03/17/2003 2:44 PM


By Anonymous - 02/12/2003 8:59 AM

What I really need is something comparable to the 'BLANK' option available in the arctext command in Arcplot. When the contours cross polygons of several different colors, I don't want the white 'halo' around the numbers. Ideas? Besides going back to Arcplot?