How Hillshade works 

Release 9.3
Last modified September 7, 2011 

To calculate the shade value, first the altitude and azimuth of the illumination source is needed. These values will be processed along with calculations for slope and aspect to determine the final hillshade value for each cell in the output raster.
The algorithm for calculating the Hillshade value is:
(1) Hillshade = 255.0 * ( ( cos(Zenith_rad) * cos(Slope_rad) ) +
( sin(Zenith_rad) * sin(Slope_rad) * cos(Azimuth_rad  Aspect_rad) ) )
Note that if the calculation of Hillshade value is < 0, the cell value will be = 0.
The altitude of the illumination source is specified in degrees above horizontal. However, the formula for calculating the Hillshade value requires the angle be represented in radians, and be the deflection from the vertical. The direction straight up from the surface (directly overhead) is labeled the 'Zenith'. The zenith angle is measured from the zenith point to the direction of the illumination source, and is the 90° complement to the altitude. To calculate the illumination angle, the first step is to convert the altitude angle to the zenith angle. The second step is to convert the angle to radians.
Changing altitude to zenith angle:
(2) Zenith_deg = 90  Altitude
Convert to radians:
(3) Zenith_rad = Zenith *
/ 180.0
The direction of the illumination source, azimuth, is specified in degrees. The Hillshade formula requires this angle to be in units of radians. First, the azimuth angle is changed from its geographic unit (compass direction) to an mathematic unit (right angle). Next, the azimuth angle is converted to radians
Change azimuth angle measure:
(4) Azimuth_math = 360.0  Azimuth + 90
Note that if Azimuth_math >= 360.0, then:
(5) Azimuth_math = Azimuth_math  360.0
Convert to radians:
(6) Azimuth_rad = Azimuth_math *
/ 180.0
A moving 3 x 3 window visits each cell in the input raster and for each cell in the center of the window, an aspect and slope value is calculated using an algorithm that incorporates the values of the cell's eight neighbors. The cells are identified as letters 'a' to 'i', with 'e' representing the cell for which the aspect is being calculated.
The rate of change in the x direction for cell 'e' is calculated with the following algorithm:
(7) [dz/dx] = ((c + 2f + i)  (a + 2d + g)) / (8 * cellsize)
The rate of change in the y direction for cell 'e' is calculated with the following algorithm:
(8) [dz/dy] = ((g + 2h + i)  (a + 2b + c)) / (8 * cellsize)
The steepest downhill descent from each cell in the surface is the slope. The algorithm for calculating the slope in radians, incorporating the zfactor, is:
(9) Slope_rad = ATAN ( z_factor * √ ( [dz/dx]^{2} + [dz/dy]^{2}) )
The direction the steepest downslope direction is facing is the aspect. Aspect in radians is defined in the range of 0 to 2
, with 0 toward east. The aspect is determined under the rules in the following algorithm: (10)
if [dz/dx] is nonzero:
Aspect_rad = atan2 ([dz/dy], [dz/dx])
if Aspect_rad < 0 then
Aspect_rad = 2
+ Aspect_rad
if [dz/dx] is zeroif [dz/dy] > 0 then
Aspect_rad =
/2else if [dz/dy] < 0 then
Aspect_rad = 2

/2else
Aspect_rad = Aspect_rad
Burrough, P. A. and McDonell, R.A., 1998. Principles of Geographical Information Systems (Oxford University Press, New York), p. 190.
As an example, the hillshade value of the center cell of the moving window will be calculated.
The cell size is 5 units. The default Altitude of 45 degrees and Azimuth of 315 degrees will be used.
The calculation for Zenith angle from equation 2 is:
(2) Zenith_deg = 90  Altitude
= 90  45
= 45
And converted to radians from equation 3 is:
(3) Zenith_rad = Zenith_deg *
/ 180.0= 45 * 3.1428571429 / 180
= 0.7857142857
The calculation for converting the azimuth angle from geographic to mathematic angle with equation 4 is:
(4) Azimuth_math = 360.0  Azimuth + 90
= 360.0  315 + 90
= 135
Converting azimuth angle to radians with equation 6 is:
(6) Azimuth_rad = Azimuth_math *
/ 180.0= 135 * 3.1438571429/180
= 2.3571428571
The calculation for the rate of change in the x direction for center cell 'e' is:
(7) [dz/dx] = ((c + 2f + i)  (a + 2d + g)) / (8 * cellsize)
= ((2483+ 4966 + 2477)  (2450 + 4904 + 2447)) / (8 * 5)
= (9926  9801)/ 40
= 3.125
The calculation for rate of change in the y direction for center cell 'e' is:
(8) [dz/dy] = ((g + 2h + i)  (a + 2b + c)) / (8 * cellsize)
= (2447 + 4910 + 2477)  (2450 + 4922 + 2483) / (8 * 5)
= (9834  9855) / 40
= 0.525
The calculation for the Slope angle is:
(9) Slope_rad = ATAN ( z_factor * √ ( [dz/dx]^{2} + [dz/dy]^{2}) )
= atan(1 * sqrt(3.125 * 3.125 + 0.525 * 0.525))
= 1.26511
The calculation for the Aspect_rad angle from rule 10 is:
(since dz/dx is nonzero in this example)
Aspect_rad = atan2 ([dz/dy], [dz/dx])
= atan2(0.525, 3.125)
= 2.9751469600412
(and since this value is less than 0, this part of the rule applies):
Aspect_rad = 2
+ Aspect_rad= 2 * 3.1428571429 + 2.9751469600412
= 3.310567
The final calculation for the Hillshade is:
Hillshade = 255.0 * ( ( cos(Zenith_rad) * cos(Slope_rad) ) +
( sin(Zenith_rad) * sin(Slope_rad) * cos(Azimuth_rad  Aspect_rad) ) )
= 255.0 * ( ( cos(0.7857142857) * cos(1.26511) ) +
( sin(0.7857142857) * sin(1.26511) * cos(2.3571428571  3.310567) ) )
= 153.82
Since the output raster is of integer type, the Shade value for center cell 'e' = 154.