Smoothing Terrain Contours and Controlling it Precisely

Reference Number: KB-00715
Last Modified: July 16, 2015

The information in this article applies to:

Chief Architect Premier


When I add terrain points, lines and splines my terrain will often appear erratic; creating slopes, valleys and peaks in areas where I don't necessarily want them. How can I quickly smooth out my terrain and bring it under control?


Chief Architect will create a smooth curve through elevation points, lines, and splines. Often, it may seem as if not enough data is available and you will get seemingly unexpected results. These results, however, actually are predictable and controllable by using more elevation lines, and to group the terrain lines in sets of four.

To create a terrain perimeter

  1. To begin, launch Chief Architect and Open  the plan in which you would like to smooth your terrain.  

  2. To model terrain within Chief Architect you will first need to create a terrain perimeter.  

    If you do not already have one in your design, to create a terrain perimeter, from the menu select Terrain> Create Terrain Perimeter .

    This will create a default rectangular Terrain Perimeter of 50' x 100', however, you can customize both the size and shape of your Terrain Perimeter by using its existing edit handles in combination with the Change Line/Arc and Break Line edit tools. 

    A terrain perimeter with no additional elevation data drawn within it generates terrain that is flat at the elevation 0' - 0", or sea level.

Add terrain lines and set elevation height

  1. To add a terrain line, from the menu select Terrain> Elevation Data> Elevation Line .  

  2. Next, click and drag an elevation line from left to right,  so that the elevation line spans the entire width of the terrain  perimeter.  

  3. To set the elevation height, using the Select Objects  tool, select the elevation line then click on the Open Object  edit button to display the Elevation Line Specification dialog.  

  4. Click on the Elevation panel, and in the Elevation field, erase the existing value and type in the elevation you want.  

    • For this example, we will enter 20".

  5. Once you have entered the new value, click the OK button to apply the change and close the dialog.


To exercise maximum control over your terrain, we will use a series of elevation lines, rather than a single elevation line.  For this example, create four lines; each  of the four elevation lines should have the same elevation and should be located no more than six inches from each of the others in the group.


By using groups of four elevation lines placed closely   together, we are able to show the terrain editor within Chief Architect   how to make the desired smooth transitions between elevations.

To create precisely positioned copies

  1. To create three additional copies of your elevation line, spaced exactly 6" apart, select your elevation line and select the Multiple Copy  edit button.

  2. Next, select the Multiple Copy Interval  option to open the Multiple Copy dialog. Set the General Objects Primary Offset value to 6" and press OK.

  3. Click and drag the elevation line until you have a series of four elevation lines.

To create a slope

  1. Now, near the lower portion of the Terrain Perimeter, create another series of four lines, these set to a differing elevation.

    For the purposes of this example, we will use an elevation of 10' (120").

  2. Select Terrain> Build Terrain , or generate a 3D view, in order to generate secondary contour lines.