Vector Maps

Instantly create vector maps in Surfer to show direction and magnitude of data at points on a map. You can create vector maps from information in one grid or two separate grids. The two components of the vector map, direction and magnitude, are automatically generated from a single grid by computing the gradient of the represented surface.

At any given grid node, the direction of the arrow points in the direction of the steepest descent. The magnitude of the arrow changes depending on the steepness of the descent. Two-grid vector maps use two separate grid files to determine the vector direction and magnitude. The grids can contain Cartesian or polar data. With Cartesian data, one grid consists of X component data and the other grid consists of Y component data. With polar data, one grid consists of angle information and the other grid contains length information. Overlay vector maps on contour or wireframe maps to enhance the presentation!

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A vector map of Mt. St. Helens overlaid on a contour map (left) and wireframe map (right).
Use a color scale bar or legend to indicate the magnitude of the arrows.

 Vector Map Features

  • Create vector maps based on one grid or two grids.
  • Define arrow style, color, and frequency
  • Symbol color may be fixed, based on vector magnitude or based on a grid file
  • Save and load custom color map files for the exact desired display
  • Use one of the built-in presets as the color map
  • Display color scale bars and vector scale legends
  • Scale the arrow shaft length, head length, and width
  • Control vector symbol origin
  • Choose from linear, logarithmic, or square root scaling methods
  • Adjust the layer opacity

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This vector map displays the ocean's surface currents. Image courtesy of
Chris Fullilove, Rip Charts.


Overlay vectors over contours of the data to increase the visual impact of the data.