Contours or contour lines are lines of constant elevation drawn around land forms at predetermined intervals of height above mean sea level. A contour can be thought of as an imaginary shoreline or as a bathtub ring. Contours provide both measurable information and a picture of the land forms.
Hypsometric shading, also called layer-tinting, is the use of tints of different colors or shades within one color to distinguish different bands of altitude so that low, middle and high ground is apparent at a glance. This is not an effective method of revealing land forms and is in a sense misleading because a single shade between 100- and 200-foot contours indicates a uniform level instead of a progressive change of altitude.
Relief-shading, also called hill-shading, attempts to give the effect of a relief model. This method uses various tones to resemble the shadows that would be created by land forms if they were illuminated from the northwest. The steeper the slope the darker the show, while the ridge crests, plateaus, valley bottoms and plains remain light.
Pictorial/land form relief is an attempt to combine accurate plan-view of relief with a pictorial side-view. It is somewhat similar in approach to the ancient molehill method in being pictorial, usually showing relief at an oblique angle. Unlike old maps, accurate placement of features enables the modern renderer to present a much truer appearance to the relief.