LiDAR Point Cloud Maps in Surfer


Surfer empowers you to effortlessly craft point cloud maps, with LiDAR data depicted as precisely located points on the XY coordinates. When assembling a point cloud map, you can consolidate LiDAR data from multiple files while applying various filtering criteria. The creation of a point cloud map mandates the selection of one or more LAS/LAZ LiDAR data files as your input source. Extensive customization options are at your fingertips, allowing you to designate colors for the points based on variables like elevation, intensity, return number, or classification. The point cloud layer equips you with versatile tools for modifying, categorizing, and exporting these data points. Moreover, within the 3D View, point cloud layers enable the presentation of these points in a captivating three-dimensional format.


Create a LiDAR point cloud

You can create a point cloud layer in Surfer with LiDAR data in LAS or LAZ format. To create the layer, follow these steps:

  1. Click Home | New Map | Specialty | Point Cloud.
  2. Select the LAS or LAZ file (you can also select multiple LAS or LAZ files at this step) and click Open.
  3. The Import Points dialog opens.

    Import points dialog
    • The Files section lists all LAS/LAZ files selected, with some information about each one. You can set the source coordinate system and source elevation units for each LAS/LAZ file by clicking on the blue [Set] link. If all files selected use the same units or coordinate system, click the blue [Set all unreferenced] link.
    • You can also set the Target Coordinate System and Target Elevation Units. This will be the coordinate system and elevation units for the layer when it is created. This is useful when importing multiple LAS/LAZ files and they use different coordinates or units. All files imported are converted from their source coordinate system and units to the target coordinate system and units for the layer.
    • In the Point Filter section, you can filter the points to import based on XY bounds, Z elevation bounds, every Nth point, by classification or return number, etc.
  4. Click OK and the point cloud layer is created.

    point cloud map lidar las laz
  5. Select the Point Cloud layer in the Contents window and specific properties for that layer are displayed in the Properties window. 

    point cloud property manager

    • If you wish to update the filtering for import, or add/remove a file, click the Modify point sources button to the right of Sources.
    • Set the View by to view the point cloud by elevation (the default), intensity, return number, or classification value.
    • Set the Colormap to change the colors associated with the View by option.
    • Choose to show a color scale
    • Set the point size
  6. In addition, when the Point Cloud layer is selected, the ribbon automatically changes to the Point Cloud ribbon tab

    point cloud ribbon

    • Point Selection: You can select points either using a criteria, or you can draw a rectangle or polygon around the points to select. Deselect the points by clicking Deselect All.
    • Classify: you can reclassify the selected points by clicking on the new classification in the drop down menu. Or, you can remove the current classification of the selected points completely with the Remove Classifications You can see this directly in the map when the View by is set to Classification.
    • Modify: If points are selected, you can crop the point cloud to those points, or you can remove the selected points from the point cloud.
    • Features: Create a grid file from the point cloud data by clicking Create Grid, or export the point cloud by clicking Export LAS/LAZ file. If you filtered the data or combined multiple data sets, exporting the data to a single new file may be a good option.


View LiDAR data in 3D

  1. If you wish to view the point cloud in 3D, right click over the map and click the 3D View command.
  2. You can adjust the point size for the point cloud symbols by selecting the Point Cloud layer in the Contents window, and adjusting the Point size in the Properties window.
3D view point cloud
Note: by default, the maximum number of points to display for a point cloud in the 3D view is 4 million. This is to decrease the processing time when trying to display a large number of points. You can adjust this value though by clicking File | Options, selecting 3D View from the menu on the left, and changing the value for Maximum number of points on the right and clicking OK. The maximum number of points to display for a point cloud in the 3D view can be set from 1 million up to 16 million.


Add a realistic color scheme to a LiDAR point cloud

  1. Download the attached Intensity.clr color scheme file.
  2. Open your LiDAR data as a Point Cloud map. 
  3. In the Contents window, select your Point Cloud map layer.
  4. In the Properties window, click the General tab.
  5. Expand the Appearance section, if necessary.
  6. Change the View by field to Intensity.
  7. In the Colormap field, click the ellipsis (...) button. 
  8. Click Load in the Colormap dialog.
  9. In the Open dialog, select the downloaded Intensity.clr file and click Open.
  10. Click OK or Apply and the colormap is applied.

Colormap editor displaying realistic LiDAR color scheme

Updated October 12, 2023
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