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Converting points to polygons in qgis

Transforming Points to Meaningful Polygons in QGIS: Exploring Convex Hulls, Concave Hulls, and Beyond

Geospatial data comes in various formats, and point data is among the most common types encountered in GIS applications. While point data is valuable in its own right, there are times when converting it to polygons can unlock deeper insights and enable a wide range of spatial analyses. In this blog post, we will delve into the world of QGIS, a powerful open-source GIS platform, to explore different methods for transforming points into meaningful polygons.

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Converting points to polygons in qgis

In QGIS, you can convert points to polygons using the “Points to Path” and “Lines to Polygons” tools. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do this:

  1. Open QGIS and load your point data: a. Go to “Layer” > “Add Layer” > “Add Vector Layer” (or press Ctrl+Shift+V). b. Browse to your point data file, select it, and click “Open.”
  2. Order your points: If your points are not already in the desired order, you can add an attribute field to your point layer that specifies the order in which they should be connected. To do this:
    • Right-click on the point layer in the “Layers” panel and select “Open Attribute Table.”
    • Click the “Toggle Editing” button (or press Ctrl+E). c. Click the “New Field” button to create a new attribute column.
    • Name the new column (e.g., “Order”), set the type to “Integer,” and click “OK.”
    • Enter the desired order for each point in the “Order” column. f. Save your changes by clicking the “Save Edits” button, and then click “Toggle Editing” again to stop editing the layer.
  3. Convert points to a line: a. Go to “Processing” > “Toolbox” to open the Processing Toolbox. b. In the search bar, type “Points to Path” and select the “Points to Path” tool from the list. c. In the “Points to Path” window, select the appropriate options:
    • Input layer: Your point layer.
    • Order field: The attribute field you created earlier to specify the order of points.
    • (Optional) Group field: If your points belong to different groups that should form separate polygons, specify a group field here. d. Choose an output file location and click “Run.”
  4. Convert the line to a polygon: a. In the Processing Toolbox, search for “Lines to Polygons” and select the “Lines to Polygons” tool from the list. b. In the “Lines to Polygons” window, select the appropriate options:
    • Input layer: The output from the previous step (the line layer). c. Choose an output file location and click “Run.”

Now, you should have a polygon layer created from your points. You can style, edit, or analyze the polygon layer as needed.

Creating a polygon from a set of points using a convex hull in QGIS

Creating a polygon from a set of points using the Convex Hull method in QGIS is a straightforward process. A convex hull is the smallest convex polygon that contains all the points of a given dataset. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create a convex hull polygon in QGIS:

  1. Open QGIS and load your point data: a. Go to “Layer” > “Add Layer” > “Add Vector Layer” (or press Ctrl+Shift+V). b. Browse to your point data file, select it, and click “Open.”
  2. Open the Processing Toolbox: a. Go to “Processing” > “Toolbox” to open the Processing Toolbox.
  3. Create the Convex Hull: a. In the Processing Toolbox, search for “Convex Hull” and select the “Convex hull” tool from the list. b. In the “Convex hull” window, select the appropriate options:
    • Input layer: Your point layer.
    • Field (optional): If your points belong to different groups that should form separate convex hulls, specify a group field here.
    • Create an output for each unique input value (optional): Check this box if you want to create separate convex hulls for each unique value in the chosen group field. c. Choose an output file location and click “Run.”

After the process is complete, you will see a new polygon layer in the Layers panel. This polygon represents the convex hull created from your input points. You can now style, edit, or analyze the polygon layer as needed.

Creating a polygon from a set of points using a concave hull in QGIS

A concave hull, also known as an alpha shape, is a polygon that encloses a set of points more tightly than a convex hull, allowing for concave boundaries. In QGIS, you can create a concave hull using the “Concave Hull (Alpha Shapes)” tool. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Open QGIS and load your point data: a. Go to “Layer” > “Add Layer” > “Add Vector Layer” (or press Ctrl+Shift+V). b. Browse to your point data file, select it, and click “Open.”
  2. Open the Processing Toolbox: a. Go to “Processing” > “Toolbox” to open the Processing Toolbox.
  3. Create the Concave Hull: a. In the Processing Toolbox, search for “Concave Hull” and select the “Concave hull (alpha shapes)” tool from the list. b. In the “Concave hull (alpha shapes)” window, select the appropriate options:
    • Input layer: Your point layer.
    • Alpha (optional): The alpha parameter determines the level of concavity. Smaller values create a more concave hull, while larger values approach a convex hull. You can experiment with this value to achieve the desired result.
    • Field (optional): If your points belong to different groups that should form separate concave hulls, specify a group field here.
    • Create an output for each unique input value (optional): Check this box if you want to create
    • separate concave hulls for each unique value in the chosen group field.
    • Choose an output file location and click “Run.”

After the process is complete, you will see a new polygon layer in the Layers panel. This polygon represents the concave hull created from your input points. You can now style, edit, or analyze the polygon layer as needed.

Remember that the choice of the alpha parameter plays a crucial role in determining the shape of the resulting concave hull. You may need to experiment with different alpha values to find the one that best suits your specific use case.

Other options for converting points to polygons in QGIS

In addition to convex and concave hulls, there are other methods to convert points to meaningful polygons in QGIS, depending on your data and analysis requirements. Some of these methods include:

  1. Voronoi polygons (Thiessen polygons): Voronoi polygons are created by partitioning the space around each point such that every location within a polygon is closer to the associated point than any other point. This method is useful for creating catchment areas, proximity analysis, or interpolating spatial data.
  2. Heatmap: While not a direct conversion of points to polygons, a heatmap can provide a visual representation of point density or intensity. You can then use contour lines or raster classification techniques to extract meaningful polygons from the heatmap.
  3. Buffering points: Creating buffers around each point can produce circular or elliptical polygons based on a fixed or variable distance. This method is useful when you want to represent areas of influence around points, such as service coverage areas, impact zones, or hazard areas.
  4. Interpolation: Various interpolation techniques like Inverse Distance Weighting (IDW), Kriging, or Spline can be used to generate a continuous raster surface from point data. You can then extract contours or classify the raster into different zones to create polygons.
  5. Cluster analysis: If your points can be grouped into clusters, you can use cluster analysis techniques like DBSCAN, Hierarchical Clustering, or K-means to group points based on their spatial proximity or attribute similarity. After clustering, you can create convex or concave hulls for each group.

To perform these operations in QGIS, open the Processing Toolbox and search for the respective tools (e.g., “Voronoi polygons,” “Heatmap,” “Buffer,” “IDW,” “Kriging,”

Things to consider when creating polygons from points

When creating polygons from points using convex hulls, concave hulls, Voronoi polygons, heatmaps, buffering points, interpolation, or cluster analysis in QGIS, there are several factors to consider:

  1. Data quality and distribution: The accuracy and appropriateness of the generated polygons depend on the quality and distribution of the input points. Outliers, missing data, or uneven point distribution can impact the shape and accuracy of the resulting polygons.
  2. Choice of method: Each method has its advantages and limitations, depending on the nature of the data and the desired outcome. Understanding when to use each approach is crucial for achieving accurate and meaningful results. For example, Voronoi polygons are useful for proximity analysis, while heatmaps are ideal for visualizing point density.
  3. Parameters and settings: Different methods require specific parameters or settings, such as the alpha value in concave hulls or the distance in buffering points. Choosing the right parameters is essential for achieving the desired results, and you may need to experiment with different settings to find the optimal values.
  4. Scale and resolution: The appropriateness of the generated polygons can depend on the scale and resolution of your analysis. Some methods might be more suitable for small-scale, high-resolution datasets, while others might be sufficient for large-scale, low-resolution datasets.
  5. Grouping: If you have points that belong to different groups and should form separate polygons, ensure that you have a suitable attribute field in your input data to define these groups. When running the respective tools, make sure to select the correct group field and enable the option to create an output for each unique input value if needed.
  6. Performance: The computational complexity of generating polygons from points can vary depending on the method used. Some techniques, like convex hulls, are generally faster to compute, while others, such as interpolation or cluster analysis, might take more time, especially for large datasets or complex parameters.
  7. Holes and nested polygons: Some methods might not accurately represent areas with holes or nested polygons. For example, convex hulls cannot create holes, while concave hulls or Voronoi polygons might not capture them correctly, depending on the chosen parameters and data distribution.
  8. Interpretation and visualization: The choice of method can significantly impact the interpretation and visualization of your data. Make sure the chosen method aligns with your analysis goals and effectively communicates the intended message.
  9. Validation and accuracy assessment: After creating polygons from points, it’s essential to validate the results and assess their accuracy. You can do this by comparing the generated polygons with known reference data, ground truth, or expert knowledge to ensure they accurately represent the underlying phenomena.

In summary, it’s crucial to understand the characteristics of your data and the requirements of your analysis to choose the most appropriate method for converting points to polygons. Carefully evaluate the quality and distribution of your input points and experiment with different parameters and techniques to achieve the best results.

About the Author
I'm Daniel O'Donohue, the voice and creator behind The MapScaping Podcast ( A podcast for the geospatial community ). With a professional background as a geospatial specialist, I've spent years harnessing the power of spatial to unravel the complexities of our world, one layer at a time.

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