Isolines have proved to be a highly effective way of conveying the shape of a surface (most commonly in the form of height contours to convey geographical landscape). Selecting the right contour interval is a compromise between showing sufficient detail in flat regions, whilst avoiding excessive crowding of lines in steep and morphologically complex areas. The traditional way of avoiding coalescence and confusion across steep regions has been to manually remove short sections of intermediate contours, while retaining index contours. Incorporating humans in automated environments is not viable. This research reports on the design, implementation and evaluation of an automated solution to this problem involving the automatic identification of coalescing lines, and removal of line segments to ensure clarity in the interpretation of contour information. Evaluation was made by subjective comparison with Ordnance Survey products. The results were found to be very close to the quality associated with manual techniques. © The British Cartographic Society 2006.