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Modify symbols

Symbols graphically describe, categorize, or rank geographic features and labels to locate and show qualitative and quantitative relationships. You typically choose symbols from a gallery. Galleries show symbols that are stored in the project styles. Symbols can be optionally stored, managed, and shared in collections called styles.

When you choose a symbol, you can apply it as is, or you can make changes to it first. No connection is maintained back to the style when applying a symbol. Changes you make to a symbol before you apply it do not update the originating symbol in the style. Conversely, changes you make to a symbol in a style are not transferred to an instance of that symbol that had been previously applied to a layer or other element.

The properties of symbols come mainly from the properties of the symbol layers within them, but there are also some global properties you can adjust for the symbol as a whole. Access these from the three tabs on the Properties tab in Format Symbol mode of the Symbology pane:

Symbol tab Symbol

Access all the basic properties that apply globally to the point symbol. These are the only properties available when you have more than one point symbol selected.

Layers tab Layers

Access all of the properties of each symbol layer that makes up the point symbol. This is where you control the most detailed properties of the symbol's appearance and behavior.

Structure tab Structure

Access the way the point symbol is structured. On this tab you can add, duplicate, delete, and reorder symbol layers and symbol effects.

Modify basic symbol properties

Changing the basic properties of a symbol is a quick way to make common changes without having to navigate within the entire symbol structure. The basic properties differ depending on symbol type. To make complex edits, like those impacting individual layers of a symbol, you must work with only one symbol at a time. You access the basic symbol properties from the Properties tab in the Format Symbol mode of the Symbology pane, on the Symbol tab Symbol.

The basic properties of a symbol are also important because they are the properties that get modified when you vary the symbology by attribute. There are a few ways to do this, depending on how a layer's symbology is defined. You can vary the transparency, rotation, size, or color.

The following table outlines the basic properties for each symbol type:

Symbol typeBasic properties

Polygon

Color: The color of all color-unlocked fill symbol layers in the polygon symbol. If more than one color is referenced, an indeterminate color is shown.

Outline color: The color of all color-unlocked stroke symbol layers in the polygon symbol. If more than one color is referenced, an indeterminate color is shown.

Outline width: The width property of the widest stroke symbol layer or the height of markers placed along the outline in the polygon symbol, whichever is larger. Changes are applied proportionally to all stroke symbol layers, symbol effects, and marker placements. Outline width can be sized dynamically by scale.

Line

Color: The color of all color-unlocked stroke symbol layers in the line symbol. If more than one color is referenced, an indeterminate color is shown.

Line width: The width property of the widest stroke symbol layer or the height of markers placed along the outline in the polygon symbol, whichever is larger. Changes are applied proportionally to all stroke symbol layers, symbol effects, and marker placements. Line width can be sized dynamically by scale.

Point

Color: The color of all color-unlocked symbol layers in the point symbol. If more than one color is referenced, an indeterminate color is shown.

Size: The size property of the largest marker symbol layer in the point symbol. Changes are applied proportionally to all marker layers (and to the width of stroke layers, if they are present in the point symbol). Point symbol size can be sized dynamically by scale.

Angle: The collective rotation of all marker symbol layers in the point symbol, measured in degrees and applied counterclockwise. When there is more than one marker symbol layer in the point symbol, changing the Angle basic property updates the angles of each marker symbol layer.

Angle alignment: Point symbols are either oriented up relative to the monitor and page, or they are oriented up relative to the coordinate system of the map. This property is ignored in a 3D context.

Halo: A shape drawn with a polygon symbol, radiating outward from the symbol a set distance.

Billboard (when in a 3D context): A billboarded point symbol is one that faces the camera, regardless of where you navigate in the scene. With full rotation means the symbol always faces the camera. With signpost rotation means the symbol always faces toward the camera as though spinning on a vertical post.

Rotation order (when in a 3D context): Defines the order in which rotation operations are applied to point symbols in 3D.

Mesh

Color: The color of the fill symbol layer, provided it is color unlocked.

Text

All text properties available.

Color locking

The basic properties include color for all symbol types. When you change the color of a symbol here, it propagates down into all the layers of the symbol, changing the color there, unless the symbol layer is color locked. You control color locking of symbol layers from the Properties tab in the Format Symbol mode of the Symbology pane, on the Layers tab Layers.

OptionDescription
Symbol Color Locked

The color of this layer is protected from global color changes made at the basic property layer on the Symbol tab Symbol.

Symbol Color Unlocked

The color of this layer changes if global color changes are made to the symbol on the Symbol tab Symbol.

Symbol Color Locked Disabled

The symbol contains complex symbol layers such that the color cannot be updated globally. An example is a polygon symbol with a gradient fill layer; the gradient symbol layer is more than one color. Modify the color of symbol layers independently on the Layers tab Layers.

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