2D and 3D features

The data source for the layer you are editing determines the geometry type a feature template creates and whether the features are two-dimensional (2D) or three-dimensional (3D). This capability is configured when the feature class is created in a geodatabase.

Clicking a feature template in the Create Features pane shows its construction tools and starts the default construction tool. The toolbar that appears at the bottom of the active map or scene contains companion methods and commands for creating and finishing a feature.

For a basic workflow to get started creating features, see Get started editing.

2D features

2D features store x and y coordinates with their geometry. Although 2D features do not inherently store z-values, you can display them in 3D space by deriving z-values from an elevation surface or extruding them to appear three-dimensional.

Features such as street vehicles and trees can naturally derive z-values from a ground surface without needing to convert them to 3D. To learn more, see Elevation surfaces.

2D points, lines, and polygons can be extruded vertically to create 3D lines, walls, and building footprints, respectively. To learn more, see Extrude features to 3D symbology.

3D features

3D point, line, and polygon features store x, y, and z coordinates with their geometry. They are defined as z-aware features when the feature class is initially created in a geodatabase. Point features store one z-value per feature. Line and polygon features store a z-value with each vertex.

For visualization purposes, creating 3D features is commonly performed in 3D scenes. Scenes allow you to tilt your 2D map and edit data in three dimensions using a vertical axis. You can convert a 2D map view containing 2D and 3D features to a 3D scene.

For a basic workflow to convert a map to a scene, see Configure a scene for 3D editing.

If 2D features contain dimensional attributes, for example height values, you can convert them to 3D features using the Feature to 3D By Attribute.

If you have a 3D elevation surface on which your 2D features are located, you can use the Interpolate Shape tool to interpolate z-values from the elevation surface and convert them to 3D features.

Feature types you can create

Choosing which feature type to create depends on the objects or data points you intend to represent, the information you need to capture, and the type of analysis for which they will be used. In some scenarios, you may need to create more than one feature type for the same data.

You might, for example, need to use polygons to show city parks at display scales less than 1:100,000 and use point features for greater scales. Another project might require rivers as polylines to model water flow and also as polygons to calculate area coverage.

Annotation features

  • Annotation features are textual elements placed on a map to name or describe geographic features. Generally, they are placed alongside labels in a planned visual hierarchy to communicate the importance of a particular feature. You can style them for a particular cartographic aesthetic. Examples include text that emphasizes the name of a country versus the name of a city or the name of a river.
  • You can link an annotation feature class to a geographic feature class and automate specific update behaviors. For example, text strings for feature-linked annotation are linked to the value of a field or fields from the geographic feature to which it is linked. You can also configure linked annotation to automatically add, delete, or move with the linked feature.

To learn more, see Create annotation features.

Multipatch features

Multipatch features are intrinsically 3D shells capable of levels of detail (LOD) ranging from a simple cube to complex 3D models. You can edit them with standard editing tools that modify vertices. You can create them from scratch with 3D polygon faces, or import existing 3D models from your file system.

  • Multipatch features are enclosed volumes defined with three-dimensional rings and triangular patches. They are used to model the outer surface or shell of natural and as-built 3D features. Examples include trees, buildings, bridges, and interior spaces. You can create multipatch features from scratch, or import 3D models to a multipatch feature class.
  • Feature templates that create multipatch features include several tools to create multipatch features in different ways. You can import 3D models directly into your map or scene, create multipatch features from scratch by creating and extruding polygons using an additive workflow, or start with a basic 3D shape and modify it until you create the feature you need.

To learn more, see Create multipatch features.

Point and multipoint features

  • Point features identify specific x,y,z coordinate locations on a map. You can create objects or data points that don't require lines or areas to store information or convey meaning. Examples include site addresses, water hydrants, and trees.
  • Multipoint features store collections of point features as a single point feature with one set of attributes. For example, lidar point clusters are often stored as multipoint features to simplify their manageability and improve read-write performance. Multipoint features can only be stored in a multipoint feature class.

To learn more, see Create point and multipoint features.

Polyline features

  • Polyline features consist of straight line segments, circular arcs, elliptical arcs, and Bézier curves created between vertices. You can create linear and curvilinear objects that have length but no area. Examples include water supply lines, roads, and streams.
  • Multipart polyline features are used to store noncontiguous polylines as a single polyline feature with one set of attributes. For example, you can create a series of separate polylines as road segments and store them as a single roadway feature. You can create single part and multipart polyline features on the same layer.

To learn more, see Create polyline features.

Polygon features

  • Polygon features are fully enclosed areas bound by straight line segments, circular arcs, elliptical arcs, and Bézier curves created between vertices. You can create objects that have closed planar regions. Examples include lakes, vegetation boundaries, and building footprints.
  • Multipart polygon features are used to store one or more polygons as a single polygon feature with one set of attributes. For example, you can create a series of noncontiguous island polygons and store them as one island feature. You can create single part and multipart features on the same layer.

To learn more, see Create polygon features.