Add a legend

Legends tell the map reader the meaning of the symbols used to represent features on the map. They can point to any map frame in the layout, but each legend can only reference a single map frame. Layers in the map are represented as legend items with a patch showing an example of the map symbols and explanatory text. Legends always display the legend patch set for each feature layer.

Legends can be static, displaying all the layers in a map, or dynamic, updating to only show layers visible in the current map frame extent. Legends can also be configured to update based on changes on the map, for example automatically adding new layers as legend items.

To add a legend, complete the following steps:

  1. Open a layout with at least one map frame.
  2. Optionally, if you don't want all the layers added to the legend, expand the map in the Contents pane and select the layers to add to the legend. If no layers are selected, a legend is added containing all applicable layers from the map contained in the default map frame.
  3. On the Insert tab, in the Map Surrounds group, click Legend Legend and on the layout view, click and drag to create the legend.
  4. On the layout, draw a rectangle to create the legend.
  5. Format your legend. See Work with a legend for information about formatting options.

Add or remove legend items

Once a legend has been created, you can add, remove, and reorder its legend items.

To add items, select a layer in the Contents pane and drag it to the legend group in the same pane.


A legend can only include items from a single map frame. Dragging layers from multiple map frames onto a legend will not work.

To remove legend items from the legend, expand the legend in the Contents pane to see the legend items. Right-click an item and choose Remove. Uncheck a legend item to turn off its visibility without removing it from the legend.

Reorder legend items by expanding the legend in the Contents pane to see the legend items. Drag items up or down in the list to reorder them.

If the Layer order option is checked for the legend, reordering is disabled. Instead, the legend items are kept in the same order as the layers on the map.

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