Introduction to 2D and 3D features

When you author a map, you can mix two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) feature layers in the same map. The construction tools appearing on feature template tool palettes are determined by the 2D or 3D data source and how a template is configured.

When you create a feature class, choose a feature type that best fulfills the cartographic requirements for the objects or data points you are compiling, the information you need to capture, and the type of analysis for which your data will be used.

The following sections describe the feature types you might encounter while compiling and editing feature data.

Point, line, and polygon features

When you create a point, line, or polygon geodatabase feature class, you can configure it to store ordered pairs of x- and y-coordinates with its geometry, or as 3D z-aware geometry with x-, y-, and z-coordinates.

  • Point features store one set of coordinates per feature.
  • Polyline and polygon features store one set of coordinates for each vertex.

Further, you can use existing 2D features in scenes or add z-values to 2D features using geoprocessing tools. A few of the available methods are described in the following table:

Use 2D features in 3D scenesAdd z-values

Point features

A point feature has neither length nor area at a given scale at x, y, and z locations.

  • Point features are used to model features that don’t require lines or area to store information or convey meaning. Examples include site addresses, water hydrants, and trees.
  • Multipoint features store collections of point features as a single feature with one set of attributes. They are commonly used to simplify large datasets and improve performance, for example, with lidar feature data. Multipoint features require a multipoint feature class.

Polyline features

A polyline feature comprises straight and curved line segments that have length but not area at a given scale. The segments are constructed between vertices.

  • Polyline features are used primarily to model linear and curvilinear features that require length but not area, for example, roads or streams.
  • Multipart polyline features store collections of discontinuous linear parts with one set of attributes, for example, a road segment terminating at an earthen tunnel and reappearing on the other side.

Polygon features

A polygon feature is a fully enclosed planar region comprising straight and curved line segments. The segments are constructed between vertices.

  • Polygon features are used to model planar regions that require area, for example, lakes or building footprints.
  • Multipart polygon features store collections of noncontiguous polygon features with one set of attributes, for example, a chain of islands such as Hawaii.

Multipatch and 3D object features

Multipatch and 3D object features store x-, y-, and z-coordinates with their geometry, for example, a 3D building or a 3D tree. You can create them using feature construction tools or add 3D models to a feature template gallery and insert them into a scene.

  • A multipatch feature comprises regions (or patches) defining the boundary of a 3D object in a single row in a geodatabase. Patches store texture, color, transparency, and geometric information representing parts of a feature.
  • A 3D object feature comprises a defined geographic location with a referenced 3D geometry mesh that can be stored in one or more formats. High-level materials known as physically based rendering (PBR) materials are stored in associated tables.

Annotation features

An annotation feature is a textual element comprising a geographic location, feature attributes, and symbology that includes font, size, color, and other editable properties.

  • Annotation features are used to communication the importance of a feature, for example, the name of a river when labels are used to display other information such as the name of a country or a city.
  • Feature-linked annotation is linked to the value of a field or fields contained with the geographic feature to which it is linked. Linked annotation can automatically appear with new features and update or delete when the linked feature is modified.

Dimension features

A dimension feature is an annotation feature comprising a geographical start point and endpoint and textual elements denoting the measured distance.

  • Aligned dimensions measure the true distance parallel to a constructed baseline.
  • Linear dimensions measure the distance along a dimension line that is drawn perpendicular to the extension lines created by a constructed baseline.