Basemaps serve as a reference map on which you overlay data from layers and visualize geographic information. An individual basemap can be made of multiple feature, raster, or web layers. Basemaps are the foundation for your maps and provide context for your work.

A 3D view of the Streets basemap over Athens, Greece
A sample 3D basemap over Athens, Greece, is shown.

The ArcGIS Pro basemap gallery includes several premade basemap layers for you to use in your maps. After you add a map to your project, the basemap can be changed from the Map tab.

Add a basemap to a map

To add or change the basemap in the active map, follow these steps:

  1. On the Map tab, in the Layer group, click Basemap Basemap to open the basemap gallery.
  2. Click an icon in the gallery to choose a basemap.

The basemap is updated or added to the map. Only one basemap can be used at a time per map.


Basemaps are authoritative maps that are assembled and curated by Esri. Both vector and imagery-based basemap content are updated approximately every three weeks with any new data that is provided by authoritative sources or the greater community.

When a new basemap is added to a map, it includes an elevation surface. The elevation surface is included in case you want to use the basemap in a scene. When you add a custom basemap to a 2D map from the basemap gallery, the elevation surface is not included.

The other predefined basemaps included in the basemap gallery are designed to be used at multiple map scales so the basemap portrays appropriate content at each range of map scales. These basemaps are relatively static and are updated on an infrequent basis.

Some basemaps (such as the Terrain with Labels basemap) include an independent reference layer with labels, which allows you to turn on and off its labels. In other basemaps, the labels are included within the map layer.

Set the default basemap

Your ArcGIS Online organization account settings determine your default basemap. However, you can change the default basemap that is added to new maps in map and scene options. You can choose to add a different (custom) basemap by default from the gallery. Or, you can specify that maps and scenes are created without a basemap. Depending on your organization settings, some basemaps may not be available for use.

You can also choose to use vector-based or raster-based basemaps in your ArcGIS Online organization settings. For more information, see Configure map.

Author a custom basemap

Authoring a custom basemap allows you to define reference and background layers. Reference layers draw on top of operational layers, while background layers draw below operational layers.

For example, you may include roads as a reference layer, and base imagery as a background layer. Using this custom basemap, the roads layer would appear above any new layers added to the map, while the image layer would appear beneath.

Custom basemap layers include reference layers, background layers, or both.

After you create a custom basemap, it is automatically saved and added to the Basemap gallery. From there, it can be used in other maps in the project, but it is not available in other projects.


Basemaps that contain both reference and background layers appear in the Contents pane in two independent lists.

  1. On the Insert tab, in the Project group, click the New Map drop-down arrow and click New Basemap New Basemap.

    A new blank map view opens.

  2. Add the data that you want to comprise your basemap. On the Map tab, in the Layer group, click Add Data Add Data. Browse to your data, and add it to the basemap. You can also drag content into the map from the Catalog pane.
  3. With the basemap in view, in the Contents pane, click List By Drawing Order List By Drawing Order. Right-click a layer and click Set as Reference Layer to set all layers above the selected layer as reference layers, and all layers below it as background layers.

Convert a map to a basemap

In ArcGIS Pro, it is possible to use a map and its layers as a basemap in another map. You can convert the map into a basemap, which allows you to use it in any other map in the project. To convert a map to a basemap, follow these steps:

  1. Open the map to convert in the view.
  2. On the View tab, in the View group, click Convert Convert.
  3. In the drop-down menu, choose To Basemap Convert To Basemap.

The map is converted to a basemap of the same name, suffixed with the letters BM. The basemap icon Basemap appears on the basemap's view tab. You can choose to add this basemap to other maps in the project from the basemap gallery.

In the Contents pane, the map's layers have been copied to the basemap.

Related topics