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Symbolize map layers

Tutorial summary

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  • Video length: 1:42
  • This video was created with ArcGIS Pro 2.0.

Symbology is the use of symbols to represent the features and attributes of a map layer. For example, in a layer of cities, black circles might symbolize the cities. The size of the circles might be varied to symbolize each city's population. Symbols are defined by visual properties such as shape, size, color, spacing, and (in 3D) perspective height.

  • Estimated time: 40 minutes
  • Software requirements: ArcGIS Pro
Note:

The tutorial steps in the online help reflect the look and capabilities of the current software release. If you have an earlier software version, use the offline help system to open the tutorial. To switch from the online to the offline help system, see About ArcGIS Pro Help. If you don't have ArcGIS Pro or ArcGIS Online, you can sign up for an ArcGIS free trial.

Open the project

In this project, you'll make a map of bus stops, bus routes, and population density in Christchurch, New Zealand.

  1. Start ArcGIS Pro and sign in if necessary.
  2. On the start page, under your recent projects, click Open another project.
    Note:

    If you already have a project open, click the Project tab on the ribbon. In the list of tabs on the left, click Open.

  3. On the Open project page, click Portal and click Browse.

    The Open project page

  4. On the Open Project dialog box, under Portal Portal, click All Portal All Portal.
  5. At the top of the dialog box, in the Search box, type Symbolize map layers tutorial and press Enter.
  6. In the list of search results, click Symbolize map layers to select the project package.
    Note:

    If there is more than one project package with this name, look at the Owner column. Select the item with the owner name ArcGISProTutorials.

    If you don't get any search results, see Access the quick-start tutorials for help.

  7. Click OK.

    The project opens with a map view of New Zealand. You'll zoom in to the study area of Christchurch. With a population of 381,800, Christchurch is the third-largest city in New Zealand.

    Map of New Zealand

    The project is stored in your <user documents>\ArcGIS\Packages folder.

  8. On the ribbon, click the Map tab if necessary. In the Navigate group, click Bookmarks Bookmarks and click Christchurch Urban Area.

    The map zooms in to the urban area. The Urban Area layer is symbolized with a light-green fill color and a black outline.

Symbolize the urban area

The purpose of the Urban Area layer is to define the study area boundary. The solid fill, however, obscures the basemap. You'll change the symbol to make the interior area hollow. You'll also give the boundary a softer, shaded appearance.

  1. In the Contents pane, click the Urban Area layer to select it.

    The layer is highlighted in the Contents pane. On the ribbon, the Feature Layer contextual tab appears.

  2. On the ribbon, under Feature Layer, click the Appearance tab. In the Drawing group, click Symbology Symbology.
    Note:

    The Symbology button is a split button. Click the top half of the button (the icon) unless you're instructed to click the bottom half (the drop-down menu).

    The Symbology - Urban Area pane appears. At the top of the pane, the Primary symbology tab is selected Primary symbology. The primary symbology method is Single Symbol, which means that all features in the layer are drawn with the same symbol. (In this case, the layer only has one feature.)

  3. In the Symbology - Urban Area pane, next to Symbol, click the symbol patch.

    The pane changes to show symbol formatting options.

  4. At the top of the pane, click the Gallery tab if necessary.
  5. In the search box, type extent transparent and press Enter.

    In the ArcGIS 2D style, several symbols are available with different colors and outlines. You can hover over the symbols to get more information.

  6. Click the Extent Transparent Gray symbol to select it.

    Extent Transparent Gray symbol

    The symbology for the Urban Area layer updates on the map and in the Contents pane. You can see through the symbol to the basemap underneath. This is a good start, but your goal is to create the effect of a shaded boundary with a transparent interior.

    Side-by-side examples of symbology for the Urban Area layer
    Left: The urban area is symbolized with a partly transparent gray fill. Right: The desired effect is a shaded boundary with a fully transparent interior.

  7. At the top of the pane, click the Properties tab.

    The Properties tab has three graphical tabs under it. On the Symbol tab Symbol, you can change properties of the symbol. For example, you can change the fill color, outline color, and outline width of a polygon symbol.

  8. Click the Layers tab Layers.

    On this tab, you can change properties of the graphical elements, or symbol layers, that comprise the symbol. This gives you more control over the symbol's appearance. This symbol is composed of two symbol layers: a stroke and a fill.

  9. Click the Structure tab Structure.

    On this tab, you can change the symbol's structure by adding and removing symbol layers. You can also apply effects. In this case, you'll add a donut effect to the fill layer. The donut effect restricts the gray fill to a ring at the edge of the polygon. The interior is transparent, like a donut hole.

  10. On the Structure tab, under Layers, under the fill symbol layer, click Add effect. On the drop-down menu, click Donut.

    The Structure tab of the Symbology - Format Symbol pane

    Now that you have applied the donut effect, you'll specify its width on the Layers tab.

  11. Click the Layers tab Layers.
  12. Click the Solid fill symbol layer to work with its properties. Expand the Donut effect heading and change the Width to 6 pt.

    The Layers tab of the Symbology - Format symbol pane

    The symbol is previewed at the bottom of the pane.

  13. Click Apply.

    The symbology is updated on the map.

  14. In the Contents pane, turn on the Bus Stops and Bus Routes layers.

    You'll change the symbology for both layers in the next sections. First, you'll choose a more neutral basemap.

  15. On the ribbon, click the Map tab. In the Layer group, click Basemap Basemap and click Light Gray Canvas.

    The light gray canvas basemap includes two layers: the World Light Gray Canvas Base layer at the bottom of the Contents pane and the World Light Gray Reference layer at the top. For this map, you don't need the reference layer.

  16. In the Contents pane, right-click the World Light Gray Reference layer and click Remove Remove.

    Map with light gray canvas basemap

    Before continuing, you'll save your changes.

  17. On the Quick Access Toolbar, click the Save button Save to save the project.

Symbolize the bus stops

The current symbol for the Bus Stops layer is a small dark circle. You'll replace it with a symbol that represents bus stops more specifically.

  1. In the Contents pane, click the Bus Stops layer to select it.
  2. In the Symbology - Bus Stops pane, click the symbol patch.

    The pane changes to present formatting options for point symbols.

    Tip:

    If you previously closed the Symbology pane, you can open the pane directly to its symbol formatting options by clicking the symbol patch for the Bus Stops layer in the Contents pane.

  3. At the top of the pane, click the Gallery tab.
  4. In the search box, type bus and press Enter.
    Bus station symbols

    In the ArcGIS 2D style, symbols for bus stations are found. These symbols are suitable for bus stops too.

  5. Click the smallest bus station symbol to select it.

    The map and Contents pane update with the new symbol. You'll change the symbol properties.

  6. In the Symbology - Bus Stops pane, click the Properties tab and click the Symbol tab Symbol.
  7. Under Appearance, click the Color drop-down arrow. On the color palette, choose Cabernet (last row, last column).
    Tip:

    When you hover over a color square, its name appears.

  8. Change the size to 8 pt and press Enter. Click Apply.
    Bus stop appearance settings in Symbology pane
  9. At the bottom of the Symbology pane, under the symbol preview, change the magnification setting to 400%.

    The symbol preview shows that the Cabernet color is applied to the bus icon but not to the outline.

  10. Click the Layers tab Layers.

    The Bus Station symbol is composed of two marker symbol layers: the bus icon and a white circle with a gray outline.

  11. Click the white circle symbol layer to select it.
    Bus stop symbol layers
  12. Under Appearance, click the Outline color drop-down arrow and choose Cabernet.

    In the preview window, the icon and the outline are now the same color.

  13. Click Apply.

    The bus stop symbol is updated on the map and in the Contents pane. At the current map scale, the symbols clutter the map. You'll set a visibility range for the layer so the symbols display only when the map zooms in.

  14. In the Contents pane, select the Bus Stops layer if necessary.
  15. On the ribbon, under Feature Layer, click the Appearance tab. In the Visibility Range group, click the drop-down menu next to Out Beyond Minimum Scale and click 1:24,000. (If this value doesn't appear in the list, you can type it in the box.)

    The symbols disappear from the map. In the Contents pane, the layer's check mark is gray. This means that the layer is turned on but not visible at the current map scale.

  16. In the lower left corner of the map view, click in the map scale box. Replace the current value with 1:23,999 (or simply 23999). Press Enter.
    Map with bus stops symbolized

    The map zooms in and the bus stops display.

  17. On the ribbon, click the Map tab. In the Navigate group, click the Previous Extent button Previous Extent to return to the full urban area.
  18. On the Quick Access Toolbar, click the Save button Save to save the project.

Symbolize the bus routes

The bus routes are currently drawn with a single symbol. The attribute table for the layer contains attributes such as route names, route directions, and route types that can be used to symbolize the features in more meaningful ways.

  1. In the Contents pane, click the Bus Routes layer to select it.
  2. Right-click the selected layer and click Attribute Table Open Table.

    The attribute table opens. You'll symbolize the routes according to their values in the Type field.

  3. Scroll down through the table and look at the values in the Type field.

    There are four route types:

    • City connectors connect suburbs to the city.
    • Suburban links connect suburbs to each other.
    • Metro lines follow major roads.
    • Ferries connect the suburb of Lyttelton to Diamond Harbour.

    You'll represent each route type with a different color.

  4. Close the Bus Routes attribute table.
  5. In the Symbology - Bus Routes pane, click the Primary symbology drop-down menu and click Unique Values.
  6. Click the Field 1 drop-down menu and click Type.

    In the lower half of the pane, on the Classes tab, symbols are assigned to the unique values in the Type field. The map and the Contents pane are updated.

    Unique value symbols for bus routes

    There is also a gray symbol representing all other values. You don't need this symbol for this layer.

  7. Above the list of values, click More and uncheck Show all other values.

    The <all other values> symbol is removed.

    Tip:

    The <all other values> symbol is used for features that you want to display but don't need to differentiate. For example, suppose that Metro Line routes are the focus of your map and the other routes are background information. You can remove the other route types from the list of values by right-clicking them and clicking Remove Remove. The features for the removed routes still draw on the map but are symbolized with the <all other values> symbol. See Unique values for more information.

  8. Click More again and click Format all symbols.
  9. At the top of the pane, click the Gallery tab. In the search box, type minor road and press Enter.
  10. In the ArcGIS 2D style, click the Minor Road symbol with the black outline.

    Minor road symbols in the symbol gallery

    Now you'll apply a color scheme to the symbol.

  11. At the top of the pane, click the Back button Back.
  12. On the Primary Symbology tab Primary symbology, click the Color scheme drop-down arrow. At the bottom of the list of color schemes, check the Show names box.
    Tip:

    You can also hover over a color scheme to see its name.

  13. Click the Dark 2 (4 classes) scheme.

    You'll change the Ferry symbol because ferry routes are conventionally symbolized with dashed lines.

  14. In the lower half of the pane, click the line symbol for Ferry to show the symbol gallery.
  15. In the search box, type ferry and press Enter. In the ArcGIS 2D style, click the Ferry symbol.

    Ferry symbol

    Tip:

    You can browse to symbols in the gallery as well as search for them.

    On this map, the ferry symbol would look better if it were darker.

  16. At the top of the pane, click the Properties tab. On the Symbol tab Symbol, under Appearance, click the Color drop-down arrow and click Dark Navy. Click Apply.

    Color palette with Dark Navy color square circled

    The symbol updates in the Contents pane and on the map.

    Map with updated ferry symbol

    The bus route symbology looks good but can still be improved. You'll use symbol layer drawing for more control over the symbology at road crossings and overlaps.

    Examples of road intersections and overlaps
    Left: Suburban Link routes cross each other. You'll remove the road casings (the black outlines) at the intersections. Right: A blue Metro Line and a red Suburban Link share the same route, and a Suburban Link crosses a City Connector. You'll specify which features in the layer draw on top of which others.

  17. At the top of the Symbology - Bus Routes pane, click the Back button Back.
  18. At the top of the pane, click the Symbol layer drawing tab Symbol layer drawing.
  19. Click Enable symbol layer drawing.

    Enable symbol layer drawing setting

  20. On the Basic tab, drag Metro Line to the top of the Drawing Order list.
  21. Drag Ferry to the bottom of the list.

    Bus route symbols in assigned drawing order

    The map updates as you change the drawing order. Metro Line features now draw on top of other bus routes: a metro line is never visually interrupted by another route. Likewise, City Connector features draw on top of Suburban Link features.

    Note:

    Symbol drawing order is independent of the order of symbol classes in the Contents pane. In the Contents pane, the symbol classes, representing the four unique route types, are still in their default alphabetical order. You can change this order by dragging symbol classes up and down on the Primary symbology tab Primary symbology.

    In the Symbology - Bus Routes pane, notice that three of the routes are set to Join. This setting removes road casings where features of the same route type intersect. You'll change the setting to Join and Merge to remove road casings at intersections between different route types.

    Examples of the Join setting and the Join and Merge setting
    Left: The Join setting removes road casings where features of the same route type intersect. Right: The Join and Merge setting also removes road casings where features of different route types intersect. (The casings are not actually removed—they are drawn over.)

  22. Click the drop-down arrow next to City Connector and click Join and Merge. Click the drop-down arrow next to Suburban Link and click Join and Merge.

    The map updates to reflect the settings.

    Note:

    The Join and Merge setting affects the drawing behavior of a symbol in relation to the symbol above it. There is no Join and Merge setting for the Metro Line symbol because it is at the top of the drawing order. Both the Join and Join and Merge settings affect the drawing relationship of a symbol's component symbol layers (in this case, the two stroke layers, representing roads and casings, that comprise the bus route symbols). The only available setting for the Ferry symbol is No Join because this symbol is composed of a single stroke layer. For more information, see Symbol layer drawing.

  23. Zoom the map to a larger scale, such as 1:50,000, to see the effect better. Pan to different parts of the urban area.
  24. When you're finished, on the ribbon, click the Map tab. In the Navigate group, click Bookmarks and click Christchurch Urban Area.
  25. On the Quick Access Toolbar, click the Save button Save.

Symbolize population

Finally, you'll symbolize the population in the Christchurch urban area to visualize the relationship between bus routes and population.

  1. In the Contents pane, turn on the Population layer.

    A dense layer of points covers the urban area. Each point is the center of a meshblock. A meshblock, like a United States census block, is a small area for which census data is collected. In this layer, each point stores the population of its meshblock.

  2. On the map, click a population point.
    Pop-up window for Population feature

    A pop-up shows the 2013 population for the meshblock associated with the point. By drawing the layer as a heat map, you can see where population is concentrated.

  3. Close the pop-up.
  4. In the Contents pane, click the Population layer to select it if necessary.
  5. In the Symbology - Population pane, click the Primary symbology tab Primary symbology. Click the Primary symbology drop-down menu and click Heat Map.

    The heat map displays. At the moment, it represents the density of the points, not their population values.

  6. In the heat map settings, click the Weight field drop-down menu and click Pop 2013.

    Now the heat map represents the population density. Yellow areas are high density, red and purple are in the middle, and blue areas are low density.

  7. Change the Radius setting to 15.

    The pattern shows more local variation. The larger the radius value, the more generalized the pattern. You can experiment with different settings—no value is right or wrong.

    The heat map covers the bus routes, so you'll change the order of layers in the Contents pane.

  8. In the Contents pane, drag the Population layer under the Bus Routes layer. Make sure that the Population layer is still selected in the Contents pane.
  9. On the ribbon, under Feature Layer, click the Appearance tab. In the Effects group, move the Layer Transparency Transparency slider to 65%.
  10. In the Visibility Range group, click the drop-down arrow next to In Beyond Maximum Scale and click 1:50,000 to set the maximum display scale for the heat map.

    At larger scales, the pattern is too local and the heat map looks bubbly.

  11. Zoom and pan to explore the map.

    A map of population density and bus routes

    The bus routes correspond well to the populated parts of the urban area.

  12. On the Quick Access Toolbar, click the Save button Save.
  13. Close any open panes other than the Contents and Catalog panes.

In this tutorial, you used different primary symbology methods—Single Symbol, Unique Values, and Heat Map—to draw the layers in your map. You also worked with symbol layers and structure to enhance the primary symbology in many ways. There are more primary symbology methods to explore and many more ways to customize symbols for your maps. To be inspired by examples of maps designed with ArcGIS Pro and other ArcGIS applications, visit the Maps We Love site.

Next, try the Label your map or Make a layout tutorials.

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