Display a subset of features in scene layers

When you draw a point, building, or 3D object scene layer, you often want to draw a subset of features. You can write a definition query or use Hide Selection to select a subset of features for the layer to display.

Point, building, and 3D object scene layers are automatically thinned to improve performance and visibility at greater distances. Automatic thinning means that not all features are displayed at greater distances. As you zoom in, additional features are displayed. This impacts the results given by the Hide Selection button when displaying a subset of features in a scene layer.

Definition query

When you draw point, building, or 3D object scene layers, you might only want to draw some of the features. In these situations, you can write a definition query expression to select a subset of features for the layer to display. Scene layers support standardized queries.

  • Capabilities of a definition query on a scene layer depend on the statistical information available for the scene layer. Statistical information is captured at the moment that a scene layer is generated as a scene layer package (.slpk) file. Changes to a definition query can only be calculated using this statistical information. For example, a new normalization field or histogram cannot be recalculated. Scene layers with associated feature layers, which are created when they are shared to ArcGIS Enterprise, have statistical information within them. Therefore, when applying definition queries, the statistical information can be recalculated. Use a scene layer with an associated feature layer when modifications to a definition query need dynamic statistical information.
  • Not more than 256 unique values can be added; add values above this limit manually.
  • With limited statistical information, only text values can be added automatically. All other value types must be added manually. Scene layers with an associated feature layer can use any field type to define a definition query.

Hide selected features

You can use Hide Selection to select a subset of features for point, building, and 3D object scene layers to display. For example, you can hide a building from a scene layer and add a new proposed building from another layer to visualize what the proposed site might look like.

Features that are selected using Hide Selection are based on the view. Scene layers thin data based on the visibility. If you are zoomed out and select features to hide, you might be looking at a subset of the features. When you zoom in again, additional features might appear. Click Hide Selection to hide small numbers of features from view at the zoom level you want to work with. Click the Clear button to clear any selected features or click the Show Hidden button to show the hidden features.

  1. Select a point or 3D object scene layer in the Contents pane.
  2. Click the Data tab.
  3. Use the Navigate tool to navigate to the desired location from which to select features.
  4. Use the Select drop-down menu to choose a selection method. To learn more about selection, see Select features interactively.
  5. Select the desired features to hide.
  6. From the Exclusion group, click the Hide Selection button to hide the selected features.

The selected features are hidden.

You can share the 3D scene with hidden features as a web scene. This allows you to remove features temporarily from the web scene without the need to edit data. If you need to unhide the original features, you can add the web scene to ArcGIS Pro and re-save the web scene.

Mask a scene layer

To prevent features from displaying based on one or many areas, you can mask point and 3D object scene layers.

A common workflow to mask out scene layers is to combine multiple 3D layers where features occupy the same space. When authoring a map or scene, you can drape 2D layers on top of each other and see them all at the same time. This is not possible with 3D features, since these features compete for the same space. Instead, you have to remove the 3D features that compete for the same 3D space with the features you want to display.

For example, you want to mask features in a scene layer to visualize a new residential area in a city, and you are combining your new layer with the Esri-provided OpenStreetMap 3D Buildings layer. In this case, you can mask the area of the new residential construction from the OpenStreetMap 3D buildings layer.

Follow these steps to mask a scene layer:

  1. Select a point or 3D object scene layer in the Contents pane.
  2. On the Data tab, in the Exclusion group, click Add Mask Add Modification.
  3. On the Add Mask dialog box, choose the type of mask to add.

    You can create an empty mask or import polygons from an existing feature layer to use as the mask. By default, the imported polygons are set to exclude features. If you are importing from a previous mask, Same as Import is selected. In this case, the mask mode that is set is honored.

Exclude and include features

  1. Select a point or 3D object scene layer in the Contents pane.
  2. Click the Data tab.
  3. In the Exclusion group, click Exclude or Include.

    The Create Features pane appears with the editing templates.

  4. Create a polygon for the area to exclude or include.
  5. Click Finish Finish on the editing toolbar.
  6. On the Edit tab, in the Manage Edits group, click Save Save Edits.

    Features that are completely within or outside the polygon are included or excluded.

Mask with include mode
Mask a 3D object scene layer with include mode.
Mask with exclude mode
Mask a 3D object scene layer with exclude mode.

Disable or remove masks

You can temporarily disable Disable Modification a mask or remove Remove Modification it in the Exclusion group of the Data tab for the scene layer. You can temporarily disable a mask to see all of your data together, which allows you to keep the mask that you created. You can remove a mask from the scene layer in the Contents pane, however, the underlying masking feature class remains in the default geodatabase.

Change the mask mode in the attribute table

You can change the mode of the mask that is applied to the scene layer. The modes are saved in the attribute table of the mask. To change the mode, you can change the field value in the attribute table.

  1. Right-click the mask in the Contents pane.
  2. Click Attributes Open Table.
  3. In the Mask field, change the value to the mask to apply to the polygon. For example, include or exclude.
  4. Press Enter to finish the change.
  5. On the Edit tab, click Save Save Edits.

The 3D object scene layer is updated with the mask mode.

Batch update a mask mode

You can batch update the mode for multiple polygons using the Calculate Field tool.

  1. Right-click the mask in the Contents pane.
  2. Click Attributes Open Table.
  3. In the attribute table, right-click the Mask field and click Calculate Field.
  4. On the Calculate Field dialog box, select the Mask field for Field Name.
  5. For the expression, use 0 for include or 1 for exclude.
  6. Click OK to run the tool.

The mask field is updated with the mode.

Share a mask in a web scene

You can share a scene layer with a scene layer package source or scene service source in a web scene. You can open the web scene in ArcGIS Pro or Scene Viewer. The mask type can be changed in Scene Viewer by configuring the spatial filter.


You cannot share a scene layer with a mask that contains both include and exclude modes.

On the Contents tab in ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise, you can see the new web scene and open it in Scene Viewer. With the mask shared with the 3D object or point scene layer, only the scene layer is listed with the web scene. The web scene can be opened in ArcGIS Pro from the Catalog pane.

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