Polygon symbols

Polygon symbols are used to draw area features and graphics in maps, scenes, and layouts.

Polygon symbols, like all symbol types, are composed of symbol layers. Polygon symbols typically contain one fill symbol layer and one stroke symbol layer but can contain more. Polygon symbols can also include marker symbol layers, to draw markers within them or along their outlines. Marker placement properties are included with marker symbol layers that are in polygon symbols.

Polygon symbols properties

The properties of polygon symbols come mainly from the properties of the symbol layers within them, but there are also some global properties you can adjust for the polygon symbol as a whole. These are called the basic properties of the symbol. You use the Properties tab in Format Symbol mode in the Symbology pane to access all of the properties of a polygon symbol. The symbol properties are contained across three tabs, as outlined in the following table:


Symbol tab Symbol

Access all the basic properties that apply globally to the polygon symbol. These are the only properties available when you have more than one polygon symbol selected.

Layers tab Layers

Access all of the properties of each symbol layer that comprise the polygon symbol. This is where you control the most detailed properties of the symbol's appearance and behavior.

Structure tab Structure

Access the way the polygon symbol is structured. On this tab, you can add, duplicate, delete, and reorder symbol layers and symbol effects.

Polygon symbol basic properties

Polygon symbols have four basic properties: Color, Outline color, Outine width, and Angle alignment. They apply globally to the whole polygon symbol. You'll find these on the Symbol tab Symbol. Basic properties allow you to make simple changes to a symbol. To make detailed changes to the symbol, you must access the properties of the individual symbol layers that comprise the symbol on the Layers tab Layers.

When you vary symbology—the transparency, color, or outline width—of a feature layer by an attribute in the source data, it is the basic properties of each polygon symbol that are dynamically modified.

When you have more than one symbol selected, for example, when you are formatting all of the symbols in a layer symbolized by unique values, you can access only the basic properties of the symbols. You cannot see or change the properties of the individual symbol layers that comprise all the selected symbols.

Color basic property

The Color basic property applies to all color-unlocked symbol layers within the polygon symbol.

When you vary the color of all symbols in a feature layer by varying the color by attribute or by connecting symbol properties, only the color-unlocked symbol layers are affected. When you vary the transparency of all symbols in a feature layer by an attribute, the entire symbol is affected, regardless of how color-locking is established within the symbol.

Outline width basic property

The Outline width basic property shows the width of the largest stroke symbol layer or the Size of the largest marker symbol layer that is placed along the polygon outline in the symbol. (Marker symbol layers placed within the interior of the polygon are not affected by this property.) If you change the Outline width basic property, the widths all of the stroke symbol layers and sizes of all the outline marker symbol layers are resized proportionally. Values in effects and marker placements are also scaled proportionally. For example, if you double the outline width of a dashed outline (a polygon symbol that includes a stroke symbol layer with a Dash symbol effect applied), the Dash template values are doubled as well.


In 3D, polygon outlines draw as 1-pixel lines, regardless of their Outline width value if the Profile is set to Strip and there are no symbol effects present.

Scale-based sizing

When a polygon symbol symbolizes a feature layer in a multiscale map (as opposed to being a stand-alone symbol in a style, or a symbol applied to a graphic in a layout), you can check Enable scale-based sizing to adjust the outline width of the symbol at different scales. Making polygon outlines narrower at smaller scales is an effective way to reduce visual clutter and interference in a map. You cannot vary the size of polygon outlines by scale in a scene.

When enabled, a slider appears below the Outline width property, with stops derived from the map scales. The slider itself extends across the complete scale range of the map, from an infinitely small scale (zoomed far out) on the left extreme of the slider to a large scale of zero (zoomed far in) at the right extreme of the slider. The dark part of the slider shows the visible scale range of the symbol class. If this visible scale range has not been specifically set, the dark portion of the slider corresponds to the scale range of the feature layer. Click a scale stop and define the outline width at that scale in the Outline width property. You can click and drag stops to define the width at a different scale. You can click along the slider to add new stops based on the defined map scales. The polygon outline width varies linearly between widths set at each scale. Use scale-based sizing without a reference scale set.

Angle alignment basic property

By default, the patterns and markers in polygon symbols are aligned to the display, meaning that they point up relative to your monitor or the page. If your map is transformed or otherwise rotated, you can choose to align the patterns or markers to the map instead. In this case, they point up relative to the coordinate system of the map. This setting is ignored when the symbol is drawn in a 3D context in a scene.

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