Up and Running with ArcGIS
Illustration by John Hersey

Editing layer properties and symbology


Up and Running with ArcGIS

with Adam Wilbert

Video: Editing layer properties and symbology

In Art Map, you have full control over how your map looks This'll load the Symbol Property Editor, where we I'm going to scroll up and find the Ezry Cartography font.

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Watch the Online Video Course Up and Running with ArcGIS
3h 13m Beginner Mar 11, 2014

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Get up and running with ArcGIS, a true geographic information system (GIS) that allows you to dig into highly accurate geospatial data in a way other mapping applications can't compete with. It's great creating maps, analyzing data for land use studies and other reports, and preparing data for use in an application or database. Let Adam Wilbert show you how to display, analyze, and illustrate geospatial data with ArcGIS. He explores how to import data from multiple sources, manage it with the ArcGIS catalog, and then start making maps. Learn how to lay out your data in the ArcMap component; add symbols, scale bars, and legends; and get your maps out of ArcGIS and into the real world, whether it's for printing or export to another application.

Topics include:
  • Understanding vector vs. raster data
  • Modifying metadata
  • Adding data to a map
  • Importing data from online providers
  • Labeling features
  • Joining data
  • Clipping data to a study area
  • Working with map layouts
  • Creating a legend
  • Printing and exporting the map to a file
Business Developer IT
Adam Wilbert

Editing layer properties and symbology

In Art Map, you have full control over how your map looks and how you choose to visualize various features that are on your map. Colors, line styles, and weights all fall under the cartographic term, Symbology. We're going to keep working on our Washington Dairy Farm map and start to change some of the random colors that ArcMap assigned to the features as we brought in each data set, to colors of mine styles, that is to say symbology, of our own choosing. In order to do that, we just click on the symbology patch that lies below each date of layer. I'll click on the dot that represents dairy farms, and that will bring up this Symbol Selector for those points.

Here we can choose for a variety of premade symbols, or we can style our own. Right now I'm going to choose the one that's called Circle 1. This just has a fill color with no outline. I'll go ahead and open up the Color panel and choose from the available color chips here. I'm going to choose Fire Red. I'll change the Size down to 18 down to 8. And we can see what that symbol will looks like. I'll go ahead and say Okay, and my map gets updated with the new style. Let's go ahead and go in there one more time. I'll once again click on the dot that represent dairy farms in the Layers panel, and I'll go ahead and click on, this time, Edit Symbol down below.

This'll load the Symbol Property Editor, where we can make some complex symbols of our own design. Over on the left we have a section called Layers, and right above we see a preview of the completed symbol. So, right now I have a single layer of this orange dot. I can go through the various fonts that are installed with ArcMap. In this case, the Esri Default Marker is the one loaded by default, and see all the different shapes and symbols within. I'm going to scroll down and choose this rounded rectangle here, and you'll see that it updates in my layer, and it also updates the preview, here. I'm going to change the size to something fairly large, just so we can see it.

I'll choose to change it to a 36 size. And so now I have a single square with rounded rectangles as my first layer. I can add a second layer to the stack by pressing this plus button here. And then I can go into the character marker change the font if I like and find a different symbol. When I open this up you can see all the different fonts that are installed on the computer. I'm going to scroll up and find the Ezry Cartography font. And inside of here are a whole bunch of other symbols that we can make use of. If I scroll down towards the bottom, you'll see we have an icon here for farm. I can click on that, and again change its size and color.

I'll change the size to 28 and make it a white color. And now you can see we can create a customized symbol that might represents our Dairy Farms. And you see there's lot of different variations that we can apply to this, this one might be good for restaurants, this one might be good for a bank and so on. So there's lots of functionality here in the Symbol Property Editor. I'm just going to be go ahead and press Cancel to back out of this, and just leave my symbol as the 8 point orange dot. We'll go ahead and say Okay to that. The next thing I want to symbolize are my County boundaries. I'll go over here to this patch here. In my case it's blue.

I'll click on that and that will load up the Symbol Selector for that. Here I can choose the Fill Color. I can either choose from the available color patches. I can choose more colors to load up the standard windows color selectors here. I'll close that out. You can go back to the colored patches. I can also use no color, to create what's called a hollow symbol. That will be no fill in the background, and just an outline color. Let's go ahead and set the outline color to a light gray, here maybe, that's 20% gray. And I'll change the line width up to 2 points, and we'll say Okay.

That will symbolize my county boundaries with this light grey boundary and it's a little bit wider. Now you can see the state outline below, whereas before it was masking the state. Let's go ahead and change the State color. I click on its patch here. And this time, I'll change its Fill Color from the screen color to apple dusk, here. We'll say Okay. And that'll update my map. Now that I see it, though, I can see that my County boundaries aren't displaying very well. So I'm going to go back and revisit that one more time. I'll click on my County boundaries here. I'll change its color again. And maybe this time I'll choose white. We'll say Okay to see how that looks.

And now they stand out much clearer. Now there's one more thing I want to change. Right now, it looks like my roads look like rivers. Because they're symbolized with a blue color. Let's go ahead and change that by clicking on the Road symbol here. And you can see from the line style, I have a whole different bunch of options that apply to lines. I can choose Expressway and so on. If I choose Okay with that, you'll see that, that's highly complex. So probably not the style I'm looking for. We'll go back in here one more time. And I'll just choose a really simple style, this Arterial Street, and maybe I can change its color to, maybe, a darker grey.

And we'll make it a little bit thinner so maybe a 0.4 width. Go ahead and say Okay and see how that looks. And that symbolized pretty well. So dialing in the most appropriate way to symbolize the features in your composition is one of the biggest challenges of creating a great map. The key is to find appropriate color schemes that are easily distinguishable, but not distracting to the main message your map is trying to convey. It's not uncommon to spend a lot of time fine tuning the look of your map by revisiting the symbology over and over again, until you get things just right.

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