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ArcGIS: An Introduction: Map Design

Tutorials on ArcGIS

What You'll Need

Further Reading

Example Map

From PaSDC.


1.      Download and unzip onto your desktop. Open the unzipped folder and double-click on DesignTutorial.mxd. This should open the map of Pennsylvania counties by urban population.

2.      Drawing order. Look in the Table of Contents at the left. You should see two layers, Counties and Major Cities. The Major Cities layer, however, does not display because it is underneath the Counties layer. To change this, make sure the TOC is in “List by Drawing Order” mode (see circled area below), then drag and drop the Major Cities layer above the Counties layer.

3.      Data frame projection. Compare Pennsylvania in this map to our example map from PASDA. You’ll notice that the state has a different shape, determined by our map’s coordinate system. To check the coordinate system, go to View > Data Frame Properties > Coordinate System.  You’ll find that it is in the NAD 1983 coordinate system and is not projected, giving it the elongated appearance.

We can change the projection of the data frame from the Data Frame Properties menu. In the search box, type in “North America Lambert Conformal Conic” and hit enter. Expand the folders until you see that projection, click on it, and then hit OK.

North America in North America Lambert Conformal Conic projection.

North America in unprojected NAD 1983 coordinate system.

4.      Orientation. You’ll notice that the shape of Pennsylvania looks better, but the orientation is unfamiliar. To adjust the orientation, go to Customize > Toolbars > Data Frame Tools. Click on the leftmost button, and you can adjust the orientation of the map manually.

5.      Normalization. Right-click on the Counties layer and go to Properties > Symbology. The colors on the map are based on the total urban population in each county. To give percentages instead, next to Normalization, select TotalPop from the drop-down menu. The will give the ratio of urban residents to total residents per county.

6.      Symbology. Select a new color ramp using the same menu. You can also change the county boundaries; click on Symbol above the color patches, select Properties for all Symbols, and change the Outline Color.

7.      You can do the same with the Major Cities layer. Go to Properties > Symbology, and under Quantities, select Graduated Symbols. Next to Value, select the population variable, and adjust the symbol sizes. Click on Apply to see how the changes affect the size of the city symbols.

8.      Picture Marker Symbol. Any kind of image can be substituted for the point symbols. Still in the Symbology tab, click on the button under Template, then Edit Symbol. From the drop-down menu next to Type, select Picture Marker Symbol, which will bring up a file selection menu. Navigate to the unzipped folder and select p_Sphere_WarmGray.png.

9.      Make the picture markers transparent by the selecting the Display tab in Layer Properties and changing the percentage next to Transparent.

10.  Labels. Still in the Layer Properties menu, go the Labels tab and click the checkbox next to Label features in this layer. To make the city labels stand out more, click on Symbol, then Edit Symbol, then Mask, and click on Halo.

11.  Layout. Go to View > Layout View. This shows you what the map will look like when printed. Go to File > Page and Print Setup and change the orientation to Landscape.

12.  Adjust the size of the data frame so that all of the state is visible. Then, right-click in the middle of the map, and go to Properties > Frame. Change the color of the border to No Color.

13.  Map elements. From the Insert menu, add all the necessary map elements: a legend, north arrow, scale bar, and title. Each can be edited by double-clicking once added.

14.  Exporting the map. When the map looks the way you want it to, go to File > Export Map. It can be exported as a PDF.

Revised Map

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