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Create Buffers

Create Buffers The Create Buffers tool creates areas around input point, line, or area features to a specified distance.

Workflow diagram

Create Buffers workflow diagram

Terminology

TermDescription

Geodesic

Refers to a line drawn on a sphere. A geodesic line drawn on the globe represents the curvature of the earth's geoid.

Euclidean distance

A straight-line distance as measured on a flat surface (that is, a Cartesian plane).

Map projection

Uses mathematical formulas to relate spherical coordinates on the globe to flat, planar coordinates.

See About map projections for more details.

Examples

  • City council has noticed a high number of liquor stores per capita in the city. In an effort to keep liquor out of the hands of children, the council decides to place regulations on advertising in liquor stores within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, and libraries. The council also wants to restrict new liquor licenses to buildings that are more than 1,000 feet from schools, parks, and libraries.

    See the Proximity to schools case study for the complete workflow.

  • A development company is looking to make some money by creating a new mixed-use development in an urban center. The development will have to be conveniently located within a quarter mile of shops, restaurants, or a light rail stop.

    See the Mixed-use development case study for the complete workflow.

Usage notes

The size of the buffer can be entered as a constant using the Distance option (all buffers will be the same size) or using values from a field (different features can have different-sized buffers). You can create a multiple-ring buffer using the Distance option by entering multiple constants separated by a space.

By default, the Create Buffers tool will create overlapping buffers when the buffer areas meet. When the input features are lines, the default is a rounded buffer on all sides of the lines. When the input features are areas, the default is to include the input area in the buffer. When there are multiple input distances, the default is to create rings. These defaults can be changed using the Options drop-down menu.

OptionsFeaturesDescription

Overlap Overlap

Points, Lines, Areas

For any buffer that is on top of another buffer, the areas in common are kept.

Dissolve Dissolve

Points, Lines, Areas

For any buffer that is on top of another buffer, the areas in common are combined. When using Dissolve, all buffers are dissolved together into a single multipart feature, removing any overlap.

Around Around

Lines

A buffer is created along all sides of a line feature.

Left Left

Lines

A buffer is created only on the left side of the line feature. The left side of the line is determined based on the direction of the line from its start coordinate to its end coordinate and may not represent the left side of the line as seen in Map Viewer.

Right Right

Lines

A buffer is created only on the right side of the line feature. The right side of the line is determined based on the direction of the line from its start coordinate to its end coordinate and may not represent the right side of the line as seen in Map Viewer.

Round Round

Lines

At the end of the line, the buffer is rounded.

Flat Flat

Lines

At the end of the line, the buffer is straight across.

Include Include

Areas

Single-distance buffers around area features include the buffered features in the result buffers.

Exclude Exclude

Areas

Single-distance buffers around area features exclude the buffered features in the result buffers.

Rings Rings

Points, Lines, Areas

Larger buffers in multiple-distance buffers do not include areas within one or more smaller buffers.

Disks Disks

Points, Lines, Areas

Larger buffers in multiple-distance buffers include areas within one or more smaller buffers.

If Use current map extent is checked, only the features that are visible within the current map extent will be buffered. If unchecked, all features in the input layer will be buffered, even if they are outside the current map extent.

Click Show Credits before you run your analysis to check how many credits will be consumed.

Limitations

Buffers cannot be created using a Euclidean distance.

How Create Buffers works

The Create Buffers tool uses a geodesic method for constructing buffers. Geodesic buffers account for the actual shape of the earth (an ellipsoid, or more properly, a geoid). Distances are calculated between two points on a curved surface (the geoid) as opposed to two points on a flat surface (the Cartesian plane). Geodesic buffers may appear unusual on a flat map, but when displayed on a globe, these buffers will look correct.

The example below uses a 300-mile buffer around cities with populations above 10 million. The buffers closer to the equator appear smaller than the buffers further north because the Web Mercator projection used to display web maps distorts the size of objects relative to the object's distance from the equator.

300-mile buffers displayed in different parts of the world
The 300-mile geodesic buffers appear as different sizes depending on the latitude of the buffered feature.

Similar tools

Use Create Buffers to create line distance areas around input features. Other tools may be useful in solving similar but slightly different problems.

Map Viewer analysis tools

If you are using travel modes to measure time or distance around points, use the Create Drive-Time Areas tool.

If you are calculating statistics for a layer within a buffered distance of an input, use the Summarize Nearby tool.

ArcGIS Desktop analysis tools

Create Buffers performs the functions of the Buffer and Multiple Ring Buffer tools.