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Change a layer's style

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Maps are powerful because they help us gain a deeper understanding of our data by allowing us to visualize it in many different ways. For example, population data for countries can be visualized as a sequence of colors, such as from light to dark, or as graduated circles, such as from small to large.

This flexibility allows us to tell different stories and discover hidden patterns depending on how the data is presented. But because map making is flexible, it requires making decisions when there isn't always a single best answer.

Fortunately, for any given data or layer, ArcGIS Maps for Office allows you to explore different styling options using smart mapping defaults. When you use the Layer Style feature, the nature of your data determines the automatically suggested styling options. Once you've decided how you'd like to present your layer—for example, using circles or colors to show population—you can make changes to its appearance that are immediately reflected in the map. ArcGIS Maps for Office gives you control over the graphic elements such as the color ramps, line weights, transparency, and symbols

Layer Style workflow

The styling choices you see when you click Layer Style are determined by the nature of the data you're mapping. For example, you'll see different styling choices if your layer is composed of point, line, or polygon features. For example, you'll see heat map styling options for a layer composed of points but not for a line or polygon layer. The styling options are also influenced by the kind of data associated with features in the layer. For example, a point feature may only have location information such as geographic coordinates but could also have categorical information such as retail location type, or numerical information such as sales details. Not every styling type can be used for every kind of data. By analyzing these facts and other characteristics of your layer, ArcGIS Maps for Office presents the best styling choices.

Layer style workflow

When you add a new layer to your map, ArcGIS Maps for Office opens the Layer Style pane with suggested styling defaults for the layer based on its content. Click OK to accept the suggested style.

You can change the style of a layer at any time using the Layer Style pane. To change the style of a layer, do the following:

  1. Sign in to ArcGIS if you're not already signed in.
    Tip:

    If you're not signed in to ArcGIS, the ArcGIS Maps ribbon doesn't appear on the map.

  2. Click the map that you want to work with, and display the Map Contents pane.
  3. In the Map Contents pane, click the layer that you want to style and click Layer Style on the ArcGIS Maps ribbon.

    The Layer style options pane opens, showing the current style settings for that layer. Use this pane to customize the look of your layer.

    Layer style pane

  4. To use a different style for the layer, click More Styles and choose a style from the available options.

    Only the options that apply to the specified attribute appear. For example, if you choose the location only attribute, available drawing styles include Location (single symbol) and, for point layers, Heat map. If you specify an attribute that contains numeric data, you can choose from several different mapping styles.

  5. Change the layer style options as desired. Different options are available for each drawing style; refer to the sections below for detailed information about each style.
  6. Click OK when you're finished customizing your style, or click Cancel to return to the Layer style pane without saving any of your changes.
  7. Save your worksheet to save the styling changes to the map.

Style by location (using a single symbol)

Drawing your data using a single symbol gives you a sense of how features are distributed—whether they're clustered or dispersed—and may reveal hidden patterns. For example, mapping a list of restaurant locations, you would likely see that the restaurants are clustered together in a business district.

Style a layer using a single symbol

To style location data using a single symbol, do the following:

  1. Follow the first four steps in the layer style workflow.
  2. Choose the Location (Single symbol) style and click Options to display the Layer style options pane.
  3. Do any of the following:
    • To change the layer that you want to style, choose another layer from the drop-down menu. The style options reflect the current styling of the selected layer.
  4. Click OK to apply the styling changes.

Style by type (using unique symbols)

Use unique symbols to show different kinds of things (categorical data), not counts of numerical measurements. For example, you can use different colors to represent the type of products in which stores specialize. Ideally, your layer would show fewer than 10 categories; more categories than that become hard to distinguish by color alone. As a default, if your data has more than 10 categories, the 10 most common will be shown, and the remaining will be grouped together into a single others category. If the counts of your features cannot be determined, ArcGIS Maps for Office shows the first nine alphabetical categories individually and groups the remainder into the others category.

Style a layer by type using unique symbols

Note:

There is an absolute limit of 200 unique values, though only 10 colors are used, so the same color may represent multiple categories. This means that unique symbols works best with 2–10 categories of things—for example, store types, tree species, or political parties.

To style your data by type using unique symbols, do the following:

  1. Follow the first four steps in the layer style workflow.
  2. Choose an attribute from the Choose an attribute to show drop-down list.
  3. Choose the Types (Unique symbols) style and click Options.

    The style options pane opens, showing available options for the selected attribute.

  4. Do any of the following:
    • To change the layer that you want to style, choose another layer from the drop-down menu. The style options reflect the current styling of the selected layer.
    • To customize any of the categories individually, click the colored symbol next to each category in the list. Depending on whether your data is points, lines, or polygons, you'll see appropriate styling options for each kind of symbol. For example, if your data is points, you can change the shape, fill color, outline, and size of the point symbol. For more information, see Change the symbol.
    • To modify all the symbols at once, click the Change all symbols button Change all symbols and change the parameters.
    • To reorder the categories, click the left side of a category and move it up or down in the list.
    • If you have more than 10 categories in your data, some of the categories may be grouped automatically into an others category. To ungroup these observations one at a time, click the Move value out button Move value out next to the category name. To ungroup all others category values into the main list, click the Move all values out button Move all values out.

      You can choose to show or hide the features categorized as others. Check the box to show them; uncheck it to hide them.

    • If you're mapping point symbols that have numeric information attached to the points—for example, the direction in which the wind is blowing—you can set a rotation angle based on that numeric attribute. For more information, see Rotate symbols.
  5. Click OK to apply the styling changes.

Style by counts and amounts (using colors)

If you have numeric data, you may want to distinguish features based on a color gradient. There are different kinds of color gradients that you can use; for example, a simple light-to-dark color scheme is good for showing low-to-high data values such as profit or revenue. Color gradients such as this can be applied to points, lines, or polygons.

Style a layer by counts and amounts using colors

To style counts and amounts using colors, do the following:

  1. Follow the first four steps in the layer style workflow.
  2. Choose an attribute from the Choose an attribute to show drop-down list. For this mapping style, choose an attribute that contains numeric values.
  3. Choose the Counts and Amounts (Color) style and click Options.
  4. Do any of the following:
    • To change the layer that you want to style, choose another layer from the drop-down menu. The style options reflect the current styling of the selected layer.
    • If your data isn't already normalized, or standardized, use Divided by to turn your raw data into rates or percentages. Examples of normalized data include X per capita, Y per sq. kilometer, or a ratio of x to y. Raw counts, by comparison, are better visualized as a color sequence map after they are standardized.
    • To further generalize your map, choose a Classification method from the drop-down menu. Set the number of class breaks and options for rounding out the classes. For more information, see Classification methods. If you're using standard deviation, choose the standard deviation interval you want to use. For all classification methods other than Continuous, you can click Legend to manually edit the symbols and labels for the classes in the map legend.
    • When you're using the Continuous classification, you can choose a theme for the gradient. A number of different color themes are available: High to low, Above and below, Centered on, and Extremes. Each tells a different story by matching colors to data in different ways.
    • To change how the data is applied to the color sequence, adjust the bounding handles along the color ramp. You can either drag the handle or click the number next to the handle and type a precise value. Experiment with the position of the handles, and use the histogram and calculated average to understand the distribution of the data to fine-tune the message of the map.
    • To choose a different color sequence, or to change other graphic parameters such as stroke weights and colors, click Symbols and change the parameters.
    • To see details in the histogram more closely, click Zoom in.

      Note:

      The histogram zoom tool magnifies the area between the two sliders. If the sliders are close together, clicking Zoom in displays the histogram in greater detail. If the sliders are at the top and bottom of the histogram, zooming in will have no effect.

    • To draw locations that are missing data or that are out of range on the map, check Draw features with no values. Uncheck to hide the features. To change the symbol used to identify these features, click Edit beside the symbol.
    • If you're mapping point symbols that have numeric information attached to the points—for example, the direction in which the wind is blowing—you can set a rotation angle based on that numeric attribute. For more information, see Rotate symbols.
  5. Click OK to apply the styling changes.

Style by counts and amounts (using sizes)

This map style uses graduated symbol sizes to represent your numerical data or ranked categories, allowing you to visually compare quantities and identify trends. Points, lines, and polygons can all be drawn using this approach. In these proportional symbol maps, larger symbols represent larger numbers. Adjust the size of the symbols to clarify the story you're telling. For example, you could use graduated symbols to show store revenue. Polygon features are displayed as graduated points over polygons.

Style a layer by counts and amounts using sizes

To style counts and amounts by size, do the following:

  1. Follow the first four steps in the layer style workflow.
  2. Choose an attribute from the Choose an attribute to show drop-down list. For this mapping style, choose an attribute that contains numeric values.
  3. Choose the Counts and Amounts (Size) style and click Options.
  4. Do any of the following:
    • To change the layer that you want to style, choose another layer from the drop-down menu. The style options reflect the current styling of the selected layer.
    • If your data isn't already normalized, or standardized, use Divided by to turn your raw data into rates or percentages. Examples of normalized data include X per capita, Y per sq. kilometer, or a ratio of x to y. Raw counts, by comparison, are better visualized as a color sequence map after they are standardized.
    • To further generalize your map, choose a Classification method from the drop-down menu. Set the number of class breaks and options for rounding out the classes. For more information, see Classification methods. If you're using standard deviation, choose the standard deviation interval you want to use. For all classification methods other than Continuous, you can click Legend to manually edit the symbols and labels for the classes in the map legend.
    • To change the styling of your proportional symbols, click Change symbol style and change the parameters.
    • To change how the graduated symbols are applied to the data, adjust the bounding handles along the histogram. You can either drag the handle or click the number next to the handle and type a precise value. All values above the upper handle are drawn with the same largest symbol. Values below the lower handle are displayed with the same smallest symbol. The remaining values in between are drawn with a graduated sequence of sizes between the two bounds. Experiment with the position of the handles, and use the histogram to see the distribution of the data to fine-tune the message of the map.
    • To see details in the histogram more closely, click Zoom in.

      Note:

      The histogram zoom tool magnifies the area between the two sliders. If the sliders are close together, clicking Zoom in displays the histogram in greater detail. If the sliders are at the top and bottom of the histogram, zooming in will have no effect.

    • If you're mapping data associated with polygons, choose to adjust size range automaticallyor specify the size range. When you choose the automatic option, symbols are optimized for the initial map zoom level and automatically adjust so they look better across zoom levels.
    • If you're mapping data associated with polygons, check Polygons to adjust the fill and stroke properties of the polygons.
    • To draw locations that are missing data or that are out of range on the map, check Draw features with no values. Uncheck to hide the features. To change the symbol used to identify these features, click Edit beside the symbol.
    • If you're mapping point symbols that have numeric information attached to the points—for example, the direction in which the wind is blowing—you can set a rotation angle based on that numeric attribute. For more information, see Rotate symbols.
  5. Click OK to apply the styling changes.

Style by heat map

You can use heat maps when mapping the location of point features. Heat maps are useful when many of the points on the map are close together or overlapping, making it difficult to distinguish between features. They are also effective for displaying layers that contain a large number of points.

Heat maps use the points in the layer to calculate and display the relative density of points on the map as smoothly varying sets of colors ranging from cool (low density of points) to hot (many points). It's best to avoid heat maps if you have only a few point features; instead, map the actual points.

Style a layer using a heat map

Note:

If your data contains numeric attribute data, the heat map can weight this data to calculate the optimal display. Choose an attribute field with numeric data if you want to take advantage of weighted features. Strings and other nonnumeric data are not weighted. The attribute field name appears in the heat map options pane when it's being used for weighting.

To style your location data using a heat map, do the following:

  1. Follow the first four steps in the layer style workflow.
  2. Choose an attribute from the Choose an attribute to show drop-down list.

    You can only generate a heat map from a points layer.

  3. Choose the Heat Map style and click Options.
  4. Do any of the following:
    • To change the layer that you want to style, choose another layer from the drop-down menu. The style options reflect the current styling of the selected layer.
    • To choose a different color ramp, click Change Symbol Style and choose from the available color ramps. Click the Invert color ramp button Invert Color Ramp button to change the direction of the color values.
    • To change how the colors are applied based on density, adjust the position of the High and Low handles on the color ramp slider.
    • To make the clusters larger and smoother, or smaller and more distinct, adjust the Area of Influence slider.
    • To change the transparency for the overall layer, move the Transparency slider to the left (less transparent) or the right (more transparent), or type a percentage value in the field. To adjust the transparency of locations per feature, click Attribute Values and select an attribute field. You can also select an attribute to divide by (for normalizing the data) and set precise transparency values. You can only adjust per feature if you have numeric data associated with your locations. For example, if your layer contains income data, you could adjust the transparency of each location proportional to its income.
  5. Click OK to apply the styling changes.

General styling options

After you've chosen the type of styling to use for your layer, you can change or rotate the symbols.

Change the symbol style

To use different symbols in a layer, you can change all the symbols at once. The choices you see depend on the type of symbols you're using.

To change symbols, click Change Symbol Style and make any of the following changes:

  • For Shape, choose a symbol set from the drop-down menu and click the symbol you want to use. For Location (Single symbol), adjust the size of the shape.
  • To use your own custom symbol, click Use an image, provide the URL of the image file, and click the Add (+) button. For best results, use a square image (PNG, GIF, or JPG) no greater than 120 pixels wide by 120 pixels high; other sizes will be adjusted to fit.
  • For Fill, choose a color and adjust the transparency. For Counts and Amounts (Color) or Heat Map, choose a color ramp. Click the Invert color ramp button Invert Color Ramp button to change the direction of the color values.
  • For Outline, choose a color, change the transparency, and specify a line width and pattern. When working with polygons, check Adjust outline automatically so that outlines will automatically change as you zoom in and out on the map.

Note:

The Fill and Outline options are available only for some basic shapes.

Rotate symbols

You can rotate individual symbols on a layer by a number of degrees, based on the values of a specified attribute. For example, you can rotate symbols to show the direction the wind is blowing or a vehicle is traveling.

  1. To rotate symbols, check the Rotate symbols (degrees) box.
  2. From the Rotation field drop-down list, choose an attribute to use to set the rotation angle, and choose to have the angles measured clockwise (geographic) or counter clockwise (arithmetic).