Imagery layers, tile caches, and map image layers

There are many ways to make imagery and raster data available on the web. Choose a publishing method based on what capabilities you need.

Dynamic imagery layers

Dynamic imagery layers and dynamic image services are published in ArcGIS Enterprise, ArcGIS Image for ArcGIS Online, or published from ArcGIS Pro to an ArcGIS Image Server site. They are based on a single image or a collection of images that provide dynamic processing capabilities on the data for custom visualization in a map. When the publisher shares the dynamic imagery layer or dynamic image services with you, you can add it to Map Viewer or Map Viewer Classic, where you can query and analyze it.

Tiled imagery layers

Tiled imagery layers are published and hosted in ArcGIS Online. These layers are image services generated from one or more image files. If a tiled imagery layer is created using multiple images, the images are mosaicked together into a single image. Source image and raster files are converted to Cloud Raster Format (CRF) when uploaded to your ArcGIS Online organization. You can share, query, and analyze hosted tiled imagery layers in Map Viewer Classic, and access them as static image tiles with client-side processing and rendering.

An ArcGIS Image for ArcGIS Online license is required to publish hosted tiled imagery layers to ArcGIS Online.

Tile caches

Cached layers are organized collections of image tiles for specific geographic extents, projections, and levels of detail that are pregenerated on a server. Cached map layers include cached map services and cached image services and can be generated from a map, a raster or mosaic dataset, or an elevation dataset. Cached layers support fast visualization of prerendered maps, since the images are prerendered as many tiles and the server distributes the prerendered tiles whenever you open the layer. These map layers are created and stored on the server after you upload your data. They are appropriate for basemaps that give your maps geographic context.

Tile caches are sets of tiles (images) generated from a map, a raster or mosaic dataset, or an elevation dataset. These tiles can be displayed quickly in web maps at different scales, and they cannot be used as inputs to analysis tools. When elevation data is used to generate a tile cache, it is considered a web elevation layer.

Tile caches are not reprojected in web maps, so the projection and tiling schema must match that of the basemap, or the tile cache must be used as the basemap.

Map image layers

Map image layers are collections of map cartography organized by location and scale. These layers can include both features and imagery, and they can be displayed dynamically or as cached image tiles.

The source of a map image layer is a map service, so the feature layers contained in the service may be identifiable in a web map. However, if raster data is included in the map image layer, pixel value and band information is not available in the map image layer. You cannot perform raster analysis with a map image layer. Raster or imagery data in a map image layer operates much like a tile cache. As you browse the map, new map images are generated and displayed.

Map image layers can be dynamically displayed over basemaps that use a different coordinate system. For map image layers displayed as cached image tiles, the tiling schema must match that of the map's basemap or the map image layer must be used as the basemap.

Compare capabilities

There are various capabilities available for each option for sharing your imagery data on the web.

The following table shows capabilities available with each layer option.

CapabilityDynamic imagery layerTiled imagery layerTile cache layerMap image layer

Layer can be added to a web map or an ArcGIS Pro project


Layer can be added to ArcMap


Symbology can be modified in web map


Layer can be used as input to raster analysis tools


Layer can be used as input to deep learning inferencing tools


Can get pixel values using Identify or pop-ups


Supports multiband imagery, where band information and pixel values can be accessed


Supports multidimensional data