Change the appearance of feature layers

You can adjust the display and appearance of feature layers, including visibility range limits, display effects, symbology, and visualization options for extrusion, face culling, and lighting on the Appearance tab. Select a feature layer in the Contents pane to access the Appearance contextual tab from the Feature Layer tab.

Visibility range

Use the In Beyond Maximum Scale and Out Beyond Minimum Scale settings to limit the visibility of a layer to be between specific scales. Choose one of the preset options in the drop-down menu or enter a scale in the text box. Use the Clear Limits button Clear Limits to remove the visibility settings.


The following Effects options allow you to compare two overlapping rasters.

  • Transparency slider Transparency—Reduce the opacity of the selected raster. Doing so will make the underlying raster visible. The selected raster must be the uppermost layer that is enabled in the Contents pane for you to visualize the transparency.
  • Layer Blend—Draws the entire layer and then blends it with the content below it in the drawing order. Each mode performs a type of mathematical calculation on the layer to accomplish various goals, such as drawing topography above background layers but keeping its labels visible.
  • Feature Blend—Visually blend the features in the feature layer with each other, for example, to change the properties of overlapping features.


The following Compare options allow you to compare two overlapping rasters.

  • Swipe tool Swipe— Peel back the raster on top, revealing the raster that's under it. To deactivate Swipe, on the Home tab, click the Explore button Explore.
  • Flicker button Flicker—Turn the selected layer's visibility off and on continuously. The number of milliseconds (thousands of a second) defines the flicker rate. Flicker can be used regardless of the active tool. It stays on until you turn it off, switch to another view, or pick a different layer. Flicker is useful for detecting change in imagery layers, data quality comparison, or other analysis in which you want to see the difference between layers.


The following Drawing options allow you to control the display of feature layers by adjusting the symbology, masking options, display filters, and import symbology from another layer:

  • Symbology Symbology—Choose how the layer is displayed.
  • Masking Masking—Mask the features of the selected layer with those of a different layer in the map.
  • Display Filters Display Filters—Construct and enable queries to specify which features of a layer are drawn at which scale ranges.

Symbolize feature layers

You can symbolize feature layers in different ways depending on the type of data you're showing, as follows:

  • Single symbol—Draw all features in a layer with a common symbol.
  • Unique values—Apply a different symbol to each category of features within the layer based on one or more fields.
  • Graduated colors—Show quantitative differences in feature values with a range of colors.
  • Graduated symbols—Show quantitative differences in feature values with varying symbol sizes.
  • Unclassed colors—Show quantitative differences in feature values with a range of colors not broken into discrete classes.
  • Proportional symbols—Represent quantitative values as a series of unclassed, proportionally sized symbols.
  • Heat Map—Draw the density of points as a continuous color gradient.
  • Dictionary—Apply symbols to data using multiple attributes.
  • Preset layers—Draw features using a small list of properties that guarantee optimized performance and display quality, but limit their configurability. Layers that are symbolized this way do not expose the full symbol formatting options listed below.

Once applied, these choices symbolize the features in the layer with default symbols. You can change symbols from the Format Symbol mode in the Symbology pane. This mode of the pane has the following two tabs:

  • Click the Gallery tab to browse or search for a symbol in styles.
  • Click the Properties tab to modify the properties of the current symbol.

When you work with one symbol at a time, you can change any of its properties and even restructure it by adding or removing components. When more than one symbol is selected, you can only change basic symbol properties, which vary based on symbol type, as shown in the following table:

Symbol typeBasic properties


  • Color
  • Outline color
  • Outline width


  • Color
  • Line width


  • Color
  • Size
  • Angle
  • Halo
  • Angle alignment, in the context of a 2D map only
  • Billboard, in a 3D context only
  • Rotation order, in a 3D context only
  • Display in real-world units, in a 3D context only


  • Color

Apply symbols to feature layers

To apply symbols to feature layers, complete the following steps:

  1. Highlight a feature layer by clicking its title in the Contents pane.

    The Feature layer contextual tab appears on the ribbon.

  2. Under Feature Layer on the Appearance tab in the Drawing group, click the arrow below Symbology to choose how to symbolize the layer:
    • Single symbol
    • Unique values
    • Graduated colors
    • Graduated symbols
    • Unclassed colors
    • Heat Map (point feature layers only)
    • Proportional symbology
    • Dot Density (polygon feature layers only)
    • Dictionary renderer

    The Symbology pane appears, allowing you to further customize the way the layer is classified and symbolized.

  3. Click a symbol in the Symbology pane to open the Format Symbol mode of the Symbology pane to make changes.

    To change the basic properties of more than one symbol at a time, Shift-click or Ctrl-click to select the symbols, and right-click and choose Format symbols. To change all symbols, click More > Symbols > Format all symbols.

  4. On the Format Symbol mode of the Symbology pane, choose a new symbol from a style to apply to all selected symbols, or modify aspects of the current symbol or symbols:
    • Click the Gallery tab to browse or search for a symbol in styles.
    • Click the Properties tab to modify the properties of the current symbol.

    Clicking a symbol in the Gallery immediately applies it to the selected class or classes in the layer.

  5. You can change the current symbol or symbols on the Symbol tab under Properties.
    1. You can preview the appearance of symbols in the selection in the preview window at the bottom of the Format Symbol mode of the Symbology pane. Click the arrows on the side of the preview to scroll through a series of symbols one at a time if you have more than one symbol selected.
    2. Click Apply to commit the symbol changes to the layer and redraw the map.
  6. Click the back button to return to the Symbology pane.

You can also open the Format Symbol mode of the Symbology pane directly by clicking a symbol in the Contents pane.

Apply a legend patch

You can apply an alternate legend patch to any line or polygon feature layer to further symbolize your data in the Symbology pane and in the Contents pane.

  1. In the Contents pane, click the symbol of a feature class or layer to open the Symbology pane.
  2. In the Symbology pane, on the Primary symbology tab, click the Update legend patch shape drop-down arrow next to the symbol.
  3. Select a legend patch shape from the menu.


Extrusion is the process of stretching a flat, 2D shape vertically to create a 3D object in a scene. For example, you can extrude building footprint polygons by a height value to create 3D building shapes. Only point, line, and polygon features support extrusion. Once the type of extrusion is selected, the field, or query expression, and unit of measure can be stated. The symbology for all features in the layer will be increased by the specified amount.


The Faces group is enabled only when you work with layers in a 3D map. It includes face culling and lighting properties.

Face Culling allows you to see through the front, back, or both faces of 3D objects, depending on which side of the objects you are viewing. Lighting alters shadows by defining how each face reflects light to help 3D objects appear more realistic. Lighting options are only available for layers whose data source is a multipatch feature class or point feature classes using 3D model marker symbol layers in their symbols.