Add custom reference layers to ArcGIS

If your organization has a file that defines custom boundaries (water districts, sales districts, or zoning boundaries, for example), you can publish it as a hosted feature layer in ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise and add it as a reference layer to the ArcGIS for Power BI visualization. To use custom reference layers, they must be publicly shared, hosted polygon feature layers in ArcGIS.


You must have the following to publish hosted layers in ArcGIS:

  • An account that is part of an ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise organization
  • Privileges to create content and publish hosted web layers
  • An ArcGIS client if you want to publish hosted feature layers from ArcGIS Desktop or ArcGIS Pro

Publish a hosted feature layer

To make your custom boundaries available as reference layers in ArcGIS for Power BI, upload your shapefiles (packaged in a .zip file) or GeoJSON files (.geojson or .json) to ArcGIS and publish them as hosted feature layers. Then share the layers.

To learn how to publish hosted feature layers in ArcGIS, see Publish a shapefile and Publish a GeoJSON file.

Share the hosted feature layer

By default, the new hosted feature layer can only be accessed by the publisher or an administrator. To make the layer available to ArcGIS for Power BI users, you must share the file with the public. To learn how to share items with the public, see Share items.