Basic Map Layout in ArcGIS Pro

While web and mobile maps have become a dominant medium for communicating geospatial information, there are still situations you may encounter where printed or print-like maps are needed:

There are a number of common conventions that cartographers have developed over the centuries for the layout of maps on the printed page that enhance communication and aesthetics.

This tutorial covers some basics of printable map layout in ArcGIS Pro that is useful in a variety of situations, and can also serve as a starting point for developing more complex graphic designs.

Example Data: World Bank Health Indicators

The examples in this tutorial use data from the World Bank, which is a group of international agencies that provide funding and knowledge to promote economic development in developing countries. It was one of the institutions founded as part of an international agreement made during a 1944 conference in Bretton Woods, NH that was convened to plan for reconstruction after World War II and promote international cooperation that would help avoid World War III.

The World Bank collects a vast array of country-level data, and makes it available to the general public on their data.worldbank.org data portal as part of their mission to be a source of knowledge that promotes economic development. Many of these variables are associated with public health, which is firmly intertwined with economic development.

This data is available as the Minn 2019 World Bank Health Indicators feature service in ArcGIS Online. The metadata describing the variables in that layer is available here.

The World Bank

Starting ArcGIS Pro

ArcGIS Pro is the industry standard desktop software for enterprise GIS (GIS done in businesses and government organizations).

ArcGIS Pro only runs on Windows machines. Installation and licensing of that software is complex and usually handled by an organization's information technology (IT) department.

The following video demonstrates how to start and log in to ArcGIS Pro with an enterprise login - in this example the univofillinois organization at U of I.

Starting ArcGIS Pro With an Enterprise Login

Create the Map

This example will be based around a simple choropleth map. A choropleth is a thematic map where areas are colored according to some characteristic of those areas.

  1. After you start and log in to ArcGIS Pro, you will be asked to start a project. A project is a workspace keeps related groups of maps and analysis together in one package. Like a spreadsheet or word processing document, you can save a project and return to it later to continue adding material or to revise previous work.
  2. You should give your project a meaningful name so you can keep track of what is in your different projects.
  3. Give the map a meaningful name by right-clicking on the map in the Contents pane, Properties, General, Name. This will make it easier for you to keep your maps organized if you have multiple maps in a project.
  4. Add Data to the map. For this example Minn 2019 World Bank Health Indicators feature service from ArcGIS Online.
  5. Right click on the new layer and select Symbology to select the variable to be displayed. In this case we use Mortality Traffic per 100K, which is a rate of the number of people in a country that die in traffic accidents per 100,000 population.
  6. For a variable like this, keep the Graduated Colors and change the color scheme, if desired.
  7. In ArcGIS Pro the default classification Method is Natural Breaks (Jenks), which assigns groupings of values based on clumps of values that appear together in the data.
  8. By default, ArcGIS Pro (annoyingly) shows six decimal places for numeric values, which implies a level of accuracy that is rarely present. Change the Symbology, Advanced symbology options, Rounding to remove the unnecessary decimal places.
  9. Depending on what colors you choose, you might also consider changing the Base Map, although in this case, the default terrain map looks OK. You may want to avoid the dark gray canvas if you will actually be printing on paper.
Example Map

Figure Layout

Once we have gotten the map content the way we want it, we create a new Layout that will allow us to design how the map will look when inserted into a document as a figure.

  1. On the Insert tab, insert a new Layout.
    • For this example we create a Custom page size of 6" x 4" (width x height) for a figure that usually fits nicely in a report.
    • Give the layout a meaningful name by right-clicking on the layout in the Contents pane, Properties, General, Name. This will make it easier for you to keep your maps organized if you have multiple layouts in a project.
  2. Add a Map Frame for the map you created.
    • Right click on the frame, select Properties, Size the frame to fill the entire figure and Position the frame at the edge.
    • Remove the black frame around the map frame since it might not come in cleanly when the map is inserted in the document.
    • If you need to move the map inside the map frame, right click on the map and Activate the map so that dragging and zooming affect the map in the frame rather than the map layout.
    • When you are done adjusting the map, click the arrow at the top of the window to deactivate the map.
  3. Inserting a latitude / longitude Graticule (grid) can make the map look a bit more professional, although it can also be distracting. In this case, it seems distracting. You can remove a grid in the Contents pane.
  4. Insert a Dynamic text box for the Service layer credits and draw a small box outside of the figure to hide the base map source information.
  5. With a thematic map like a choropleth, you need to indicate what the symbols mean by inserting a legend.
    • If nothing appears, expand the box size to be large enough for the text. You can then drag the sides to reduce the side if needed.
    • Right click on the legend and select Properties the Display (paint brush) icon, and changing the colors and gap to add a border and background.
    • The legend gets its titles from the layer and variable names, so you may need to change those if they are not particularly meaningful. You can change them by right-clicking on the layer and selecting Properties -> General.
    • Since this displays one variable, remove the the layer name by right clicking on the legend, selecting Properties -> Legend Items -> Show Properties and turning off the Layer Name.
  6. Share and Export the layout to a PNG file. Portable Network Graphics (PNG) is a type of file that, unlike JPEG files, does not degrade the quality of the image to reduce file size. For small figure images, file size is not usually a major issue.
  7. You can then Insert the PNG file as a Picture in a Word or Word 365 document.
Map Figure Layout

Standalone Layout

You can also create print layouts that are ready to print directly. Cartographic convention dictates adding some additional marginalia information to the margins of printable maps.

This layout places neat lines (borders) around elements to create a layout similar to a layout commonly used for engineering diagrams.

  1. Insert a new Layout.
    • For this example we choose a standard US 8.5" x 11" paper size.
    • If your map is wider than it is tall, choose Landscape orientation. Otherwise, choose Portrait.
    • Give the layout a meaningful name by right-clicking on the layout in the Contents pane, Properties, General, Name. This will make it easier for you to keep your maps organized if you have multiple layouts in a project.
  2. Insert a Map Frame. Leave some space around the edges for a margin, and center the map on the page.
    • Insert a Dynamic text box for the Service layer credits and draw a small box outside of the figure to hide the base map source information.
    • If you need to move the map inside the map frame, right click on the map and Activate the map so that dragging and zooming affect the map in the frame rather than the map layout.
    • When you are done adjusting the map, click the arrow at the top of the window to deactivate the map.
  3. Insert Rectangles to add the bordered areas below the map frame.
  4. Insert a title.
    • Insert a Straight Text box.
    • Drag the box where you want the title, and type the title into the text box.
    • The box will expand to fit the text, and you can drag the edges in to resize the text.
    • If desired, you may want to change the font, make it bold, and center the text.
  5. Insert a Rectangle text box for the standard marginalia text:
    • The cartographer (you)
    • The date the map was created
    • The source for the map data
  6. Insert a North Arrow.
    • While north is normally up on maps, that is not always the case, and an orientation icon is a safe practice.
    • These come in a variety of styles and can add some aesthetic flair to the map.
  7. Add a Legend.
    • If nothing appears, expand the box size to be large enough for the text. You can then drag the sides to reduce the side if needed.
    • The legend gets its titles from the layer and variable names, so you may need to change those if they are not particularly meaningful. You can change them by right-clicking on the layer and selecting Properties -> General.
    • Depending on how many variables you are displaying and how you have titled your map, you may wish to remove redundant text. Right-click on the legend, select Properties -> Legend Items -> Show Properties and turn off the unneeded names.
  8. If you have a logo image, you can Insert Picture in the margin to give the map a brand identity.
  9. Finally, Share and Export a PDF of the map that you can print.
    • Portable Document Format (PDF) is a type of file developed by Adobe that preserves the formatting of a document as you created it so that documents appear the same on different computers or printers. This is the preferred output format for printable maps.
Laying Out a Standalone Map

Saving a Project Package

When you are complete with a project you should save it so that you can resume work on, fix problems, or use it as the basis for another project.

You should save your projects as project packages that you upload to ArcGIS Online. This will enable you to reopen the project on any computer with ArcGIS Pro installed.

  1. On the Share tab and Package area, select Project.
  2. Give your project a meaningful name.
  3. Unless you are working with a group, you can usually just put the project name in the Summary and Tags boxes.
  4. Check the Share outside of organization box so that all files from your computer are included in your project package. This box is not set by default and you must check it any time you create a project package. This sharing feature will allow you to reopen your project on a computer different from the one on which it was created or last updated.
  5. You should usually uncheck the Include Toolboxes and Include History Items boxes unless you specifically have a reason to include customized tools in your project package. These settings can cause your upload to fail with cryptic messages.
  6. Click Analyze and fix any identified problems.
  7. Click Package to create the package and upload. This can take a few minutes if your project contains large data files like rasters.
Saving a Project as a Project Package

Reopening a Project Package

You can reopen a project you have saved as a project package by clicking Open another project from the ArcGIS Pro home screen.

Reopening a Project Package

Print Layout Checklist

  1. Meaningful Title: A map should have a title that indicates the contents of the map. The content of a map is not always immediately obvious to all people without a title, and a short, meaningful title gives a reader a quick understanding of what they are looking at.
  2. Correct Content: While it may seem obvious that a map should display what it says it displays, when you are working on a variety of tasks, it is easy to create a map using the wrong data, out-of-date data, or with titles that have been mixed up with another map. Always verify that your map content is correct before distributing the map.
  3. Correct Spelling and Grammar: The text in a map should conform to the professional language standards of the target audience. Misspellings and grammar errors reflect poorly on the cartographer and can cause the entire contents of the map to be considered unreliable. This is complicated by the absence of spelling and grammar checking tools in commonly-used GIS software, which requires additional vigilance by the cartographer (and preferably, an outside proofreader) to assure the use of spelling and grammar that is up to social norms, and appropriate for the target audience.
  4. Metadata: Source, Date, Cartographer, etc.: Maps should almost always contain some information about the creation of that map. This metadata can be unobtrusive, but should be visible somewhere on or adjacent to the map. Common items that should be considered:
    • Data source, when not obvious from the map title
    • The dates of the data and when the map was produced
    • The name of the cartographer and/or organization that produced the map (with a URL or other contact information, where applicable)
    • A reference name for the production files - these are especially useful when maps need to be revised
    • Copyright or registered trademark information where applicable
  5. Appropriate Projection: A map should use a projection suited to its use by the target audience. It is also common to include documentation of the projection somewhere on the map. While geospatial data commonly is distributed in WGS84 latitude and longitude, there are very few cases where you would display thatdata in unprojected WGS84 on a map, and, other than being a distortion of reality, such use is also a key indicator of limited cartographic skill.
  6. Appropriate Extent, Coverage, and Insets: Your map should cover as much of the area of interest as possible, while leaving enough border to give geographic context. When the area being mapped is not contiguous (such as the 50 US states), small inset maps of remote areas enable coverage. Insets are commonly used with Alaska and Hawaii on maps of the US.
  7. Page Orientation: The orientation of the map should match the area being mapped. In the case of the continental US, the mainland is wider than it is tall, so a landscape orientation is appropriate. In contrast, Illinois is taller than it is wide, so a portrait orientation may be more appropriate.
  8. Element Scaling Appropriate For Display Size: The size of elements such as text should be considered so the elements are legible in the medium where the map will be displayed. While text on a printed poster can be small, map text should be fairly large when used in a slide presentations.
  9. Colors Reflect Theme and Purpose (Categories vs Quantities): The colors you choose need to reflect both the purpose and the aesthetic of the map. Rainbows of distinct, contrasting colors are most appropriate for unordered categories. In contrast, shades of one or two colors are most appropriate for gradients of continuous values where a darker or lighter color clearly indicates a higher or lower value. One color choice you should almost always avoid is one that requires distinguishing between red and green. That will make your map unreadable to people with red-green color blindess, which represents around 8 percent of men and 0.5 percent of women with Northern European ancestry. Colors serve an aesthetic purpose, although the associations of different meanings to different colors are not necessarily universal or consistent across societies.. Color preferences represent individual subjectivities, but there is a science to the choice of color palettes and further research is suggested if this is an area of interest to you.
  10. Legend Present, Correct and Complete: Likewise, all significant thematic colors and symbols used on a map should have their meanings defined in a legend that is correct and complete.
  11. Context Elements In addition to the basic cartographic elements, the following map elements give spatial context to the contents of a map. They graphically indicate to the reader where the map contents are located on the surface of the earth. The choice of which of these to use will depend both on the spatial layout of your map and its ultimate purpose.
    • Base Map: On maps like choropleths where the areas being mapped are simple and do not clearly indicate where they are located, adding a base map with important features provides context. Base maps provided in ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Online are a labor saving devices that eliminate the need to create complex cartographic layouts when you are mapping otherwise simple data.
    • North Arrow: While north is usually at the top of most maps, in some situations it is more appropriate to orient the map with the top in a different direction, such as to fit an area on a poster with a particular orientation, or to reflect the way a landscape in a particular area is normally experienced by people on the ground. North arrows are unnecessary and, arguably, incorrect when used on maps using a projection like this conic projection where the direction of north varies across the map.
    • Grid or Graticule: On maps used for reference, a grid of regularly spaced lines or intervals is useful for finding locations. A related element is a graticule of latitude and longitude lines. Graticules are especially appropriate on maps where latitudes and longitudes are curved by the projection.
    • Key Map: A key map is a small map inset somewhere on the map that gives the global location of the area being mapped. These are especially helpful when mapping small areas that are unfamiliar to the viewers, and these are commonly seen in news stories.
    • Scale Bar: Where maps preserve distance, a scale bar can give some context for distance, and these are especially useful when maps will be used for navigation.
  12. Layout Elements: There are a handful of cartographic elements that define the layout of a map. While of most significance for stand-alone print maps, they should also be considered for figures and web maps.
    • Neat Lines (Borders): Print maps commonly have borders around the edges that cleanly contain the contents of the map. These are called neat lines. These are less common on the web, and figures in articles.
    • Company and/or Client Logo(s): Maps are usually associated with companies or organizations like universities. Accordingly, use of a logo helps reinforce brand identity.
    • Disclaimer: Likewise, maps that could potentially expose the creator to legal liability should have appropriate disclaimers.
    • Alternative Visualizations: You should also consider whether a map is the most appropriate way of visualizing your data. Some geospatial information may be more meaningfully expressed on a graph or chart.