Creating Point Maps With ArcGIS Pro

This tutorial covers the six steps in creating a basic point map:

  1. Start the Map: Create a new project or add a map to an existing project
  2. Add the Data: Add point data from the original source
  3. Subset the Data: Map a subset of the data if the data set contains more data than you need (optional)
  4. Symbolize the Data: Create appropriate map symbols from the data
  5. Label the Data: Add labels to points (optional)
  6. Present the Data: Create a map layout for print and / or publish the map as a service for a web map
  7. Save Your Project: Save your work as a project package to ArcGIS Online

Start the Map

Start a New Project

To create a new map in a new project:

  1. Log in to ArcGIS Pro.
  2. When presented with options on the start screen, start your new project with a Map.
  3. Give the project a meaningful title so you can keep track of what is in different projects.
Starting a New Project

Add a Map to an Existing Project

If you have an existing project you can add an additional map to the project by going to the Insert tab and selecting Map.

You may want to rename your maps so it is clear what map is what.

Adding a Map to an Existing Project

Duplicate an Existing Map

If you want to make a map similar to a map you already have in your project, or just want to make a revised version of an existing map without destroying the old one:

  1. View the Catalog Pane.
  2. Copy the existing map.
  3. Paste to create the new map.
  4. Rename the maps with meaningful names to avoid getting them confused.
  5. Modify the new map as desired.
Duplicating a Map in an Existing Project

Add the Data

Feature Service

Data sources that wish to make their data available to the public often make it available as feature services. One major provider of feature services in the ESRI ecosystem is ArcGIS Online, which is tightly integrated into ArcGIS Pro. Some services in ArcGIS Online are provided by ESRI, while others are provides by organizations or individuals that use ArcGIS Online to disseminate their data privately or to the general public.

This example uses the Minn 2020 Power Plants feature service from the University of Illinois ArcGIS Online organization.

Creating a Choropleth With a Categorical Variable

Import from CSV of Coordinates

There may be cases where you need point data that is not available as a feature service - either data you capture yourself or that is shared with you by another party. One way of getting that data into ArcGIS Pro is to save it as CSV file that contains latitude and longitude coordinates for the points.

This example shows how to create a point map using locations of houses of worship in Farmingdale (Long Island), NY that have been saved in a CSV file. A copy of that file is here.

  1. Make sure the column names of your coordinates are Latitude and Longitude so ArcGIS Pro knows which columns to use.
  2. Save As the spreadsheet as a CSV file to your desktop.
  3. Add Data with XY Point Data.
  4. For the Input Table, seiect the spreadsheet file from your desktop.
  5. For the Output Feature Class, give a meaningful name for how the data should be stored in your project. Note that this name should only contain letters and numbers (no spaces or punctuation).
  6. Make sure the X Field is your longitude column and the Y Field is your latitude column.
  7. Run the tool.
  8. Verify the locations are where you expect them to be.
Loading a CSV File With Latitudes and Longitudes

Import from CSV of Addresses

Another common way that point data is brought into ArcGIS Pro is with CSV files or Excel spreadsheets that contain addresses.

The process of converting from location names to latitude/longitude is called geocoding. This process involves parsing the address or description into its component parts (state, city, street name, number, east/west, etc), and then looking up those parts in a large database of all addresses in the world.

Because there are billions of possible addresses, accurate geocoding requires large, expensive databases and powerful computers. Google Maps is popular, in part, because Google has built the technology and resources to support lightning-fast geocoding of both addresses and landmark/business names. But geocoding always involves some level of uncertainty, and you should verify that all the geocoded points are in the right place if the accuracy of your map is important.

In this example, we use a CSV file of in-person FedEx shipping or printing locations from the company's website. Although they provide a map, the only location information directly available is the address, which was entered into a spreadsheet with the columns: Name, Address, City, and State. Geocoding of addresses is a common task needed when performing business analysis in GIS.

  1. Download the CSV file or create it in a spreadsheet program like Excel and save it as a CSV file.
  2. In a new map, Add Data with the table.
  3. Right-click on the table and select Geocode Table.
  4. Follow the instructions to choose the options for geocoding.
  5. Change the map projection to WGS 1984 Web Mercator, which is a good generic projection used with web maps.
Creating a Feature Class From a CSV File With Addresses

Subset the Data (Optional)

There may be situations where you only need a subset of points from a feature service, such as points that represent a specific kind of feature, or points that are located in a certain area. For those situations you can use a definition query to select a subset of points based on criteria you specify.

For this example, we use a definition query to subset only wind plants based on the Primary Fuel Source attribute.

Isolating a Subset of Points

You can add additional clauses to a your definition query if you have multiple conditions. For this example we display wind plants in Illinois adding a condition based on the State attribute in the data.

Subsetting with Multiple Clauses

Symbolize the Data

Symbology is the choice of visual symbols used to map points. The choice of symbology depends on the purpose of the map and the types of attribute data associated with the points.

Single Symbol

When all the points are of the same type and you only need to display locations without any visual variables, this is called a single symbol point map.

This example uses the layer of FedEx locations imported above. We use purple dots to be consistent with corporate color branding.

Single Symbol


Data variables are symbolized as visual variables on a map. Slocum et al. (2009) points out the different types of possible visual variables for qualitative data.

Visual Variables for Qualitative Point maps

For this example, we use different shapes of symbols to represent different faith traditions from the houses of worship layer we imported above.

  1. Right click on the layer and select Symbology.
  2. Choose Unique Values.
  3. Select the qualitative variable you are symbolizing. In this case it is the faith tradition for each house of worship.
  4. Customize the individual symbol types as needed. In this case we use the visual variables of both shape and hue with icons that vaguely invoke the symbols of these faith traditions.
Qualitative Point Map


There are a different set of visual variables that are appropriate for use with quantitative data.

Visual Variables for Quantitative Point Maps

For this example, we use different sizes of circles to represent the nameplate capacity in MW (peak amount of power a plant can generate) of wind plants in Illinois.

  1. Right click on the layer in the Contents pane and select Symbology.
  2. For the type of symbology, select Graduated Symbols.
  3. Select the variable that will determine the size of the symbol. For this example we use Installed Nameplate MW, which is the maximum amount of electricity that a plant can generate.
  4. Select Template and adjust the style or color of the symbols as needed.
    • Select a symbol from the gallery. We use a simple, clear filled circle.
    • Select a color. We use a dark green color that stands out against the largely gray topographic base map, and evokes environmental sustainability.
Quantitative Point Map

Heat Map

When you have a large number of points that are treated as a group, there are a couple of ways of symbolizing points that identifies clusters of points.

One type of symbology is the heat map where clusters of points are represents by colored areas that vary based on the density of points. The name heat map presumably comes from the the way these maps appear to be hotter in areas where there are more points.

In this example, wind power plants around the USA are visualized as a heat map that shows notable clusters in the Midwest, Northwest, and Southwest US.

Heat Map

Kernel Density

One weakness of heat maps is that they are scale dependent. The amount of cluster blurring depends on how closely you are zoomed in on the cluster.

A more rigorous method of highlighting clusters is the use of a kernel density symbology. This is equivalent to running a circle of a specified diameter (the kernel) across all parts of the map, and coloring the part of the map at the center of the circle based on how many points are within the kernel as is passes over that point.

For this example, we use wind power plants in the USA.

  1. On the Analysis tab, select Tools.
  2. Search for the Kernel Density tool.
  3. Select the Input Points field. For this example we use the wind plants.
  4. The Population field is optional but since we want to know about total wind power rather than just where there are alot of small plants, we use the power rating of the plants (nameplate capacity).
  5. The Search radius specifies how wide your kernel is, and this is also optional, and if you don't provide anything, ArcGIS will estimate one that seems sensible based on the size of the map. For this example we use a 500 km (500,000 meter) kernel.
  6. Run the tool.
  7. Adjust the symbology if desired.
Kernel Density

Label the Data (Optional)

When you have a small number of points representing distinct objects, adding labels to the points can be a way to communicate additional useful information to your readers.

Automatic Labels

  1. Right click on the layer in the Contents pane and click to turn on Label.
  2. If you need to change the attribute used for the labels, right click on the layer in the Contents pane, select Labeling Properties..., delete the existing Expression, and double click the attribute you want in the Fields box.
  3. Adding a Halo around the labels can help make them more legible over the base map.

Annotation Layers

One challenge with labels is dealing with situations where labels for features that are close together overlap. ArcGIS Pro tries to move the labels around so they all fit, but the algorithm sometimes doesn't know enough about the data to make appropriate choices. In those cases, you need to create an annotation layer.

  1. Right click on the layer and select Convert Labels To Annotations.
  2. For the Output Database use the project database, which will probably be your only option.
  3. Run the tool.
  4. On the Edit tab, click Modify.
  5. In the modification options, select Move.
  6. Move the labels where you want them.
Movable Labels in an Annotation Layer

Present the Data

Once you have your map set up, you need to create a layout that arranges the mapped area with associated mapping elements that convey information needed to fully interpret the map. These two examples show how to set up layouts for figures that will be used in documents like research articles, and stand-alone layouts for printable maps.

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. Insert a new Print Layout. For this example we will assume we are creating a 4" x 6" figure which will flow nicely in the text of a report on standard 8.5" x 11" paper.
  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. Adding 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. Add 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 variable name by right clicking on the legend, selecting Properties -> Legend Items -> Show Properties and turning off the Headings.
    • Note that the values in the legend have more zeros than is necessary. Right click on the layer, select Symbology, Advanced symbol options, Format labels, and reduce the number of decimal places down to something more reasonable and attractive.
  6. Add a North Arrow.
  7. 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.
  8. You can then Insert the PNG file as a Picture in a Word or Word 365 document.
  9. Give the figure a meaningful caption that includes the source of the data.
Map Figure Layout

Standalone Print 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.

  1. Insert a new Layout. For this example we choose a standard 8.5" x 11" paper size. If your map is wider than it is tall, choose Landscape orientation. Otherwise, choose Portrait.
  2. Insert a Map Frame. Leave some space around the edges for a margin, and center the map on the page.
  3. 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.
  4. Insert New Text icon, drag a 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.
  5. Add a text box for the standard Marginalia:
    • The cartographer (you)
    • The date the map was created
    • The source for the map data
  6. Add a Legend. These can go inside or outside of the main map frame. See the figure video above for formatting.
  7. If you have a logo image, you can Insert Picture in the margin to give the map a brand identity.
  8. Add a North Arrow to show the reader where north is on the map. 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.
  9. Add a Scale Bar.
  10. 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

Publish a Feature Service

Feature layers that you create in ArcGIS Pro can be published as "web layers," which are services that can be used in both ArcGIS Pro and on ArcGIS Online web maps.

For this example, we use the houses of worship layer that was created from a CSV file as described above.

  1. Make sure the point symbology is what the users of this service to see when they use this service. Since it is a feature service, ArcGIS Online users can change that symbology in their own web maps, but you should give them an appropriate default.
  2. Edit the metadata for the layer to provide a meaningful title, summary, description, and credit for the original source of the data.
  3. Right click the layer and click Share -> Share As Web Layer.
  4. You can adjust the sharing of your service in ArcGIS Online so that it is is visible only to you, only to people in your organization, or to everyone.
  5. You can also verify that it works in a web map by opening the service in a new ArcGIS Online map viewer.
Publishing a User-Created Layer

Save Your Project

Save A Project Package

When you are done with a project, you should save it as a project package on ArcGIS Online:

Saving a Project Package to ArcGIS Online

Saving Failure

Project packaging will commonly fail with cryptic errors related to history. A typical error is error 00246 "Geoprocessing history items with errors cannot be included in this package."

Project packages contain a list of tool operations performed in the past so you can audit or recreate your work if needed. If any of those operations failed, or if the data sources have been modified or deleted, the history items are invalid and ArcGIS Pro will refuse to save the project package.

You can fix this by going into Analysis -> History and deleting history items (especially ones with red failure marks beside them), then trying the save again.

Fixing the 00246 Error

Reopen a Project Package

Reopening a Project From a Project Package