Creating marker symbols

Marker symbols are used to draw point features and point graphics. They can be used in conjunction with other symbols to decorate line symbols and create fill patterns and text backgrounds. Any number of layers can be combined in a single marker symbol. You can enhance any of the standard marker symbol types with a mask that extends the shape of a marker symbol with a specified fill symbol by a specified amount.

Learn how to create and store new symbols

Marker symbol types

There are four standard marker symbol types:

Working with marker angles

When working with marker symbols, the Symbol Selector dialog box includes an Angle control to modify the orientation of marker symbols. Values in this box rotate the marker from 0 to 360 degrees arithmetically (counter-clockwise from East). To rotate markers clockwise, enter negative values (ranging from 0 to -360 degrees.)


To rotate marker symbols individually based on the value of a field in the point layer's attribute table click Layer Properties dialog box > Symbology tab > Advanced > Rotation. On the Rotate dialog box, the Rotate Points by Angle in this field specifies the field that holds angular values and the Rotation Style controls the origin and direction of rotation.

You can use the Rotate Points by Angle in this field and Rotation Style settings in the Rotate dialog box together. For example, suppose you want to rotate the marker symbol for each point feature in a layer using the angle stored in a field, but the value in your angle field is specified in degrees counterclockwise from North. Specify the field to be used in the Rotate Points by Angle in this field control, then choose the Arithmetic Rotation Style (which specifies an East orientation and a counterclockwise direction). On the Symbol Selector dialog box set the Angle 90 degrees. This effectively shifts ArcMap's axis of rotation to North for the purpose of reading the angles in the field.

Alternatively, consider using field overrides if you are using representation symbology.

Improving marker symbol drawing performance

The drawing performance of marker symbols, whether used to symbolize points or as a component of one of the other types of symbols, can be improved greatly by using simple marker symbols and single-layer character marker symbols; these are the best choices for symbolizing large point-feature datasets.

Masks can greatly increase draw times. A good alternative to adding a mask to a character or simple marker is to create a .emf file that represents the symbol and uses a picture marker symbol that displays the contents of the .emf file. In addition, .bmp, .png, .gif, and .jpg/.jpeg-based picture marker symbols can be replaced with .emf markers to improve performance with those symbols.

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