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Working with graphic elements, pictures, and neatlines

Release 9.3
Last modified April 24, 2009
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About graphic elements, pictures, and neatlines

Note: This topic was updated for 9.3.1.

Maps can feature graphic elements, pictures, neatlines, and objects in addition to geographic data, scale bars, and other typical map elements.

Graphic elements

Graphics can be used to

Graphic rectangles

You can use graphic rectangles to frame a group of other map elements. If you want to frame an individual map element, right-click it, click Properties, and click the Frame tab. You can use this method to choose borders and backgrounds for legends, north arrows, data frames, scale bars, scale text, and data frames.


Maps can have pictures, or graphic images, in addition to the geographic data on the map. You might add a graphic image of your company's logo to indicate the source of a map or add a nation's flag to a map to indicate its subject. You can also ornament a map by placing representative images of places, people, or objects found in an area on a map. The formats you can insert include JPEG, GIF, TIFF, EMF, BMP, PNG, and JPEG 2000.


You can easily add data of almost any type to your map as an object and edit the data using the application to which it belongs. For example, suppose you have a Microsoft PowerPoint slide you want to add to a map. You could select the elements on the slide, copy them, and paste them into the map; however, using this method, you wouldn't be able to edit the pasted slide because it would no longer be in PowerPoint format. By inserting the slide as an object instead, you can add it to your map and simply double-click it to make changes to it using PowerPoint.

When you insert an object, you can either create a new, empty object or insert an existing file. The option you choose will depend on the type of object you want to insert. In the case of inserting a PowerPoint slide, you can insert an existing presentation file as an object, but only the first slide in the presentation will be visible on your map. Alternatively, you can insert a new PowerPoint slide, double-click it to edit it in PowerPoint, and paste all the elements of your existing slide into this slide.

How to work with graphic elements, pictures, and neatlines

Adding a graphic element

  1. Click the graphics drop-down arrow on the Draw toolbar.
  2. Click the New Rectangle button.
  3. Click on the map and drag a box where you want the rectangle.
  4. The graphic element appears on the map.


  • Press Shift+F6 when creating a graphic to type in its coordinates. In data view, enter the coordinates in map units; in layout view, use page units. Click a graphics creation tool on the Draw toolbar, click the What's This button on the Standard toolbar, then click the tool again to get a list of the other shortcuts available.
  • Each map element has a name used to identify the element. For example, when the layout is in draft mode, each element is drawn as a hollow frame containing the name of the element. By default, the name is based on the element type, such as Scale Line or North Arrow, but you can change it to a unique or more descriptive name on the Size and Position tab of the element's Properties dialog box. In addition, developers can take advantage of this name property to find and manipulate elements (IElementProperties::Name).
  • A data frame's name property is always the same as what's shown in the table of contents. Therefore, updating the name inside the Data Frame Properties dialog box will also update its name in the table of contents.

Applying color to a graphic element

  1. Click a graphic element to select it.
  2. Click the Fill Color drop-down arrow.
  3. Click a color.
  4. The fill color is applied to the graphic element.


  • If you don't find the exact color you want in the array of colors, you can mix your own. Click the drop-down arrow, then click More Colors.

Applying a line color to a graphic element

  1. Click a graphic element to select it.
  2. Click the Line Color drop-down arrow.
  3. Click a color.
  4. The line color is applied to the graphic element.

Placing a graphic element behind other elements

  1. Click the graphic element to select it.
  2. Right-click the graphic element, point to Order, and click Send to Back.

Adding a neatline

  1. Click the Insert menu and click Neatline.
  2. Click the Placement option you want.
  3. Check Group neatline with elements if you want to group the elements with the neatline.
  4. Click the Border drop-down arrow and click the type of neatline you want.
  5. Click OK.

Adding a picture

  1. Click the Insert menu and click Picture.
  2. Navigate to the folder that contains the picture.
  3. Optionally, select the type of picture that you want to add.
  4. Click the picture that you want to add.
  5. Click Open.
  6. Click and drag the picture into position on your map.
  7. Optionally, resize the picture by clicking a selection handle and dragging it.


  • ArcMap keeps the same ratio of width to height (the aspect ratio) when you resize pictures so they won't be distorted when you change their size. If you want to make a picture wider or taller without changing its other dimension, right-click the picture, click Properties, and uncheck Preserve Aspect Ratio on the Size and Position tab. You can then stretch the picture.

  • Check the box to save the picture as part of the document if you want to give the map to someone who may not have the picture file. This increases the size of the map document (.mxd) but makes the document more portable.

Adding an object

  1. Click the Insert menu and click Object.
  2. Choose either Create New and specify the type of object you want to insert or Create from File and specify the existing file you want to insert.
  3. Click OK.
  4. The application registered for this object type is launched.
  5. Click Close and Return from the application's File menu (the name of the command varies from application to application) when you have finished editing the object.
  6. Position the object on your map and resize it.
  7. Double-click the object to make additional changes.


  • When you insert an existing file into a map, the Link check box on the Insert Object dialog box lets you choose whether the file is linked or embedded. If you check the Link box, the file will be linked; this means that changes you make to the contents of the file by double-clicking it on the map will also appear in the original file on disk and changes to the original file will also appear on the map. If you choose not to link the file (the default), it will be embedded, which means that there will be no link between the original file and the version of it you have inserted into the map. Changes made in one will not appear in the other.

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