Posts Tagged ‘picture marker’

Getting Illustrator Map Symbols into ArcMap (ESRI)

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

A friend recently asked me if it was possible to get the same custom map symbols he is using in the Adobe Illustrator design package into his ESRI ArcMap project. I recommended saving them out as EMF (Windows Meta File format) which are readable in ArcMap. Newer version of Adobe Illustrator save this format on both the Mac and PC (early Mac versions didn’t).

ESRI has two official workflow recommendations in their Mapping Center “Ask a Cartographer” section, both which involve EMF export. Kudos to Charlie and Aileen at ESRI for making the Mapping Center helpful:

1. Convert EPS symbols into a ESRI style (view at

Q: I have symbols that are right now in EPS format and I would like to create a style with them. What is the best way to proceed ?

Mapping Center Answer:

There are two potential workflows:

  1. If the EPS files are multi-color use a graphics software package to export them to .EMF files that you can make picture marker symbols from.  I’t important to set the artboard for each EPS file to match the extent of the graphics in order to get a good result.  This will work for single color EPS artwork as well.

2. Getting Illustrator-made symbols into ArcMap (view at

Q: I would like to take symbols/icons that I created in Illustrator then export them into ArcMap for use in map production. If this question is already answered, could you direct me to that resource?

Mapping Center Answer:

You should export each of your Illy symbols/icons to a .EMF file and those can be used to create Picture Marker Symbols in ArcMap.  Our help topic on Creating Marker Symbols explains how to create picture markers from EMF files; it’s the next to the last procedure in that topic.

  • In many cases we copy EPS artwork into a font editing software package and create a TrueType font.  We do that because we’ve developed the in-house expertise to do so and that had a bit of a learning curve.  However, if you want to create representation marker symbols you can dispense with the refined aspects of that workflow because it is possible to create representation markers from font-based markers, but not with EMF files.  Once the artwork is converted to a representation marker it is easier to edit any remaining qualities of the graphic in the representation marker editor.