GIS Tips & Tricks

A weblog dedictated to the lifelong pursuit of cartographic bliss in GIS.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Overlapping Polygons Display Order

Recently someone asked me how to change the display order of overlapping polygons (like region topology) from an SDE layer in ArcMap. The problem was a smaller polygon underneath a larger one was not shown when the unique values of the dataset were symbolized using a solid fill. Like this:

The solution isn't as intuitive as it could be. For ArcGIS, ArcMAP 9x the display order of the polygons can be changed in > LAYER PROPERTIES> SYMBOLOGY> ADVANCED> SYMBOL LEVELS...>

Check the box next to >Draw this layer using symbol levels specified below and use the up and down arrows on the right to toggle the display order of your polygons layer values.

The polygons are displayed in the order selected in the symbol levels window. See...

For users of ArcGIS 8x the location
menu is a little hidden and is found by
right clicking LAYERS in the
Table of Contents.


  • At 8:26 AM, Blogger araki said…

    Very cool indeed. I've noticed that feature b4, but never used it.
    I was wondering if you might have a technique for buffering from the MIDDLE of a polygon? Maybe getting a centroid of the polygon, then buffer?

  • At 10:50 AM, Blogger araki said…

    have you ever figured out how to change the transparency of different polygons in the SAME shapefile? I was thinking you might make another field, put in a numeric value, and set up transparency by that.

  • At 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    thanks for the tip Mr N.Van GISer
    Great blog/website.

  • At 12:09 PM, Anonymous said…

    You just saved me some mega agravation! Thank you!!

  • At 4:29 AM, Blogger Kyle said…

    Sweet. This is just what I was looking for. I could not find this on ESRI's site, although I am sure it is there somewhere?

  • At 12:51 AM, Blogger Support said…


    This article is good and informative.

    yours truly,

  • At 12:22 AM, Anonymous GIS India said…

    Cool stuffs. Thanks for sharing tips.
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  • At 1:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have been looking for this solution for ages. This saves me from rearranging the attribute table, witch is very timeconsuming.

  • At 9:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thank you for the information!

  • At 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Anyone have any idea how to show ALL those polygons at once, like the overlapping circles of the primary colours sphere?


  • At 1:04 PM, Blogger Mohamed Salah Mahmoud said…

    Thanks a bunch! very useful

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