Geographic Information Systems Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for cartographers, geographers and GIS professionals. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I've had this problem with ESRI base maps before but not this bad. The problem is that when I use an ESRI basemap as my backdrop, it looks fine in my MXD but when I export the map to PDF, JPG, or whatever format, the quality of the basemap in the export file is a lot worse than what I see on-screen in ArcGIS. Here's the most recent, egregious example:

What I see in ArcMap: enter image description here

What it looks like in my exported PDF: enter image description here

I've tried several things to solve this problem, and the result you see above is the best I can do:

  • Turning up the export quality on the PDF to 600dpi or higher
  • Exporting to JPG, or to TIF with no compression at all
  • Clearing my cache on the basemap layers I'm using
  • Printing to the Adobe PDF print driver rather than using Export to PDF

Some people apparently have this problem due to a slow internet connection, but since I can see the tiles in my MXD and they look fine, I don't think that's my problem.

Is there something I'm missing?

share|improve this question
In the Export Map options, there's a slider for Output Image Quality (Resample Ratio) - Is that slider set to Best? If I set that slider halfway and export a PDF, my image looks just like yours. – Mintx Apr 4 '13 at 22:38
Yep, I have it turned all the way up. I'll try varying it. – Dan C Apr 5 '13 at 2:15
Try this… in you Python window. There are JPG compression option, image comression option. – Tomek Apr 5 '13 at 8:34
Export to tiff then convert tiff to PDF using Acrobat Pro. (cannot be jpeg or a bitmap. Acrobat renders tiff really well resulting in the best quality and smallest file size.) Seems like a very static and a cumbersome procedure but it is the best way to produce a PDF from ArcMap. Only Adobe Acrobat rendered and Nitro 7 and greater (not 6) yield good results. No other 3rd party tiff to PDF converter works as well. – Jakub Apr 5 '13 at 14:20
hey Mintx, turning the Output Image Quality to 1:2 (halfway between Normal and Best) actually worked better than anything else, if you want to submit that as an answer I'll accept it. – Dan C Apr 9 '13 at 15:49

I've been having a similar problem. Might not be 100% applicable to your problem, but I figure it's related enough for folks that stumble across this question..

According to one of the posters on an ESRI blog, "vector layers with a transparency are rendered as rasters in ArcMap". So turn the transparency off, export the map into Illustrator, and change it there.

Hope that helps someone.


share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.