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Is there a way to perform a 'reverse' of the clip function in ArcMap?

I am not exactly sure how to explain this so here is a diagram:

enter image description here

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That worked perfect! Clipped the interior area out of my buffered area - Thanks – Shelley Bayard de Volo Jul 11 at 19:30
This is not an answer, please don't leave "Thanks" as a new answer – Midavalo Jul 11 at 19:45
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Since Erase (as @Jens linked) only is available with an Advanced license, you can download ET Geowizards. It can be installed as an Arcmap toolbox.

Although you have to pay for the full suite, there's a free part of the program and the Erase function is included there (Overlay group).

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Use the Erase (Analysis) Tool:

enter image description here

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Out-of-the-box this will only work with Advanced (ArcInfo) level license. It is possible to accomplish the same with a basic license programatically with Arc Objects and a basic license. (iTopologicalOperator) – Jakub Jan 15 '14 at 15:59
Another workaround to „erase“ with Baisc (ArcView) or Standard (ArcEditor) license is to use the Union tool and Select by Location tool. @MappaGnosis describes how it works in his answer of this question. – Jens Jan 17 '14 at 7:04

Another option here would be to perform a union and then delete the inner feature.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

Welcome to the site. I'd suggest expanding your answer with the steps that the user would need to follow. – Zachary Jan 16 '14 at 17:48
(+1) This is a good answer because it (a) accomplishes the requested task (b) efficiently (c) using basic operations available at all licensing levels (d) in a way that translates well to other GIS platforms, too. Welcome to our site, Rob! – whuber Jan 16 '14 at 18:59

Another free option if you don't have an Advanced license for ArcGIS is the Xtools Pro extension suite. Like ET Geowizards, some of the tools are only available if you buy a license but most of them are free forever, the Erase tool is one of the free ones.

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How many polygons are you needing to 'reverse clip'?

IF it's just one or two, turn on your editing, select ALL the features that come into contact with this 'erase' polygon, then trace the erase polygon with the cut polygons editing tool. It'll slice up all your selected polygons. Unselect everything, then reselect the ones to delete, and just delete them. Silly workaround, but effective if you only have a few areas to 'reverse clip'.

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I have found this method to work:

  • Start an editing session
  • Select the layer ('clip' feature or the 'output' as referenced in your image above) that you want to clip out of a larger polygon
  • On your editor toolbar, click the "editor" drop-down and select "Clip". Choose "discard the area that intersects"

Your "clip" feature layer will still be in tact, so go ahead and turn this layer off. This should perform a reverse clip.

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