Using ArcMap (ArcGIS 10.2 for Desktop), is there a way to symbolize two features within the same feature class as one feature without editing the feature and merging them?

For example, if I have a map of the United States (feature class) and all the states are individual features within this feature class and I want to symbolize the United States as a whole without the state divisions, could I do this?

I realize I could remove the outline, but that would also remove the outline from the United States as a whole, and I don't want to do that.

I feel like there is a simple answer for this, that I just have not discovered.

  • It would be helpful if you could edit your question and/or add tags to your question explaining what software you are trying to accomplish this in.
    – John
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 19:56
  • Sorry, I assumed my title would be enough, but I will add this. Thanks!
    – ZPembi
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 19:59
  • Well, I partially meant the version of the software.
    – John
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 20:00
  • If you only put the software and version in once then I think the question body is the most important place to do that - see my logic for saying that at meta.gis.stackexchange.com/questions/3349/… but for this one tags of arcgis-desktop and arcgis-10.2 are very useful too so I would recommend they be present CC @John
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 22:15

3 Answers 3


Ok, so I found the answer to my question. I could try to go on in length as to how to accomplish this task, but I would rather let ESRI do it. If you go to this link,


you will be given very specific instructions on how to do this from start to finish. It is actually a bit more complicated than I thought it would be, but it can be done.


It sounds like you want to read up on advanced symbology options using Join and Merge symbology options (different from Join and Merge editing, table visualization, and geoprocessing tools). Check out the article at http://resources.arcgis.com/en/help/main/10.2/index.html#/What_is_symbol_level_drawing/00s500000039000000/

I have personally never used this for the purpose you are talking about here (working with polygons), but I have had some definite success applying the concept to lines with multi-level symbols such as making for smooth looking road network rather than choppy individual road segments. From the examples it seems like the polygons should allow you to accomplish what you need, so long as a there's a field (ex: in your case COUNTRY field) you could symbolize on and then use in advanced symbology.

Hope it helps.

  • 1
    Thanks John for pointing me in the right direction. I still had some difficulty because I didn't understand what a multilevel symbol was and the link I shared in my answer helps the user to create one and then merge them. If it is not a multilevel symbol in the first place then the user will not have an option to merge or join the layers. That is where I was stuck until I found the step by step instructions. Thanks!
    – ZPembi
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 21:32
  • Glad you figured it out and glad it helped you in the right direction. And yes, it is a bit tricky, but, it can definitely be worth it for a clean looking end product.
    – John
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 21:34

I think what you are looking for is the DROPLINE functionality which did not survive the ArcInfo Workstation to ArcGIS Desktop transition.

There is currently an ArcGIS Idea to have that restored:

It would be nice to have the option to drop the lines between polygons that have the same values for a specified field. This functionality used to be available in ArcPlot as the DROPLINE command and was widely used as a way to avoid creating a new dataset with the dissolve command.

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