I want to print the map of a town and I would like to see the basemap more transparent outside the town area (border polygon) or vice versa.

How can I do this?

I'm using ArcGIS 10.2.2 for Desktop and ArcGIS Online Basemaps which are chosen from the Add Data button.

  • 1
    What type of basemap are you using? And which version of ArcGIS for Desktop?
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 10:49
  • Topographic. I didn't know this depended on the type of basemap. I'm using ArcGis 10.2.2, remotely though. Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 12:13
  • 1
    There's ArcGIS Online Basemaps and Basemap Layers, and layers people just refer to as basemaps. It sounds like you are using the first type.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 12:29
  • I put it in the map choosing it when clicking on the black arrow beside "add data", then "add basemap", so I guess it's a basemap layer, isn't it? Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 12:43
  • 1
    Those basemaps are from ArcGIS Online. Basemap Layers are created in the Table of Contents from the data frame context menu.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 12:47

2 Answers 2


I would use the clip to shape option in the data frame properties. Have two copies of your basemap in the Data Frame one with no transparency which you clip to your town border using the option below.

Then make your second one transparent and sitting below the first basemap and exclude it from the clip using the Exclude Layers button.

Clip to shape

Below is a very quick example of the sort of output you can achieve: Clip to shape

  • 1
    If this turns out to be heavy, you can add a polygon covering all but the areas of interest. Set it to white and appropriate transparency, and you get the same result. This is also easier to set up with Data Driven pages, as you can switch which area is currently highlighted based on Page Name and a definition query.
    – Martin
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 12:04

One way you could do this is overlay a polygon layer for the state, county or country where the town is clipped out. You could then give the polygon a white semi-transparent fill which would give the same affect as making the basemap transparent.

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