I have a lot of CAD blocks that I want to convert to symbol markers to use in ArcGIS 10. Everything I read says the emf is converted to vector data, but that does not seem to be the case.

Procedure: open Style Manager>Open the Style I created for the blocks>Click on Marker Symbol folder>Right click for new marker symbol>The only option that allows emf is the Picture Marker option. When I bring the emf picture in it's the block on what is effectively a piece of paper and when I use it as my point symbol, the surrounding area is blanked out. Changing the tier level in the TOC is not a feasible option, and I think that is only a bandaid and not a solution.

I think what I really need is a character marker but I don't see an option for creating them from an emf file.

What am I doing wrong?

  • Exporting as emf can be really finnicky. What's your method for creating the emf? Can you bring the emf into an ArcMap layout with transparency?
    – Roy
    Jun 29, 2012 at 13:50

1 Answer 1


If you have access to Adobe Illustrator, using the Export -> create Enhaced Metadata File you should be able to bring it into ArcMap with the transparency preserved.

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Once you have an emf that displays correctly, check this out: How to I create and Import marker symbols (or 'Style References') in ArcMap 10?

  • I don't have Illustrator. I converted some of the files using VeryPDF and some others with Any DWG to Image Converter, both free trial downloads. When the created symbol is used, it not only blocks out where the lines are, but a large swath around it. When I open the file in Paint or IrfanView, the image is a blank paper with lines drawn on it, but no vector lines that can be selected.
    – Teresa
    Jun 29, 2012 at 14:24
  • @Teresa did you see my comment under your original question? If you can add the emf as a 'picture' under the Instert tab of ArcMap, and you don't have the correct transparency then a better question might be What open source tools allow for the creation of EMFs that conserve transparency in ArcMap?
    – Roy
    Jun 29, 2012 at 15:00
  • Roy, Thank you for the clarification. It had not occurred to me that all emfs are not created equal. So the answer to the question?
    – Teresa
    Jun 29, 2012 at 15:07
  • I am able to use it as a point label with the noted problems, but not drag it in.
    – Teresa
    Jun 29, 2012 at 15:13
  • Drag it in?? Insert -> Picture; select your emf
    – Roy
    Jun 29, 2012 at 15:16

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