I am looking for a method to make more compact legend entries. Suppose 3 point layers "inner", "middle", and "outer" in ArcGIS 10.7. Assume each layer has a field called measurement with a value range from 1 to 1000 symbolized by different colors. The coloration is the same for all three layers. The size of the symbol for each layer is set to a fixed amount. Layer "inner" has a small circle etc., c.f. image below.

GIS legend shows three entries

What I would like to do, is make a merged/joined/combined symbol in the legend so that it becomes more compact, exempli gratia like so:

enter image description here

If you know of a better design, I am open for suggestions.

Explanation and a little bit more background

The problem arises because I want to have legend entries to explain the different colors, but as the colors appear in all three sizes, I want to also show the sizes. The automatic legend by Arc gets very very long when showing all colors for all sizes, so I'd like to first show all the colors and what they represent and then say, look, there's three sizes and the colors apply to all three sizes respectively.

  • Not sure I understand your post completely, but it is easy to create 3 circles point symbol for idle point layer and show in legend. No need to make it visible on a map.
    – FelixIP
    Nov 6, 2019 at 3:57
  • @FelixIP and then make it easy to visually identify the meaning of each circle? I would be very interested in an answer, then.
    – thymaro
    Nov 6, 2019 at 10:29

2 Answers 2


If all the layers have the same symbology and description in the legend entries you could just show it once on the legend in the normal way. Altering the Layer/Text to make sure it's clear that it applies to all of the Layers.

As for the nested symbol I don't believe there is a way to do this using the standard Arcmap Legend and Symbology methods.

I think you'll have to covert the legend to graphics and work with it like that:

enter image description here

One small piece of advice is to make a copy of the legend off the side of the layout, because once you convert to graphics you'll lose the dynamic version. Which can be annoying if you still want part of it to update automatically.

For more complex Legends, some like the one you showed, I've used Inkscape, a free vector graphics editing software.

  • One could merge the datasets and stack the symbols on the map using symbol levels, assuming this data overlaps but stacking the layers symbols in the legend is not possible, I agree with Hassani I think you need to convert it into a graphic and create your bespoke legend, also good top tip on copying the legend!
    – Hornbydd
    Nov 5, 2019 at 11:20
  • @Hornbydd and Hyder, 1. thx for the answer, it's like I thought, unfortunately. 2. If I have just one layer with several fields containing the data, does that unstackable situation change? If you think yes, I'll write a new question, as it's a completely different premise. 99. I already made the two graphics in the question with inkscape and I also made the graphics again, because I noticed that the question is not as clear as I wanted it to be, but it seems it was, as the answer answers what I wanted to know.
    – thymaro
    Nov 5, 2019 at 14:16
  • @thymaro You are not going to be able to stack the legend data without some sort of manual process. Either you do it as you have in Inkscape, Arcmap graphics editing or you create a new symbol in the Symbol Property Editor and use it on your legend instead of the actual layer symbols. Inkscape is easier in my opinion, not to mention you've already done it that way. Nov 6, 2019 at 10:06
  • @HyderAlHassani "use it on your legend instead of the actual layer symbols" --> I didn't know this was possible, but that's a good idea, actually. I might try that next time, as it hopefully would give a better quality than the export I got out of inkscape and into arcmap (not a problem of inkscape, as far as I'm concerned...)
    – thymaro
    Nov 6, 2019 at 10:32
  • 1
    @thymaro I do it the other way round. Export the map without the legend item to svg or pdf and edit that in Inkscape. Nov 6, 2019 at 10:55

I used this: enter image description here to create symbol. And item description:

enter image description here

To get this:

enter image description here

Unfortunately Description does not support formatting tags to color text.

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