Is there a way to export a PDF from ArcGIS Pro 2.7.2 to PDF, ensuring there truly is no background? When I export from ArcGIS Pro to PDF, even when I specify that the map frame be transparent and the layout be transparent, when I export the map to PDF it still maintains a white background layer.

To see this in action, I went to Adobe Illustrator. I opened up 1 map PDF where I did include a white background, and then opened another map PDF where I specified a transparent/no background. I made a teal rectangle in Illustrator and dragged it to the bottom of each map to see what was covering it, pictures below.

I couldn't find much online, only this link: https://community.esri.com/t5/cartography-and-maps-questions/how-to-make-a-layout-background-transparent-in-arcgis-pro/td-p/774159

1st pic, in Pro I specific this map have a white background. It has 2 white backgrounds layers in AI, highlighted. PDF export in AI that did have a background - 2 paths 2nd pic, in Pro I specified the map frame have no background. It has 1 white background layer in AI, highlighted. PDF export in AI that was not supposed to have a background - 1 path


2 Answers 2


If you are looking for an alternative to exporting your map as pdf, try to export your maps with no map frame fill like you did previously but this time try to export it as a .gif or .svg. Sometimes in my past when there is an issue regarding transparency it is always helpful trying to export it in different formats.

I personally would recommend the route that you are currently trying, however with the new versions of ArcGIS Pro you are able to once again export as a .ai file. It is not perfect, but you should be able to ensure transparency utilizing Illustrator. You may have to experiment with which export type does what you are looking for (.pdf, .svg, .jpg, .gif, etc.).

  • The issue is that ultimately the product is assembled in Adobe Acrobat and requires PDFs. So if I export my maps in Pro to any file format that's not PDF, it's extra steps. With the amount of maps I needed to make for this project (50+), efficiency starts to matter. Jul 5, 2021 at 18:10

Have you tried using Maps for Adobe and the AIX format to get your content into Illustrator? This is the recommended workflow from ArcGIS Pro.

As far as the transparent background - the "page" is included by default in PDF but the AIX format export actually has an option to "keep layout background" that can be turned OFF to remove the page.

We do have an open item to add this UI to PDF as well, and it's in product plan for a future release of ArcGIS Pro, but as I said the preferred workflow is to use AIX and Maps For Adobe to get this into AI.

https://www.esri.com/en-us/arcgis/products/maps-for-adobecc/overview for more info on this AI plugin.

Picture of Layout background option in Layout Export pane for AIX format

  • My workflow requires all files be PDFs because the final product is created in Adobe Acrobat. I need to export 50+ map layouts from ArcGIS Pro into PDF format. So while I agree that this plugin allows more control over layers, it still adds extra steps to a workflow that previously didn't have this issue in ArcMap. I hope this UI gets added to PDF as well! I do love this plugin, it's just not that helpful for the specific project workflow I've been converting to ArcGIS Pro from ArcMap. Jul 5, 2021 at 18:07
  • 1
    OK. Your original problem statement was that after importing into Illustrator it had a transparent background. Are you not bringing it into Illustrator now or was that just to illustrate (haha) the problem in the PDF? Jul 6, 2021 at 19:38
  • the white background is a bug apparently in Pro. so either way in order to remove it, I had to use illustrator. My main options ended up being either export to AIX, or export to PDF and modify one of those files, finally save as PDF. When using AIX in Illustrator, it doesn't have the extra background but it has to become a PDF. When using just PDF in Illustrator, I can just remove the one background layer and save over the PDF. So yep, still need Illustrator until Esri fixes this bug. Jul 7, 2021 at 20:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.