How can I create buffers for polygons that:

  • a) lie only inside the polygon boundary, and
  • b) know who their parent is?

An example of where this is useful is First Nation Traditional Territories. There are overlaps all over the place and it’s nigh on impossible to sort out which is which, unless we leverage colour and/or pattern.

Overlapping polygons detail, can't tell which is which

The Buffer Wizard is the usual way we’ve been creating buffers. It’s relatively fast and convenient and allows one to save the result in the .mxd as well as in the file system (the former means you don’t have to think about where to save it, and just get on with the job). Its major deficit though is that the buffers are dumb. They don’t know who they belong to or what their name is. In the example of FNTT, this means to draw Carcross Tagish FN differently from Teslin Tlingit Council and we have to create buffers twice, each time using selected features only. Suddenly no longer convenient. What is a better approach?

  • Did you try changing the symbology used by the polygons? For the outline of the polygon, choose a cartographic line symbol, - set the outline line symbol offset to a negative number (on the Line Properties tab). Jul 28, 2010 at 20:13
  • Yes. The problem with that is you can't go wider than a couple of pts with the boundary line before all kinds of weird over/undershoots and spikes occur. Example pic, taken from Spikes on offset thick lines thread. Jul 28, 2010 at 21:55
  • @matt For visual purposes, after you symbolize, display the data via a cartographic representation.
    – SaultDon
    Jan 30, 2012 at 19:59

1 Answer 1


Use the Buffer Tool from the Analysis toolbox and enter a negative value for the buffer distance. Pick OUTSIDE_ONLY for the side type and then dissolve on the relevant attributes.

Requires Advanced license.

Once attributed buffers exist can we use Definition Queries to display only certain FN’s and/or show each one with a separate symbol all from a single feature class.

buffer tool with relevant fields highlighted Using separate symbol for each feature class

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.