I have a line layer of a road network around which I create a buffer zone of 1000 m with Analysis Tools>Proximity>Buffer. But I am interested in the areas outside the buffer zone, and not the buffer zones themselves.

Is there a way to invert the buffer, or which is the best way to pick out the the polygons outside the buffer area?

  • 1
    What's your next step? If your plan is to use "Intersect" next, try "Difference" instead.
    – underdark
    Nov 29, 2012 at 10:05
  • will autocomplete polygon tool work for you?
    – vinayan
    Nov 29, 2012 at 11:35

2 Answers 2


I can think of a couple of approaches to this. The simplest one is to calculate the difference between your buffers and the envelope of your area of interest. Have a look at the Erase and Symmetrical Difference Tools in the Analysis Toolbox. Your problem here though, is that they are available only with the ArcInfo licence. ETGeoTools might have something but I don't recall any useful function in the free version. QGIS can accomplish the task for free though.

A simple work-around for ArcGIS if you don't have the ArcInfo licence, is to create your envelope polygon and then Union it with your buffers. From the result of that operation, select all the polygons that are identical to you buffer areas and delete them. Everything left is your "inverted buffers".


try to use inner buffer. my previous answer is here.

  1. Select your layer with clicking on it

  2. From Editor toolbar, select Start Editing

  3. in Editor Menu, select Buffer

  4. Write Negative Distance Amount for inner buffer...

enter image description here

i hope it helps you...

  • I´m not sure if this will help me
    – Ola Kalen
    Nov 29, 2012 at 9:20
  • Referring to your picture, my layer looks like the yellow ring (not the whole polygon) and I need to pick out the green area.
    – Ola Kalen
    Nov 29, 2012 at 9:29
  • when you buffer in arcmap, one thing is to do that only select your green area with Edit Tool. Good Luck :)
    – urcm
    Nov 29, 2012 at 9:38
  • The problem is that I cannot select the green area since my layer is only the yellow ring (hte buffer zone arund the line)
    – Ola Kalen
    Nov 29, 2012 at 9:44

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