How can I create a transparent marker/symbol in ArcGIS Desktop 10?

I am trying to do this by setting up the transparency of the layer, but the markers seem unaffected by this change.

Any ideas?

  • Depending on what effect you are looking for. Possibly one workaround is to make other layers transparent and move your point layer down in the TOC. I have never seen anything like this other than a hollow symbol with no fill.
    – Brad Nesom
    Dec 30, 2010 at 14:27

2 Answers 2


The best way to import symbols in a map document is to use EMF format. This will maintain the vectors, allow resizing in ArcMap without loss of quality. Since there is no "background" to a vector drawing, it will appear correctly transparent in ArcMap.

Alternately, you can make the bitmap marker method work by filling the "transparent" background portions of your symbol with a key colour that does not appear elsewhere in your image be aware that using bitmap markers may adversely affect output quality.

  • Is the EMF format the only image format in Layout that supports transparency still (Mid-2012)?
    – Roy
    Jun 1, 2012 at 17:48

You are going to the marker layer's properties Display tab and changing the transparency, correct? As I'm guessing you know this is the main way to change the transparency of any layer, including marker symbols. If that doesn't work, I wonder if you don't have have some kind of read-only problem. May be worth trying to copy that layer and paste it in as a new layer and try to change the transparency on the new copied layer.

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