I have been trying to obtain the following markers effect.

How can I do the same in ArcGIS?

This image is from a book.alt text


9 Answers 9


The symbols shown in the map are standardized proportional symbols. In ArcGIS, I believe under a symbology of a layer there is an option for proportional symbols. The legend arrangement shown here is a nested-legend arrangement. I am not sure if you have space constraint on the map but generally I avoid those because it makes difficult for user to compare symbol. If you do not have space constraint use linear-legend arrangement.


My thought is that this was not done with a point layer but a buffer of a point layer in order to achieve the transparency. I have been working with a layer to reproduce the affect and am not successful with any of the other methods listed in these answers.

I now beleive they are close though. Following instructions to use the graduated symbol and transparency does not ever produce the darker outline for me. When I get the transparency set so it looks like your example the outline doesn't show up as much as your example.

So perhaps a copy of the layer placed above it's parent, and then change so it's transparency is just less than the parent, and the fill is none with an outline of black.

Another method for this would be to use Illustrator an export an AI file or Avenza to access the data directly from Illustrator.

  • Thank you very much, the idea of exporting it to an illustrator file really helped me a lot! I had no idea Illustrator could do such changes. Using it has been easier than I expected - although I had no previous experience with it. Thanks.
    – relima
    Commented Jan 8, 2011 at 13:04

I guess what you are asking is how to make the symbols grow again with negative numbers.

That should be possible with many softwares. You have one field that defines the colour of the symbol (the (the growing or shrinking population) and then you point to a field with absolute values to define the size of the symbols.

In QGIS it works with the "old" symbology at least. Do like this:
Have your growing shrinking population in percentage in one field, we can call it popchange. then you can create one field with absolute values of the population change. You should also manipulate the range in this field to fit proper symbol sizes. So, if you for instance want symbols from 1 to 20 pixels in size and your maximum value of growing or shrinking population is 300 you do abs(original_percentage)*20/300.

In symbology in QGIS you choose "graduated symbol", create two classes on your field popchange. First class below zero and second above zero. Then you choose your manipulated field for "Drawing by field" "Area Scale" (That part is hidden below the symbols on the right side.)


Do this, create two shapefiles of the points, one for negative values, the other for positive. This will prevent overlapping of the points, and you can just size them (absolute value) according to their value, but distinguishing the positive and the negative layers by color. No need to use the multiple attribute nor anything else. By the way i see the legend, the map has two layers with one single title.


While ArcGIS transparency applies to the whole layer, you can hack together the same result in ArcGIS by creating a semi-transparent png symbol (I just use Powerpoint to create a circle symbol with 70% transparency - for example). Use the png as a picture marker when you specify the graduated point symbol template in ArcGIS. The png transparency is honoured by ArcGIS, and when semi-transparent pngs overlay each other you get the additive transparency effect like the map above. Works a treat.


Another option in ArcGIS is the Graduated Symbols option (Layer Properties > Symbology > Quantities). This gives you more control over the number of symbols used and their sizes than the Proportional Symbol. Note that you'd have to use two layers with the same symbol settings, and use a Definition Query or something like that to select out the positive values in one and negative values in the other in order to display them in two different colors. As Steen said, the Transparency is on the Display tab.


If you don't want to use Arc's built in proportional symbol, or graduated symbol tools, you can manually calculate this. All you need is a point layer, and a GIS capable of buffering based on a field.

This website provides with the simple math to do it: http://instruct.uwo.ca/geog/242/lab11.htm

Just watch your units. The advantage of this method is you can then create a bivariate symbol by filling the proportional symbol as a choropleth map. The disadvantage is you need to recalculate if your numbers ever change.

The background shaded relief could be easily gotten from Natural Earth if you are working at a global/country scale.


This characteristic of transparent symbols(resulting in more opaqueness from continuous overlapping) is a feature with Tableau software. increasing transparency will increase it all symbols and not individually to get this result. Another option would be to use cross hatching fill in ArcMap.


In ArcGIS I would try the Multiple Attributes option on the Symbology tab in Layer Properties. Here you can press the "Symbol Size" button, where you can set the range and symbolsize manualy. This way you should be able to obtain the wanted marker effect. The transparency is set for the entire layer on the Display tab in Layer Properties.

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