I have a feature layer that has points. I want these points to be transparent depending on a field that I've created.

Here are references to being able to actually do this (I do understand that these are mostly tech article and a gis.se question, but somewhere someone has done this):

So I believe this is possible, and what I've found is that under the symbology settings, the Advanced dropdown should have a Transparency option. However this is what I find:

Picture of symbology dialog without transparency option

Any ideas what I need to enable to allow this?

  • Clever idea. I had never considered feature level transparencies. – RyanKDalton Feb 15 '13 at 19:23
  • @RyanDalton yup it is. Have some data that is based on time series, rather than having to use the time scroller, trying to display the data using transparency where the older it is, the more transparent it is... to bad this isn't available by point feature data. – Erik L Feb 15 '13 at 19:55
  • I would fake it like @blah238 suggested, by simply buffering the points with a really small value. – RyanKDalton Feb 15 '13 at 20:20
  • @RyanDalton yup that is what I will be doing, just dumb I have to do that in the first place. Oh well, its ESRI. – Erik L Feb 15 '13 at 22:10

From your first link, your features must be polygon features. You have point features. You can buffer your points to create polygons from them, after which you should have the Transparency option in the Symbology-Advanced dropdown:

Transparency by Field dropdown Transparency by Field dialog

This option should be present in all versions of ArcGIS since 8.1.

See also this answer: Creating symbology for multiple attributes within the same feature class in ArcMap 10

  • Thank you! That is exactly what I was looking for, didn't realize they had to be polygons. – Erik L Feb 15 '13 at 18:02
  • "Blah238" I never knew you could set this property, so thanks for showing us. But it leads me to wonder why I never knew it so I started searching the 10.1 Help file for terms like "Polygon Transparency", "Symbol transparency", "Advanced transparency" and I can't find any reference to this option. So unless I missed it (which must be the case) where in the Help file is this functionality actually discussed? – Hornbydd Feb 22 '13 at 10:11
  • You are right that it is not well documented in the help (what else is new?). However it is mentioned in the "Tips" section of the Setting layer transparency topic. – blah238 Feb 22 '13 at 16:22

@baens you're right that it's in Symbology > Advanced > Transparency. @Mapperz is right that it's in 10.1, but not in 10.0, but not about the location of dialog. This is the dialog that comes up.

Transparency By Field Dialog

Just looked again at 10.0. It's there, but I only see it for polygons -- not points or lines -- may be what's causing the confusion.


While I have not tried this (the idea came to me as I re-read this question), it may be worth trying (and please report back on its success/failure, please)...

Assuming you are working with features in a Geodatabase and not a shapefile, take a look at creating Cartographic Representations for your point layer and Working with geometric effects. You may be able to use the "buffer geometric effect" in order to

"Create[s] a dynamic polygon with a specified diameter around a point feature"

and then see if you can apply the technique suggested by @blah238. If it works, it would be a much more dynamic (and elegant) solution than creating a one-time buffer snapshot around your source points.


This is fixed in ArcGIS 10.1 - via Display in the Layer Properties

Use the Field option below the highlighted box

enter image description here


  • Yup that is whole layer transparency, I want by feature though. – Erik L Feb 15 '13 at 17:33

I don't believe you can set transparency based upon a field, it's something that applies to the whole layer.

The only way you could do this is to to create multiple layers (all pointing to the same dataset) but with definition queries. You could then set the transparency for each layer. This approach will only really work if the number of groups your points are in is small.

  • That will probably be a plan B of how to do this, was hoping I could do this in a lot easier way. – Erik L Feb 15 '13 at 17:33

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