I'm using ArcGIS 10.1 for Desktop.

I am trying to export a pretty simple map to PDF and finding the results are not what I expect. I have inserted two graphics on top in Layout. One is just a rectangle that has a custom user style applied. The style uses a Picture Fill derived from a PNG file that has transparency set to 80% opacity in the original file.

The other graphic is a rectangle text box that has a similar Picture Fill Style applied, this one using a 20% grey fill and 80% opacity in the original PNG file. On screen, the boxes look fine. That is, I can see other layer information underneath that looks greyed out with a partially transparent box overlaying.

When I export to PDF, the boxes show up as empty of any fill at all. The sample text in the text box shows up, but not the transparency fill.

Resolution is set to 300 DPI, Resampling is set to best. Colour space is set to CMYK. There is no compression. Bitmap fills are set to vectorize. I have tried varying every setting that can be changed in Export to PDF and find that nothing really changes with regard to this transparency issue.

Any ideas? I have scanned other forum posts and see that it is an issue from several versions back. Has it ever been solved?

  • 1
    I had a similar issue recently, and the eventual solution was to print to pdf instead of exporting to pdf. The pdf printer driver handled the graphics better.
    – DPierce
    Aug 2, 2013 at 19:50

1 Answer 1


maybe this will work for you:

  1. Insert or draw the graphic in Data View
  2. Drawing toolbar: covert graphics to features (delete graphics after conversion)
  3. Feature is added to TOC; then set transparency % in layer properties

please note: In order for the text box to work feature with transparency I had to drawing toolbar > New Annotation Group > Activate Annotation Group first.

  • That looks like an attractive possibility. I am mindful, however, that any layer in the TOC that has transparency set causes that layer and everything else underneath it to rasterize into a big flat image when exporting to PDF. I'd like to maintain layer separation in the resulting PDF if possible. Aug 2, 2013 at 19:36
  • In my test export to PDF I did not notice a difference in quality of the layers underlying the transparent feature. However, @DPierce's print to pdf sounds like less work!
    – mwil
    Aug 2, 2013 at 20:22

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