I am trying to figure out how the size of markers in arcgis works. I understand that a square marker set to 1 pt is 1 pt for specific scale. but when I import emf or font, How does the change size works then? if like the symbol is rectangular or a picture of a bus?

If we take the bus, I set 20 pt size does it take 20 point of the smallest part of the picture or what? Please help! :)

And also, how can I set a specific size to be correct for illustrator export? the size gets different, is there any script for arcmap or illustrator to set correct size of symbols?

  • please specify if you are using dataframe views and export or layout view and page size for output.
    – Brad Nesom
    Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 16:11

2 Answers 2


Generally, ESRI symbols are fonts. So, just like with any font installed on your system the size is based on the character stored in the font. (Even north arrows are fonts, which is why they scale so well and they sometimes show up as letters in PDFs that you try to print on machines that don't have the ESRI fonts installed). The size of the symbol depends on whether you're looking at it in data or layout view. In data view, size is based on the current scale. In layout view, size is relative to the size of the document you are working on.

Here's a nice ESRI breakdown of how the fonts for symbols work: http://blogs.esri.com/esri/arcgis/2012/03/28/fonts-in-arcgis-symbols/

The major exception are symbols that are stored as graphic files, which is really a whole other subject. These symbols are based on individual image files and don't behave in the same ways that fonts do.

  • thank you! because it is so confusing, everytime I need to test my way to get correct sizes. and I sometimes do not see the logic in sizes of markers. Now I am trying to figure out how to export the sizes I set in arcmap to illustrator(.ai)
    – jonaktiv
    Commented Nov 5, 2013 at 6:44

Representations works differently: if you have a square then it does not matter wich size the symbol has inside edit icon mode, because it gets the size of the outer option.

but if you have an rectangle with the long side down, then you need to set the size of the long side in the outer options to get the correct size of the rectangle as you want it

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