Is there a way to perform a 'reverse' of the clip function in ArcMap?

I am not exactly sure how to explain this so here is a diagram:

enter image description here

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    That worked perfect! Clipped the interior area out of my buffered area - Thanks
    – user77688
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 19:30

11 Answers 11


Use the Erase (Analysis) Tool:

enter image description here

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    Out-of-the-box this will only work with Advanced (ArcInfo) level license. It is possible to accomplish the same with a basic license programatically with Arc Objects and a basic license. (iTopologicalOperator) Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 15:59
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    Another workaround to „erase“ with Baisc (ArcView) or Standard (ArcEditor) license is to use the Union tool and Select by Location tool. @MappaGnosis describes how it works in his answer of this question.
    – Jens
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 7:04

Another option here would be to perform a union and then delete the inner feature. After the union, select features from the initial layer and use the delete feature tool to remove the selected polygons.

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    Welcome to the site. I'd suggest expanding your answer with the steps that the user would need to follow.
    – Zachary
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 17:48
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    (+1) This is a good answer because it (a) accomplishes the requested task (b) efficiently (c) using basic operations available at all licensing levels (d) in a way that translates well to other GIS platforms, too. Welcome to our site, Rob!
    – whuber
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 18:59

Since Erase (as @Jens linked) only is available with an Advanced license, you can download ET Geowizards. It can be installed as an Arcmap toolbox.

Although you have to pay for the full suite, there's a free part of the program and the Erase function is included there (Overlay group).


I have found this method to work:

  • Start an editing session
  • Select the layer ('clip' feature or the 'output' as referenced in your image above) that you want to clip out of a larger polygon
  • On your editor toolbar, click the "editor" drop-down and select "Clip". Choose "discard the area that intersects"

Your "clip" feature layer will still be in tact, so go ahead and turn this layer off. This should perform a reverse clip.

  • this works for me, be aware that the discarded clip polygon must be one single polygon, otherwise, your clip function will gray out. If your circle polygon has multi part, you have to use merge by start edit session, select all parts and from editor tool bar drop down list, choose 'merge' to make it a single big polygon. Then you can select this single big polygon(circle) and clip it from your square polygon.
    – hoogw
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 18:44

Another free option if you don't have an Advanced license for ArcGIS is the Xtools Pro extension suite. Like ET Geowizards, some of the tools are only available if you buy a license but most of them are free forever, the Erase tool is one of the free ones.


How many polygons are you needing to 'reverse clip'?

IF it's just one or two, turn on your editing, select ALL the features that come into contact with this 'erase' polygon, then trace the erase polygon with the cut polygons editing tool. It'll slice up all your selected polygons. Unselect everything, then reselect the ones to delete, and just delete them. Silly workaround, but effective if you only have a few areas to 'reverse clip'.


Personally, I just create a reverse clipping mask. Create a rectangular extent of around all your features, cut a hole of your desired shape in it then use the clipping tool as per usual. Works just as well...


1st run the intersect tool, it will select the areas that overlap between two feature classes. Then run the union tool, it will select all portions of the two feature classes but breaks at points where the feature doesn't have the same shape. Then run select by attribute to select the portions you want to delete.


Symmetrical Difference (Analysis) Features or portions of features in the input and update features that do not overlap will be written to the output feature class. Usage - The input and update feature class or feature layer must be of the same geometry type. Attribute values from the input feature classes will be copied to the output feature class. enter image description here


What about a raster, yes we can use erase for vector I want to clip inside of my raster with the given polygon, but using ArcGIS pro takes a long time to process, is there any way we can clip inside of the raster layer in ArcMap or Qgis also.

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    As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Jun 30, 2023 at 15:43

Check out the select by location option. You can select all points falling within a feature layer. After these have been selected, go to the attributes and switch the selection.

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    This doesn't answer the question - the OP wants to clip a layer, not just select features.
    – Midavalo
    Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 22:11

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