Many of you may be considering making a thematic map with a global or regional coverage. In that case, a Web Mercator basemap just isn’t the best. You should consider a map in an equal area projection. So here are some ArcGIS Online maps that have an equal area projection:
- Equal Earth (global)
- Albers Equal Area Continental United States
- Albers Equal Area Europe
- Albers Equal Area Asia
You can use these if you like; I made them pretty quickly in ArcGIS Pro (I show you how a bit further down) and published them to ArcGIS Online. They humbly await your styling or thematic mapping adventure.
Pretty basic, right? Not even any borders? Exactly! Rrrrreal basic so you can add whatever elements to your map that you want, without being stuck with anything in the basemap. An almost blank slate. Add whatever context layers and thematic layers you want then save it as your own map.
Don’t like my white and gray mega-neutral color scheme? You can paint these basemaps however you like using the Vector Basemap Tile Style Editor. These maps are like a coloring book. Break out whatever crayons you want (as a Midwesterner, I pronounce them “crans”).
Here are links directly to the style editor pre-loaded with each map…
Some notes about compatibility. You can add vector and raster layers to these maps. Raster tiles will render in them, too, but they may appear, you know, squished. Vector tile layers will not work in these maps because their differing vector projections will get into a pretty honorable sword fight and the basemap’s projection will emerge victorious and oust the upstart vector tile layer.
How to Make Non-Mercator Web Maps
If this has got you inspired to use a different projection for you web map, cool. But if the ones I’ve made don’t quite cut it for your needs, then you can totally cook up your own in ArcGIS Pro. Here’s how to do that.
Choose a projection that suits you.
Style it and optionally set scale-based visibility ranges if you want varying levels of detail at different zoom levels.
Then create a vector tile index. This makes the resulting tiles really efficient since it only adds detailed tiles high-density content exists. Or something like that. Make sure to un-check the “Package for ArcGIS Online | Bing Maps | Google Maps option. In this case, Pro sweetly generates its own tiling scheme based on your map’s projection (otherwise it’s overridden with Mercator). This may take some time (longer than actually cooking the tiles), depending on how complex your vectors are.
FYI, it looks like this. If you open your index layer to take a look, just remember to remove it before you cook the tiles (next).
Then run the Create Vector Tile Package tool. Again, un-check that “Package for ArcGIS Online | Bing Maps | Google Maps” option. And point the “Index Polygons” option you your sweet new index you built a minute ago. I left the scales at default, but best to max them out. Then fire up the engines!
And let it run. Creating vector tiles is a reasonably quick operation. When done, you can drag the resulting tpkx (the tile package file that holds all the rules and data) file into Pro to verify everything looks the way you want (just remember to turn off the original layers so you are actually seeing the tiles).
Then just upload that tpkx to ArcGIS Online. When it asks if you’d like them to be a hosted tile service, say yes.
And there it is. A tile layer that, when you open it in the ArcGIS Pro webmap viewer, is in your own sweet sweet projection. Remember to make the tiles publicly available if you make a web map.
These are extra steps, yes, if you want to make your own non-Mercator web map. But I hope you feel empowered to make just what you need for your web map. And if any of these four not-Mercator web maps that I’ve made are useful to you in any way, please have at them. Consider an equal area projection for your global or regional thematic map; it’s an important component of visualizing clearly and truthfully.
Map Well, John