ArcGIS Online

New ways of customizing Esri Vector Basemaps

Recently there have been some significant improvements to the ways in which we can interact with Vector Tile Maps, and Vector basemaps in particular.

I first wrote a blog and a series of Story Maps about customizing basemaps in 2017. The Story Maps have now been brought up to date, and you can find links to the new versions at the bottom. They take you through all aspects of working with Vector Tile Maps in general, and Vector Basemaps in particular.

The most important change is that now the Vector Tile Style Editor can be the focus of all of your work. There are numerous small ‘tweaks to the way this works, but two changes stand out:

Working with Code

There is now a JSON editor included, combining two ways of working with vector tiles in one location. If you prefer to wrangle code this is great! If not, there are still certain tasks, including adding features from the vector tile package, that can only be achieved through the code

A graphic showing how to access the coe option in the vector tile style editor

Changing the Map Hierarchy

It is now possible to duplicate layers of information (to ‘case’ roads for example), and to adjust the hierarchy of information in the ‘drawing order’ view.

The duplicate and move options in the Vector Tile Style Editor


Click on the images below to link to the Story Maps:

Part 1: Looking at the basics of interacting with Vector Basemaps

Basemap Basics

Part 2: Working with color


Part 3: Adding and reorganizing layers, and working with Lines


Part 4: Working with Labels


Part 5: Working with Sprites to create icons and patterns

Icons and Patterns

About the author

Andy is a Cartographic Designer who has been building maps for 50 years. He has been working with Esri in Redlands for 14 years, most recently on the creation of some of Esri's vector basemaps, and the development of color ramps for ArcGIS Online. Prior to Esri, he was Manager of Cartographic Design at Rand McNally, and before that a Senior Cartographer at GeoSystems/MapQuest. He is originally from England, and worked for a number of years at what is now the University of Derby before moving to the USA. Andy can be contacted at:

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