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Using basemaps without reference layers

When authoring a web map you can choose from variety of basemaps available on the Select a basemap gallery. The basemaps displayed are dependent upon your organization settings, and can be custom configured by the site administrator. The ones shown below are the Esri default basemaps for an organization with the region set to United States.

Many of the basemaps have text and labels included in the basemap tiles. Others use a reference layer in conjunction with the underlying basemaps. For those using reference layers, you can add just the basemap if the reference layer is not desired. In the collection shown above, basemaps with reference layers are Dark Gray Canvas, Light Gray Canvas, Oceans, and Terrain with Labels.

To add these basemaps without the reference layer, follow these steps.

Step 1. Open a new or existing map, then click Add, then choose Browse Living Atlas Layers.

Step 2. Choose Basemaps from the category list

or enter basemap in Search.

Step 3. Look for entries with “Base” in the title. Below, both World Dark Gray Base and World Light Gray Base do not include the reference layer coupled with them in the basemap gallery.

Step 4. Click Add layer to map and choose As Basemap.

The base, without the reference layer, will be your web map basemap. Below is a comparison of the World Dark Gray Base vs. the default Dark Gray Canvas basemap (click to view larger image):

In most cases you will want the reference layer, but for special needs using the the base keeps the information presented on the basemap to a minimum.

For more information

About the author

Corporate technology evangelist and advocate at Esri, focusing on ways to broaden access to geographic information and helping customers succeed with the ArcGIS system. On a good day I'm making a map, on a great day I'm on one. Email or connect on LinkedIn (

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