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Legends Tutorial in ArcGIS Pro

Legends Tutorial ArcGIS Pro

Working with Legends in ArcGIS Pro

When moving from ArcMap to ArcGIS Pro, one of the biggest adjustments you’ll have to make is building a map legend.

To be honest, it can be frustrating designing a legend exactly how you want it to be. But I can give you some tips that can help you customize your legends exactly the way you need them.

We’ve put this tutorial in a video so you can follow along exactly how we grapple with legends every day.

How to Add a Legend

In my example map, I have airport points, seaport points, road lines, park polygons, and a crime rate heat map (raster).

If I want to add a legend to my map, I can click on the “Insert” tab and select the “Legend” button (Insert > Legend).

Before you add a legend, remember that you have to select all the layers that you want to appear in your legend (see below). So in my example, I am going to select all the layers in my table of contents before I click Insert > Legend.

Inserting Legend in ArcGIS Pro

Adding Items to a Legend

If you didn’t select any layers before adding your legend (in the last step), there’s no need to panic. That’s because it’s still possible to add or remove items at any time.

To add an item to your legend, you have to drag and drop your map items by holding your mouse to a legend group (see screenshot below).

If you want to remove any items from your legend, you can simply uncheck any items in the legend grouping.

This is extremely different from ArcMap. Frankly, it takes some time to get used to it. And it can be difficult to do if you have a lot of elements in your table of contents. See our other ArcGIS Pro tips and tricks for more helpful guides.

Adding Items Legends ArcGIS Pro

Customizing Your Legend

So far, you’ve learned how to add and remove items in your legend. But how do you customize your legend?

The first step is to right-click your legend and select “Properties”. A panel will pop up on the right. But what you have to remember is that there are 2 levels to customize.

  • LEGEND LEVEL – The legend level is how you can change the major and global characteristics of your legend. For example, you can change the title, font, or even if the legend will synchronize with the map.
  • LEGEND ITEM LEVEL – The “Legend item” level is how you can change individual settings in your legend for each item. But if you select all the items in your legend, you can update them collectively as well.

Just remember to pay special attention to which level you are changing because they have their own differences.

Customizing Legends ArcGIS Pro

Legend Arrangement Fitting Strategy

One of the most important options that you want to pay the most attention to is the “Legend arrangement fitting strategy”. The purpose of this option is how it will fit your legend on the canvas.

The legend arrangement fitting strategy options are as follows:

  • Adjust font size – The legend will update the font size and fit within how you resize the map legend.
  • Adjust columns – Based on the number of columns that you set, it will arrange your map legend accordingly.
  • Adjust font size and columns – This option is a combination of the top two, meaning it will adjust both the font and columns to your settings.
  • Adjust frame – The legend size will be updated automatically without changing the font size.
  • Manual columns – You can set the columns manually and the legend items that go into each column.

The more you play around with it, the more you realize that there’s not a single good option for arranging your legend. But I generally select the “Adjust frame” option because it doesn’t resize my font size.

You’ll also need to adjust your “spacing”. Just click on the top-level legend group and they’re kind of hiding in Legends > Arrangement > Spacing. If you change the spacing for the “Items”, it will give some padding and gaps between each legend item.

Legend Arrangement Fitting Strategy

Converting Your Legends to Graphics

Sometimes things just don’t work out as they should. If you can’t grapple with your legend the way you want to, then you can simply convert it to a graphic.

I only suggest that you do this as a last resort.

To convert your legend to a graphic, simply right-click your legend and select “Convert to graphics”.

When you do this, you have the ultimate flexibility to edit your legend in any way. I also suggest ungrouping all your elements. You can do this by right-clicking again and choosing “Ungroup”.

But the downside about converting your legend to a graphic is that it won’t update automatically if you add anything to your legend.