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Polygon Boundaries Side by Side

December 01 2009 | 7 comments
Categories: Cartographic Representations, Map Data

Hello. I'm trying to show two polygons with two different color outlines, however, where the two polygon boundaries intersect, one of the outlines will overlap the other. I want to be able to show the two boundaries next to each other rather than having one overlap the other. Please see attached file for an example of what I am looking for.

Mapping Center Answer:

There is no automated way to do what you're asking for.  However, by converting your symbology to cartographic representations, you can manually adjust the symbol geometry for the polygons that share an edge to produce the outcome you want. 

Once you convert the symbols to representations, and start editing, you will use the Direct Select tool on the representation toolbar to select the shared portion of the geometry of one polygon, and then use the Move Parallel tool to move that edge. 

Here is the help topic about selecting a portion of a representation's geometry.

Another idea - tint bands posted by Aileen Buckley on Dec 1 2009 3:42PM
Note that we also wrote a couple of blog entries on some similar effects -- they are called "tint bands" and they might also do the trick for you. The blog entries are called "Quick tint bands" ( and "How to produce tint bands for boundaries" (
Nice Effect posted by Stuart Blumberg on Dec 2 2009 6:40AM
Nice effect, I like the way it looks, thanks for the tip!
which effect? posted by Aileen Buckley on Dec 2 2009 3:22PM
Which effect worked for you -- carto reps or tint bands? Just so I know.
Effect posted by Stuart Blumberg on Dec 3 2009 6:44AM
Neither really worked for me in this situation, but I really liked the tint band effect. It also made me realize there are probably many more cartographic effects out there which I don't know about. Is there a website or book that specifically discusses these kinds of things? Thanks.
Mapping Center! :-) And Designed Maps... posted by Aileen Buckley on Dec 3 2009 11:15AM
Of course, Mapping Center is probably the best place to learn about a whole slew of cartographic effects! I realize, though, that you sort of have to know what to search for before you can find it on the site, and that is difficult if you don't know what you are looking for. Rest assured that we are working on fixing that (but it will take a little time).

Another great resource is the Designed Maps book by Cindy Brewer. She includes at the end a number of ArcMap tips that can be used to symbolize points, lines, and polygons and some overall effects. Here is the reference for that book: Brewer, Cynthia A. 2008. Designed Maps. Redlands, CA: ESRI Press, 170 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1-58948-160-2.
Thanks posted by Stuart Blumberg on Dec 3 2009 12:26PM
Thank you very much for the information!
No problem! posted by Aileen Buckley on Oct 28 2010 9:44AM
Happy to help!

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