Ask A Cartographer

Is there a way to make North Arrows look better?

August 02 2007 | 3 comments
Categories: Map Elements

Is there a way to make North Arrows look better? I know you can change the overall color of a
North Arrow from say the standard Black to Red...but what about changing the individual elements? I have attached a picture I took of a North Arrow that I recently saw on a wall and wondered if it was something I could reproduce in ArcMap. (see attached pic)

Attachment: Picture of North Arrow

Mapping Center Answer:

For the standard north arrows, which are based on font glyphs, what you see is pretty much what you get. However, a good deal more is possible. North arrows are based on Marker symbols, which can be created using an enhanced metafile (EMF) to supply the artwork. These files can be created using ArcMap or most standard illustration software packages (Adobe, Corel, etc.). So, literally anything you can draw can be used as a north arrow.

To use ArcMap to create the EMF file, I first resize my layout page to be a square, and then move the empty default data frame off to the side. Then I draw whatever I need, and finally export (File menu) the drawing to EMF.

Use the Style Manager to create a new marker symbol by selecting the Mark Symbol folder on the left and then right-click on the right, choosing “New”. In this case you’ll be making a Picture Marker symbol, and you’ll browse to and use the EMF file.

To make the North Arrow, continue working in the Style Manager, but select the North Arrows folder on the left, and create a new north arrow. In the lower right of the North Arrow properties dialog, click the Symbol button and add the picture marker symbol.

So, it may involve a bit more time to create such a custom north arrow, but it’s definitely possible.

Works posted by Brian Jastram on Feb 16 2010 9:03AM
Great instructions. I followed them and created my own Minnesota State Seal North arrow. Thanks
:) thanks! posted by Kari Buckvold on Jun 4 2013 2:27PM
Seems so obvious once you see these instructions, thanks!
You're welcome! posted by Aileen Buckley on Jun 4 2013 2:38PM
Happy to help!

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