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Oregon Earthquakes: Setting the drawing order of symbols using Symbol Level Drawing
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By default, smaller symbols are drawn on top of larger ones, as with the earthquake symbols on this map.
By default, smaller symbols are drawn on top of larger ones, as with the earthquake symbols on this map.
Using Symbol Level Drawing, the larger symbols can be drawn on top, which is the effect we want when emphasizing the larger earthquake events
Using Symbol Level Drawing, the larger symbols can be drawn on top, which is the effect we want when emphasizing the larger earthquake events

What: Sometimes it is necessary to override the default symbol drawing order, which for points is to draw the smaller symbols on top of the larger symbols. Why: On this map, we want to emphasize the larger earthquake events since they are less frequent and more important in terms of impact on the environment and human population. How:You can change the draw order of symbols using Symbol Level Drawing. As noted above, the default for point symbols is to draw the smaller symbols on top of the larger ones. Normally this is a good convention to follow but for this map we want to emphasize the larger events over the smaller ones. A simple way to do this is the use Symbol Level Drawing. .

To turn on symbol level drawing for a feature layer:

  1. Right-click the layer you want to draw using Symbol Levels in the table of contents and click Properties. Click the Symbology tab. Click the Advanced button and click Symbol Levels from the dropdown list.
  2. We used Symbol Levels to move the largest symbols up in the drawing order so that they will display on top of the smaller symbols.
    For this map, we used Symbol Levels to move the largest symbols up in the drawing order so that they will display on top of the smaller symbols.
  3. To set the symbol levels, change the symbol drawing order by moving symbols up and down in the symbol list with the arrows or by dragging and dropping them. Symbols at the bottom of the list are drawn before symbols at the top. For our map, we simply reversed the original order of all the symbols.
  4. Click OK to close the Symbol Levels dialog box.
  5. Click OK to apply these changes to your layer.
  6. Now the symbols will display with the larger earthquakes on top of the smaller ones.

    TIP
    1. To quickly enable or disable symbol level drawing for a layer, right-click the layer in the table of contents and check or uncheck "Use Symbol Levels".
    2. You can also change the draw order of layers within multi-layer symbols -- this is a little more complex, so refer to the online help for this.

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