tut: Legends

Legend Notes

Not all layers in a map need to be included in the legend. Examples of layers you might choose to leave out of the legend:

  • Water, which is typically understood to be blue and easily recognized
  • Common features such as roads, rivers, railroads, capitals (if they use a commonly recognizable symbol)
  • Raster imagery (Air Photos, Satellite Imagery, scanned maps, raster base maps, etc.) whose nature is self-evident and/or incorporate varied symbology within themselves
    • Such imagery should, however, be listed in a data note or the like, listing the date and source of the image


Legends can be identified as 'Legend' or 'Key' or some other title... or not.

Tips for Customizing the Legend - From the Layer's Properties

  • To modify the name of a layer in the legend, Rename the layer in the Table of Contents (using the General tab of the layer's Properties )
  • When using the 'Unique Value' symbology, typically uncheck the 'All Other Values' box, so it doesn't appear in the legend
    • In many cases, every item in the layer will be displayed anyway (so All other Values is irrelevant)
    • If you do wish to use All Other Values, be sure to change the Label to something more meaningful (click and type under Label in the Symbology tab of the layer's Properties)
  • If you have a specific feature or features you don't care to include in the map, open the Symbol tab of the layer's Properties, highlight the feature, and click the Remove button


Tips for Customizing the Legend Properties

  • If you have a specific layer you don't care to include in the Legend, open the General tab of the Legend Properties, highlight the layer under Legend Items, and click the < button to remove the layer from the list
  • To add a layer to the legend, open the General tab of the Legend Properties, select the layer from the list of Map Layers and click the > button
  • To change how a feature or class of features is labeled in the legend (the font, etc.), open the Items tab of the Legend Properties, then click on the Symbol... button
  • To change the icon used in the legend (the "Patch") (i.e, from a rectangle to an oval, etc. or from a straight line to a curved line, etc.), open the Items tab of the Legend Properties
    • ​Choose the layer you wish to modify the patch for (from the list of layers)
    • Click the Style.. button (below the list of layers)
    • Click Properties (in the Legend Item Selector dialog box)
    • Click the General tab (of the Legend Item dialog box)
    • Check the box beside Override default patch
    • Choose a new Line or Area patch as desired/appropriate
    • click OK, OK, OK...
  • To convert a legend from a 'live linked' (or 'dynamic') map element to a simple graphic:
    • Right-click on the legend and choose Convert to Graphics
    • Once converted to a graphic, the legend pieces can be Ungrouped and manipulated as text boxes and individual symbols, allowing maximum control over the legend design
    • The downside of this operation is that the legend is no longer 'linked' to the map data: so if you add or remove a layer, or change a layer's symbology in the Table of Contents, these changes are not reflected in the (graphic) legend. For this reason, converting a legend to a graphic is usually done as one of the very last steps of the cartographic process.