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All Places > ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World > Blog > 2019 > June

This blog was written by Andy Skinner and was originally posted on the ArcGIS Blog

vector basemap arcgis vector tile style editor


Part of the Esri National Geographic Style map showing the central Mediterranean

The National Geographic Style Map


The National Geographic basemap, first released on in 2012, continues to be a popular map for reference, education, storytelling, and conservation mapping. This release of the new National Geographic Style Basemap builds on that history and completes the transition of Esri basemaps to using vector tiles!

The map retains much of the flavor of the original, including the rich cartography and saturated land colors at smaller scales, with a series of enhancements:



The vector style is now available worldwide at all scales, from global to the very largest of street-level information.

Part of the Esri National Geographic Style map showing part of Central Paris

National Geographic Style map at large scale

The Background

At smaller scales, a new cached base layer has been created, the National Geographic Style Base. It blends our multi-directional hillshade with a specially prepared version of the Esri/USGS Ecophysiographic Land Units Map. More information on the science behind ELUs can be found here. At mid-scales, the ELUs give way to a single tone land color. The hillshade continues into large scale, matching the coverage seen on other basemaps such as Topographic.

Esri National Geographic Style map base

The National Geographic Style map base only

The Vector Tile information.

All other map information is contained in the National Geographic Style, built from the same vector tile data as our other Esri vector basemaps. The sharpness of vector detail is retained regardless of the resolution of the screen and with the help of the Vector Style Editor this detail can be customized by you. Map content is subject to our regular update schedule.

The rich cartography of the original map continues into the vector tile data with the addition of color boundary tint bands, and a selection of distinctive open source fonts.

Part of the Esri National Geographic Style map showing Switzerland

National Geographic Style map showing Switzerland


As with the original, the National Geographic Style has value as a stand-alone reference map, as well as a basemap for your operational data. In the right circumstance it can add some real character to your work.


We hope that you find this vector style as appealing.


Watercolour Map

Posted by robert_green-esristaff Employee Jun 29, 2019

This blog was written by Wes Jones and was originally posted on the ArcGIS Blog.

vector basemap arcgis vector tile style editor


Have you ever felt like you were destined to do something? With this map, I felt a calling. A faint whisper at first. But—surely as a clock ticks—that whisper has grown. For as long as I have enjoyed making maps, I have particularly enjoyed watercolour maps. Easily, a watercolour map would be among my favourite map types. They make me smile, so what more could you ask for?

I am pleased to introduce Watercolour, the newest map in the Esri basemap collection.



Inspiration is magical. I can’t think of anything created in a vacuum. There are too many watercolor map artists to mention, but over the years I’ve tried to take mental notes on their work to build a catalogue of things I liked.

As an aside, I can’t tell you how many great winery and travel maps are painted so beautifully. I am also very drawn to fantasy maps, and the watercolour skill in that genre is phenomenal. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the awe-inspiring Stamen watercolor map. It still looks fresh to this day and is one of my favourites. I took inspiration from architectural plans, which are so often painted in watercolour. So are golf course maps. Those are some of my favourite, including one in particular, but I will get back to that later.


This map is made up of 64 painted images. What a task. I loved every minute of it, but it was slow going at first. Because I was gearing up for this map over such a long period, I even took watercolour painting classes to build up my skills. Funnily enough, it wasn’t until I watched my children paint that I found some of the techniques I had been searching for.

Once a colour scheme was chosen, the process went a little quicker. As I said, this map has been on my mind for a long time and is probably my fourth official attempt. Painting the watercolour swatches was great, but making them seamless repeating textures was almost as enjoyable. I spent a long time on this phase, as I wanted them to look right.


I designed almost the entire map in the ArcGIS Vector Tile Style Editor. It was probably the game changer that I didn’t know I was waiting for. If you haven’t used it, you really should give it a minute. I don’t think I can stress enough how important it was in the creation of this map.


As I mentioned earlier, a certain golf course map has inspired me over the years. It is from the golf course in Osoyoos (pronounced O-soo-yuss), British Columbia. Growing up, I spent all my summers in that town. One day my uncle came up to me, pointed at the golf course map on the wall, and said, “Have you ever looked at that map?” I had, but then he added, “Do you know who the first member of the club was?” I looked through the names on the wall, and there it was—my grandfather. Audrey from the club graciously took a picture for me.

Osoyoos Golf Course
Grandpa Jones

But this story has a point besides nostalgia. Beyond this map’s having extra meaning for me and beyond its being one of my early inspirations, I wanted to show off this golf course in my map. The problem was, the golf course wasn’t in our data. However, that didn’t remain a problem long. I jumped over to the Community Map Editor and digitized the course. Now, if you haven’t used this editor either, it is a game changer too.


Making this map has been a wonderful journey. I’d really like to thank all the teams here at Esri who have helped me along the way—without their help, this would still be just a whisper in my ear. I hope you enjoy it at least half as much as I have enjoyed making it and I can’t wait to see how you use it.

To conclude, I want to take you on a tour.

Watercolour World view
Watercolour Europe view
Watercolour Japan view
Watercolour Montenegro
Watercolour Boston
Watercolour Hawaii
Watercolour Manila
Watercolour New Delhi
Watercolour Berlin
Watercolour Oakland
Watercolour Netherlands

And finally…

Watercolour Osoyoos

This blog was originally published by Wes Jones on May 24, 2019, on the ArcGIS blog page.  



As map makers we make maps. However, that doesn’t mean that each map is made from scratch. It is just as often the case that a map is updated, tweaked, or redesigned. I want to share some of my journey redesigning the Navigation Basemap.



There were several reasons why a redesign was in order. Other than needing a freshening up (as all maps need periodically), there were areas identified as needing adjustment to better serve some common use cases. Some of the main concerns were road widths being too thin, the label hierarchy, and some colour selections.



This map is a heavily used map with many different users, so the changes couldn’t be so drastic as to radically change the look.



Any map redesign is nuanced, but I want to look at five things that helped make this redesign more successful and that can be applied to similar projects:


I think this is one of the most important steps: feel gratitude. I was/am very grateful for what came before. The original map was a really nice design, which was a huge bonus. It made the redesign easier in many ways. Even if it hadn’t been, what comes before is one of the pillars for building that which comes after.


The map changes were focused around road widths, label hierarchy, and some colour adjustment. At first glance that doesn’t seem like a lot, but it really is. One change leads to another. By the end of the project, every single feature had been adjusted, and it really is a new map in so many ways.


It is important to have an open dialogue with the parties involved. Listen to their concerns and explain your choices. The more openness, the better a chance of success.


One obvious metric is whether the stakeholders are happy. Another measure of success in this project’s redesign was whether the changes generally went unnoticed by everyone else.


The update process never ends. There are already some tweaks that are needed. In the future, maybe I will have to do a complete redesign again, or maybe someone will have to update what I have done. The point is, it is never-ending journey.



Here is a look at some of the Navigation redesign. The new design is the first image in the following breakdown.

At the smallest scales the changes were very minimal. The colours are a hint more vibrant, and the city label positions were changed.

Navigation New Scale 2
Navigation Old Scale 2

At this scale, some of the focus was on changing the colour balance. It is also a good scale to see how the changes aren’t drastic and are mainly noticeable only in a side-by-side comparison.

Navigation New Scale 4
Navigation Old Scale 4

A goal at this scale was to help the transition and tone down the road density.

Navigation New Scale 6
Navigation Old Scale 6

This was another scale where that same road transition technique was applied.

Navigation New Scale 8
Navigation Old Scale 8

Again, that road transition technique was applied. It hasn’t been mentioned, but at this scale and others, the city labels are larger and darker than on the original map.

Navigation New Scale 9
Navigation Old Scale 9

This scale is a good example to again show how the maps are fairly similar but the new one is a bit more vibrant and the colours are balanced slightly differently.

Navigation New Scale 11
Navigation Old Scale 11

One goal at this scale was to promote the roads slightly more.

Navigation New Scale 12
Navigation Old Scale 12

This scale is a good example of the increased importance placed on street names in the hierarchy. The adjusted symbology also opens the map up too.

Navigation New Scale 13
Navigation Old Scale 13

The map changes the most at the largest scales. The roads start to become much wider, and the labels are much darker and larger. The buildings stand out more too. The colour scheme follows the previous patterns and is brighter and the map moves away from a slightly backgroundy look that is had before.

Navigation New Scale 15
Navigation Old Scale 15

This is the last example and a good illustration that shows how maps evolve. Our maps continue to get more detailed, and greater emphasis is placed on larger and larger scales. The maps have to continue to evolve to better represent those scales and details.

Navigation New Scale 18
Navigation Old Scale 18

Thanks for coming along with me on this journey. I had a great time. I want to note that the ArcGIS Vector Tile Style Editor was the tool used to redesign this map. If you haven’t used it, it is totally worth your time!

This blog post was originally posted to the ArcGIS blog page on May 23, 2019.


Since the last blog about Esri Vector Basemaps, we rolled out several data updates in our tile set. These changes include HERE commercial data updates, authoritative Community Maps Program contributions , Community Maps Editor additions of highly detailed “campus” areas, and open data updates. In addition to updated map content, several map styles were improved. The most notable change is in the World Navigation vector tile layer. The updated style allows for better use on mobile devices through Runtime as well as in ArcGIS Online and Pro applications. This separate blog post provides our cartographer’s insight to his Navigation redesign.


Navigation Vector Basemap

Updated Navigation vector basemap style


Basemap Localization:  Turkish

Turkish is our 18th language with localized maps, aside from our global English map. Each language displays in ten basemap styles. For localized language maps in your gallery, change your organization’s Region and Language in the General settings. Set Esri vector basemaps as the default gallery. This option is in the Map settings. More language updates are planned in future releases. Each link directs you to a group of web maps in that language:
Arabic | Chinese (Hong Kong) | Chinese (Taiwan) | Modern Chinese | Czech | Finnish | French| German | Hebrew | Italian | Japanese | Korean | Polish | Brazilian Portuguese | Russian |Spanish | Swedish | Turkish



Other Localization and Customization

Do you want one of your custom-styled Esri vector basemaps to displays a localized language? Our World_Basemap_v2 tile set includes the language data that allows you to do that. See the Esri Vector Basemap Reference Document (v2) for details on how to customize your map to expose translated labels. The reference document includes the list of layers supported and the 2-digit language code you apply to the json. Try starting with one of our existing localized map styles and apply your own cartographic styling.

Additionally, the reference document provides how-to details on customizing Esri vector basemap boundaries and names to show different world views. Boundaries are changeable from disputed to non-disputed. Displaying alternate names for select features is possible with json edits (for example:  The Gulf -or- Persian Gulf -or- Arabian Gulf).


Esri Vector Basemaps Tile Style Editor

Customize the look of your own vector basemaps

In addition to language or geopolitical customization, you can also edit overall cartographic styling. Change the root.json code in a text editor and update your tile layer. Alternately, try the ArcGIS Vector Tile Style Editor (beta) app for a user-friendly styling experience.  The Quick Editor function changes groups of features on layers en masse.  In contrast, the editor also has an Edit Layer Styles option for a deep dive into individual map specifications. Change style settings for text, sprites, lines, polygons, and point features with the editor app. Use it to edit an Esri vector basemap style or your own vector tile layer created through ArcGIS Pro.

We also have a Customizing Esri’s Vector Basemaps series of story maps. Topics include the Basics, Color, Lines, Labels, and Sprites. These reference tools can help when you’re modifying an existing vector basemap or when you’re creating your own multi-scale vector maps.


The Vector Road Ahead

Stay tuned to this blog page and the vector basemap group for new vector basemap styles available in ArcGIS Online. Some new map styles are being built for specific apps while others  provide unique cartographic presentations of the Esri Vector Basemap tile set.


Esri Vector Basemaps:  Feedback

Have you ever seen a problem with Esri Vector Basemap data or display? Report issues directly on this Feedback Map. Our team reviews your comments and considers the update for one of our frequent releases.