Choose a basemap (Map Viewer)

A basemap provides a background of geographical context for the content you want to display on a map. When you create a map, you can choose the basemap to use. You can change the basemap of the current map at any time using the basemap gallery or your own layer as the basemap. You can also create a basemap containing multiple layers from the Basemap pane in Map Viewer (formerly a separate beta installation but now included with the portal automatically).


You can use keyboard shortcuts to quickly complete common workflows in Map Viewer. To view the full list of keyboard shortcuts in Map Viewer, press Alt+? on Microsoft Windows or Option+? on Mac.

Select a basemap from the gallery

The basemap gallery includes a variety of choices, including topography, imagery, and streets.

  1. Confirm that you are signed in and, if you want to save your changes, that you have privileges to create content.
  2. Open Map Viewer and click Basemap Basemap on the Contents (dark) toolbar.

    The Basemap pane appears.

  3. Click the thumbnail of the basemap you want to use in the map.
  4. View information about a basemap in the gallery by first adding it to your map.
    1. At the top of the Basemap pane, click Current Basemap.
    2. On any of the listed reference layers or base layers, click Options Options and choose Properties.

      The Properties pane appears. This pane displays information about the layer, such as its symbology, transparency, blending, and visible range settings.


      Some basemap layers include a Show in basemap legend toggle button. You can turn off this toggle button if you want to hide the basemap legend in ArcGIS apps that support basemap legends.

  5. Click Save and open Save and open and click Save to save the new basemap to the map.

Use a basemap that is not in the gallery

In addition to the basemap gallery, you can also use a basemap by searching for an existing layer or adding a layer from the web. Several layer types are supported. When you use a basemap this way, the map uses the coordinate system of that basemap instead of Web Mercator, the coordinate system of Esri basemaps.

  1. Verify that you are signed in, open the map in Map Viewer, and click Layers Layers on the Contents (dark) toolbar.

    The Layers pane appears.

  2. In the Layers pane, click Add layer.
  3. Choose where you want to search for the layer from the drop-down menu at the top of the pane.
    1. Do any of the following to find the layer you want:
      • Type search terms in the search box. You can also use advanced search to narrow the search results.
      • Display layer results in different ways using the view buttons (Table Table and List List).
      • Click Sort Sort to sort the layer results and change the sort direction as needed.
    2. Click the title of the layer you want as the basemap.
    3. At the bottom of the pane, click Use as basemap.
    4. Click Close (X) on the Browse layers pane to close it.

Create a multilayer basemap

You can create a multilayer basemap using operational layers in the map. Operational layers are the layers that you interact with and that draw on top of the basemap. By moving certain types of operational layers into the basemap layer group in the Layers pane, you can create a basemap with multiple layers. This is useful when you have two or more layers that you want to use together as a background, or context, for the map—for example, if you have a base imagery layer and want to add a map image layer that includes reference labels on top of it, or if you want to combine multiple base layers, such as a hillshade imagery layer with a topographic map image layer.

Once you have moved layers to the basemap layer group, you can move them up or down in the group, specify a layer to be used as a reference layer, and move a layer out of the basemap layer group. After creating a multilayer basemap, you can rename any of the layers, including the basemap layer group title, and save the basemap. Multilayer basemaps can be used in your organization's basemap gallery.

  1. Confirm that you are signed in and, if you want to save your changes, that you have privileges to create content.
  2. Do one of the following in Map Viewer:
    • Create a map and add the layers you want to include in the basemap.
    • Open an existing map containing layers you want to include in your basemap.
  3. Browse to the layer that you want to move to the basemap and do the following:
    1. Modify the layer as needed. Depending on the layer type, modifications can include configuring pop-ups, changing the style, and so on. Any changes you make persist when you move the layer to the basemap.
    2. Click Options Options and click Move to basemap.
  4. Repeat the previous step for each layer you want to include in the multilayer basemap.
  5. Tip:
    You can also bypass the Layers pane and add layers directly to the basemap. To do so, click Basemap Basemap on the Contents (dark) toolbar and click Current basemap at the top of the Basemap pane. Click Add layer in the Base section of the pane to browse layers and add them directly to the basemap.
  6. Optionally, click Basemap Basemap on the Contents toolbar and click Current basemap at the top of the Basemap pane to do any of the following:
    • Drag a layer into the Reference section of the Basemap pane to specify it as a reference layer. Reference layers always draw on top of all other layers on the map and appear at the top of the basemap layer group in the Contents pane. Reference layers typically include labels indicating transportation routes, place-names, and other reference features. You can always drag the layer back to the Base section to make it a nonreference basemap layer.
    • Browse to a layer and click Options Options. Select Move from basemap to move the layer out of the basemap. The layer is moved out of the basemap layer group and back into the Layers pane.

      The bottommost basemap layer can only be moved out of the basemap layer group if the basemap layer group contains another basemap layer of the same type. For example, you can move a tile basemap layer only if the basemap layer group contains another tile layer.

    • Drag a layer up or down to reposition it in the basemap layer group.

      Basemap layers in a multilayer basemap can only be reordered if the basemap layer group contains at least two tile layers, two nontile layers, or two reference layers. Reference layers cannot be moved below nonreference layers.

    • Select Rename, type a new name in the text box, and click OK to rename the basemap layer group title or a basemap layer.
  7. Click Save and open Save and open and click Save to save the multilayer basemap.

    You must be signed in and have privileges to create content to save the basemap.


You can set a background color for areas that the basemap doesn't cover when using custom basemaps or layer blending. Click Change background color at the bottom of the Basemap pane to access the background color settings.

Basemap considerations

Keep the following in mind when working with basemaps:

  • The following layer types are supported for custom and multilayer basemaps: imagery, map image, tile, vector tile, WMS OGC, WMTS OGC, Bing, and OpenStreetMap.
  • Map Viewer does not display layers on a map without a working basemap because the basemap establishes the coordinate system of the map. Once you save a map with a basemap, Map Viewer only uses that basemap; it doesn't revert to a default basemap if yours is unavailable. You can repair a map using a different basemap as long as the spatial reference of the original and new basemap are the same. To repair a map, select a different basemap or use the basemapURL URL parameter.
  • When you use a basemap that is not in the basemap gallery, some of the zoom levels may be missing. This occurs because the map displays the zoom levels of the current basemap, for example, the World Topographic basemap. To see the additional zoom levels in the basemap you've added, save the map, close the Map Viewer page (for example, go to the Gallery page), and reopen the map. The additional zoom levels appear.