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Create a map

In this lesson, you'll create a map that shows hurricane evacuation routes in Houston, Texas. First, you'll create a new map and locate Houston, Texas. Then, you'll add a map layer that shows evacuation routes. Lastly, you'll change the way your map and layers look to better display the data.

Begin a map

You'll begin your map by signing in to ArcGIS Online and navigating to your area of interest: Houston, Texas.

  1. Go to and sign in.

    If you don't have an ArcGIS account, you can sign up for a free public account or an ArcGIS free trial.

  2. On the ribbon, click Map.

    Map link on ribbon

    A new map opens.


    If you're in a new session, clicking Map will open a new map. Otherwise, it will open an existing map (the last map you were using). If an existing map opens, click New Map.

    Default map

    Your map's appearance varies based on your account or organizational settings and your browser window size. It may show the United States (like in the example image), the world, or another extent. The only layer on the map is the basemap, which provides geographic context such as water bodies and political boundaries. The default basemap is Topographic, but your map may have a different basemap depending on your organization's settings.

    Above the map is the ribbon. To the left side of the map is the Details pane, which provides information about the map and its layers. Next, you'll navigate to your area of interest.

  3. On the ribbon, in the search box, type Houston. In the list of suggested locations, click Houston, TX, USA.

    Search results for Houston, Texas


    Some ArcGIS organizations have custom address locators. You may encounter different search results than those in the example image.

    The map zooms to Houston. A Search result pop-up confirms the location.

    Map showing Houston, Texas

  4. Close the Search result pop-up.

Add a layer

Next, you'll add a layer to your map that shows hurricane evacuation routes in Houston. You'll add this layer from ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World, a collection of curated geographic data from around the globe.

  1. On the ribbon, click Add and choose Browse Living Atlas Layers.

    Browse Living Atlas Layers option

    The search pane appears. The layer you want to add is owned by the Federal User Community, an ArcGIS account that contains United States governmental data. You can find the layer more easily by adding the name of the layer's owner to the search terms.

  2. Confirm that Living Atlas is displayed at the top of the pane.
    For ArcGIS Enterprise users, confirm that ArcGIS Online is displayed at the top of the pane. In ArcGIS Enterprise, browsing Living Atlas layers exclusively searches for Living Atlas content curated by Esri, whereas in ArcGIS Online, browsing Living Atlas layers will also search for authorized Living Atlas content submitted by other users such as the Federal User Community.
  3. In the search box, type Hurricane Evacuation Routes. Then, type owner:Federal_User_Community.

    Search for Hurricane Evacuation Routes in ArcGIS Online

  4. Press Enter.

    The search returns a single result.

  5. For the Hurricane Evacuation Routes layer, click the Add button.

    Add Hurricane Evacuation Routes layer

    The layer is added to the map.

    Map of hurricane evacuation routes

    The routes are displayed as dark gray lines that travel throughout the city, but they don't stand out clearly against the Topographic basemap. You'll change the basemap to one with a lighter color scheme so the routes stand out.

  6. In the search pane, click the Back button.

    You return to the Contents pane. It lists all layers on the map, including the basemap.


    You may need to click the Show Contents of Map button to see the Contents pane.

  7. On the ribbon, click Basemap and choose Light Gray Canvas.

    Basemap gallery


    Some ArcGIS organizations may have different default basemaps. If you don't see the Light Gray Canvas basemap, click Add and choose Browse Living Atlas Layers. Search for World Light Gray and add the World Light Gray Base and World Light Gray Reference layers. Then, in the Contents pane, click the More Options button for each layer and choose Move to Basemap.

    The basemap changes. The evacuation routes stand out much more against the lighter-colored, less-detailed basemap.

    Map with Light Gray Canvas basemap

Navigate the map

Before you continue, it's a good idea to explore the map and familiarize yourself with Houston's geography. With a better understanding of the area, you'll be better informed to make decisions and draw conclusions later on. Before you explore, you'll create a bookmark of the current extent so you can quickly return to it when needed.

  1. On the ribbon, click Bookmarks and choose Add Bookmark.

    Add Bookmark option

    A text box for the bookmark's name appears.

  2. In the text box, type Houston and press Enter.

    The bookmark is added. You can choose this bookmark to automatically navigate to the map extent where the bookmark was created.

  3. Close the Bookmarked places window.

    You're now ready to explore the city.

  4. Zoom in to the center of the city, near the Houston label, until the Buffalo, Brays, and White Oak Bayous appear on the map.

    There are several ways to zoom. You can click the Zoom In button in the corner of the map or scroll up with the mouse wheel. Alternatively, you can press Shift while drawing a box around the area you want to zoom to.

  5. If necessary, pan the map until all three bayous are visible.

    Map zoomed to bayous

    Houston has several major bayous (flat, low-lying marshes or wetlands). During a hurricane, these bayous are prone to flooding and can become especially dangerous. You may want to keep this area in mind when you later identify high-risk areas.

  6. Add a bookmark for the current map extent. Name the bookmark Bayous.
  7. On the ribbon, click Bookmarks and choose Houston.

    The map zooms to its original extent.

Change the style

Although the evacuation routes stand out more against the light basemap, they could be even more eye-catching. You'll change the layer's style, also known as its symbology, to give the routes a brighter color and a thicker line width.

  1. In the Contents pane, point to the Hurricane Evacuation Routes layer and click the Change Style button.

    Change Style button

    The Change Style pane appears. Layers can have either a single symbol or multiple symbols based on attribute information such as names or speed limits. You'll learn more about attribute information later. Right now, you're only interested in showing the location of roads, not particular characteristics of each road, so you'll continue to symbolize the layer with a single symbol.

  2. For Location (Single symbol), click Options.

    Location (Single symbol) Options button

    The pane changes to provide multiple style options, such as the layer's transparency or the range of map extents at which it is visible. You'll change the color and size of the symbol itself.

  3. Click Symbols.

    Symbols option

    A window opens with a color palette and other options.

  4. On the color palette, choose the blue color on the bottom row, fourth column from the right.

    Dark blue color on palette

    After you choose the color, the six-character hexadecimal code changes to #004C73.

  5. For Line Width, choose 3 px.

    Line Width option

  6. Click OK.

    The new line color and width are applied to the layer.

  7. In the Change Style pane, click OK. Then, click Done.

    Map with blue evacuation routes

    With the thicker, brighter symbol, the routes are eye-catching and stand out.

    The routes layer is a feature layer, which means it consists of individual features with distinct characteristics. In this case, each route segment is a feature. You can view a feature's characteristics, also known as its attribute information, by clicking the feature on the map and opening its pop-up.

  8. Click a segment of an evacuation route.

    Its pop-up opens.

    Pop-up for I-45 evacuation route

    From the pop-up, you learn name of the route (in the example image, I-45), as well as whether the route is paved and what type of road it is. The owner of the Hurricane Evacuation Routes layer specifically configured this pop-up to present attribute information in a clear and readable way. You'll learn how to configure pop-ups in a later lesson.

  9. Click a few different route segments to view their pop-ups. When finished, close the pop-up.

Save and share the map

Next, you'll save your evacuation map and assign it a title, tags, and a summary to make it easy to find and identify later. Then, you'll share the map to make it accessible.

  1. On the ribbon, click the Save button and click Save As.

    Save button

    The Save Map window opens.

  2. For Title, type Houston Evacuation Map.

    Next, you'll add tags. Tags are terms that allow users to search for your map on ArcGIS Online or in your ArcGIS Enterprise organization.

  3. For Tags, type each of the following tags, pressing Enter after each one:

    • Hurricanes
    • Roads
    • Evacuation Routes
    • Houston

    The summary appears on your map's details page and should provide information so users better understand your map's purpose.

  4. For Summary, type This map shows hurricane evacuation routes in Houston, Texas.

    Save Map window parameters

  5. Click Save Map.

    The map is saved. It now appears in your account's content. You can access your content by clicking ArcGIS (public account) or Home (organizational account) and choosing Content. For now, you'll set the sharing permissions.

  6. On the ribbon, click the Share button.

    Share button

  7. Set the sharing permissions based on your account type.

    ArcGIS Online

    In the Share window, check Everyone (public).

    ArcGIS Enterprise

    In the Share window, check Everyone.


    If you are using an organizational account, your map will also be shared with your organization. Alternatively, you can also choose to share it only within ArcGIS Enterprise or select groups within your organization.

  8. Click Done.

    You can also feature your map on a public-facing (ArcGIS Online) or internal (ArcGIS Enterprise) website by embedding the map. In the Share window, click Embed in Website and choose the map options and symbols you want. Then, copy the HTML code provided and paste it into your web page.

In this lesson, you located the city of Houston and added a layer showing hurricane evacuation routes. Then, you changed the basemap and the style of the routes. Finally, you saved your map and shared it with the public.

Web maps often include multiple layers of data to highlight spatial patterns and relationships. In the next lesson, you'll add a layer of Houston demographic data and identify vulnerable areas in need of evacuation assistance.