Explore a scene

A scene is similar to a map, but combines 2D and 3D data. Before you create your own scene, you'll explore one that's already been created and become familiar with 3D navigation controls.

Navigate a scene

Web scenes are published on ArcGIS Online and can be viewed using Scene Viewer. If a scene is shared publicly, like the one you'll explore, you can open it without signing in.

  1. Open the Scene of Zurich, Switzerland.

    Web scene showing Zurich, Switzerland

    The scene is focused on the city center, or Altstadt, of Zurich. The Layers window lists the scene's layers. Currently, layers showing trees and buildings are turned on, while a layer showing a proposed green building design is turned off.

    The scene also contains buildings and trees for the surrounding area. This content is part of the basemap.

  2. Click the Zoom in button.

    Zoom in button

    The scene zooms closer to the city center. You can similarly click the Zoom out button to zoom out.


    You can also zoom in or out using the mouse scroll wheel.

  3. Drag the scene with the left mouse button to pan.
  4. Drag the scene with the right mouse button to rotate.

    You can change the mouse controls for panning and rotating. Under the Zoom in and Zoom out buttons, click the Toggle to pan or rotate in 3D button. Doing so switches the controls, so the left mouse button rotates and the right mouse button pans. You can switch the controls back to the default by clicking the button again.

  5. Click the Initial view button.

    Initial view button

    The scene returns to its original extent.

Explore the layers

Next, you'll learn more about the scene's layers by looking at the legend and layer pop-ups.

  1. In the Layers window, click Legend.

    Legend tab in the Layers window

    The legend explains which symbols correspond to which layers. The Zurich Buildings layer consists of polygons with roof details. The Zurich Trees layer has different symbols depending on the species of each tree.

    Legend with symbols for buildings and trees

  2. Click Layers to return to the list of layers.

    One layer is turned off, making it invisible on the map.

  3. Check Zurich Green Building to turn it on.

    Zurich Green Building layer in the list of layers


    To make a layer invisible on the scene, uncheck it.

    It may be difficult to see the layer at the full zoom extent. You can navigate directly to it using the list of layers.

  4. For Zurich Green Building, click the Zoom to button.

    Zoom to button for the Zurich Green Building layer

    The scene zooms to the layer.

  5. Zoom, pan, and rotate the scene to explore the green building.

    The green building on the scene

    This layer shows a proposed green building to be built in the city. It has more detail than the other buildings, with terraces, realistic facades, and vegetation.

  6. Click the green building.

    Its pop-up appears. It tells you about the building and who designed it.

    Pop-up for the green building

  7. Close the pop-up.

Use slides

You'll also explore the slides that have been created for this scene. Slides enable users to navigate to specific scene extents and are useful for highlighting areas of interest. Each slide can have a unique camera position, basemap, and layer visibility settings. This scene has four slides.

  1. At the bottom of the scene, click the Zurich - Altstadt slide (the first slide).

    To see the name of a slide, point to it.

    Zurich - Altstadt slide

    The scene returns to its initial extent. The green building layer is turned off.

  2. Click the Bürkliplatz slide (the second slide).

    Bürkliplatz slide

    This slide has a smaller extent, showing only the Bürkliplatz in downtown Zurich. Though it may be difficult to see, parts of the basemap are turned off so they don't overlap with the trees and buildings.

  3. Click the Proposed green building slide (the third slide).

    The scene zooms to the location of the green building layer. The green building layer is turned on, as well as the parts of the basemap that were turned off in the previous slide.

  4. Click the Green building terrace slide (the fourth slide).

    Green building terrace slide

    This slide shows the view from one of the green building's terraces.


    To look around as though you were standing in the scene, press the B key and drag the scene with your left mouse button. For more navigation tips, see the Scene navigation documentation page.

    Using slides, you can give the users of your scene a tour of the most important locations. Ensuring users see what's most important is key to a successful scene.

  5. Close the scene.

Next, you'll create a scene similar to the one you explored.

Create a scene

Now that you know how to navigate a web scene, you'll create one yourself. First, you'll choose a basemap and add layers. Then, you'll change symbols and other aspects of your scene's appearance. Lastly, you'll capture slides of key locations.

Choose a basemap

Before you add anything to your scene, you'll choose a basemap. A basemap is a background map that provides geographic context for your data. You'll use a 3D basemap with 3D buildings and trees.

First, you'll sign in. Signing in will allow you to save your scene later.

  1. Sign in to your ArcGIS organizational account.

    If you don't have an organizational account, see options for software access.

  2. On your organization home page, on the ribbon, click Scene.

    Scene option on the ribbon

    Scene Viewer opens. A gallery of featured scenes appears.

  3. Click New scene.

    New scene option

    A new scene, showing the world at a global scale, appears. You'll navigate to your area of interest: Zurich, Switzerland.

  4. In the Search window, type Zurich, CHE and press Enter.

    Search window showing Zurich, CHE

    The scene zooms to Zurich. A Search result pop-up indicates the location you searched for.

  5. Click the Clear search button.

    Clear search button

    The pop-up is removed.

    By default, a scene uses the Topographic basemap. (If your organization has customized basemap settings, your default basemap may be different.) This basemap shows geographic context such as water bodies, roads, and labels, but it doesn't include 3D information. You'll switch to a basemap more suited for 3D.

  6. On the toolbar, click the Basemap tool.

    Basemap tool on the toolbar

  7. In the Basemap window, click Topographic.

    A basemap gallery appears. It includes several default basemaps. 3D basemaps have 3D under the name.

  8. Click the Topographic 3D basemap.

    Topographic 3D basemap in the Basemap window

    The basemap changes. The Basemap window lists the basemap's 3D layers: Buildings, Places and Labels, and Trees. Each layer can be turned off. For now, you'll keep them all on.

  9. Zoom to the center of Zurich. Pan and tilt the scene to see the 3D buildings and trees.

    Scene showing Zurich's city center with the 3D basemap

Add a layer of trees

The basemap has buildings and trees, but they are less detailed than the ones in the scene you explored. You'll add a layer of trees that contains detailed information about the species and height of each tree.

  1. On the Designer toolbar, click Add layers and choose Browse layers.

    Browse layers option in the Add layers menu


    To expand the Designer toolbar so its button names are visible, click the Expand button at the bottom of the toolbar.

    The layer you want is hosted on ArcGIS Online.

  2. In the Browse layers pane, click My content and choose ArcGIS Online.

    ArcGIS Online option in the Browse layers pane

  3. In the search bar, type Zurich Trees owner:Learn_ArcGIS.

    When searching for content on ArcGIS Online, adding owner: filters the results to content owned by the account you specify.

  4. In the list of search results, for the Zurich Trees feature layer, click Add.

    Add button for the Zurich Trees layer

    The layer is added to the scene as 2D points.

    Scene with the Zurich Trees layer as 2D points

  5. In the Browse layers pane, click Done.

    The pane closes and the Layer Manager pane appears. It lists the layer you added.

Style the trees in 3D

Scene Viewer can display both 2D and 3D data. The layer you added is a feature layer that could also be displayed in a 2D map, which is why the default symbols are generic and flat. Next, you'll style the layer to use realistic 3D tree symbols based on each tree's height.

  1. In the Layer Manager pane, click Zurich Trees.

    Zurich Trees layer in the Layer Manager pane

    Options for styling the layer appear. The layer can be styled in 2D or 3D. It can also be styled based on an attribute. Attributes contain nongeographic information associated with a layer. You'll style the trees in 3D based on an attribute that gives the species of each tree. Later, you'll also use attribute information about tree height and rotation.

  2. For Choose the main attribute to visualize, choose Species (remap).

    Species (remap) attribute

    On the scene, the tree symbols change. Now, each species of tree has a different color.

  3. For Choose a drawing style, under 3D Types, click Select.

    Select button for 3D Types drawing style

    The symbols update again. Instead of flat points, each tree is represented by a 3D cone.

    Scene with cone symbols for trees

    Next, you'll change the cones to symbols that look like trees.

  4. Under 3D Types, click Options.

    Options button for 3D Types drawing style

    More options for the symbols appear. You can change the symbol for each tree species, or select all symbols and make changes for every species at once.

  5. In the Attribute Values list, click the symbol for Fagus to select it.

    Fagus symbol in the Attribute Values list

  6. Click Marker.

    Marker button

  7. In the Marker window, change Basic shapes to Vegetation.

    Vegetation symbol type

    A list of realistic symbols based on different species of trees appears.

  8. Click the List view button.

    List view button

    Now, the symbols are organized as a searchable list. Fagus is the genus of beech trees.

  9. Search for European Beech. Click the European Beech symbol.

    European Beech symbol

  10. Click Done.

    All Fagus trees have changed their symbol.

  11. Change the markers of the remaining types of trees. You can choose your own symbols or consult the following list:
    • Change Tilia to the Basswood marker.
    • Change Platanus to the American Sycamore marker.
    • Change Acer to the Norway Maple marker.
    • Change Robinia to the Southern Magnolia marker.
    • Change Aesculus to the Conker Tree marker.
    • Change Celtis australis to the Palo Verde marker.
    • Change Sophora japonica to the Western Juniper marker.
    • Change Prunus to the Apricot marker.
    • Change Buxus to the Boxwood marker.

    If you don't want to change every tree individually, you can change all of them to be the same symbol. Next to Attribute Values, click Select all to select every type of tree. Then, change the marker to a symbol you like. This method is quicker, but you lose some of the realism of having different tree symbols in the scene.

    Attribute Values table with tree symbols

    There is also an Other category, which contains tree species that have only a few features. By default, this category is hidden on the scene, so you don't need to change it.

    Next, you'll apply changes that affect all markers. You'll change each marker's size and rotation to reflect the height and rotation attributes of each tree.

  12. Under All markers, for Size, choose Height and change the unit to m (meters). For Rotation, choose Rotation.

    Size and Rotation parameters

  13. For Elevation mode, choose On the ground.

    Elevation mode parameter

  14. Click Done. Click Done again.

    The scene's trees now have realistic 3D symbols.

    Scene with 3D tree symbols

  15. Zoom in to view the trees more closely.

    Scene with overlapping tree symbols

    The symbols of the trees layer you added overlap with the basic 3D trees from the basemap.

Mask the basemap

To prevent the basemap from interfering with your own layers, you'll create a mask. A mask turns off the basemap for a specific area you draw on the scene.

First, you'll navigate to the full extent of your study area from a top-down view.

  1. Confirm the scene is selected by panning it. On your keyboard, press the P key.

    The scene shifts to a top-down view. The P key is a keyboard shortcut that helps with navigating a scene.

  2. Zoom and pan the scene (without tilting) until you can see the entire extent of your trees layer.

    Scene showing a top-down view of the study area

  3. If necessary, on the toolbar, click the Basemap tool. In the Basemap window, under 3D layers mask, click Create.

    Create button for 3D layers mask

    Options for creating a mask appear and the cursor changes. By default, the Show outside option is selected, which means everything outside your mask will be shown. (The other option, Show inside, does the opposite.) Next, you'll draw a polygon on the scene surrounding your data.

  4. On the scene, click above the northernmost point of the trees layer.

    Northernmost point of the trees layer on the scene

    A vertex is added to the scene where you clicked. You'll continue to add vertices to draw the polygon.

  5. Add vertices that trace down the river to the east of your study area.

    If you place a vertex in the wrong spot, press Ctrl+Z to undo it.

    Scene showing vertices along the river

  6. Add vertices that trace up the river to the west of your study area. When you reach the top, double-click your final vertex to finish the mask.

    If necessary, you can zoom in and out with the scroll wheel to better position your vertices.

    Scene with completed mask

    When the mask is finished, all features in the 3D basemap inside the mask are hidden.

  7. In the Basemap window, under 3D layers mask, click Done.
  8. Pan, tilt, and zoom the scene until you can see the changes.

    Scene showing the effects of the mask

    Your trees still appear inside the mask, but no buildings.

Add layers of buildings

Next, you'll add detailed 3D features of buildings in downtown Zurich. While the basemap has basic building features, the ones you'll add have more accurate heights and roof shapes to give a realistic representation of the Zurich urban environment.

  1. On the Designer toolbar, click Add layers and choose Browse layers.
  2. Click My content and choose ArcGIS Online. Search for Zurich Buildings owner:Learn_ArcGIS.

    The search returns the results Zurich Buildings and Zurich Green Building. You'll add both of these layers, starting with the first.

  3. For Zurich Buildings, click Add.

    Add button for the Zurich Buildings layer

    The buildings are added.

  4. Explore the scene.

    Scene with the Zurich Buildings layer

    The buildings have detailed, accurate roof shapes, compared to the buildings in the basemap, which had only flat roofs. Because of your mask, the basemap's buildings are hidden, so there is no overlap.

    3D building features with flat roofs are called level of detail 1 (LOD1), while features with more complex roofs are called LOD2. Next, you'll add a LOD3 feature, which includes even more realistic features on the building's surface, such as terraces and windows.

  5. In the Browse layers pane, for Zurich Green Building, click Add.

    Add button for the Zurich Green Building layer

    The scene zooms to the building feature after you add it.

  6. If necessary, zoom out to see the entire building.

    Scene with Zurich Green Building layer

    This building, which is a proposed green building, has higher detail than the buildings you added before. It even includes vegetation on the building's roof and terraces.

  7. In the Browse layers pane, click Done.

Turn on shadows

Your scene is almost finished. You can give it even more realism by turning on shadows based on a time of day you specify.

  1. On the toolbar, click the Daylight/Weather tool.

    Daylight/Weather tool

  2. In the Daylight window, check the box next to Shadows.

    Shadows check box

    Shadows turn on. You can make them more dramatic by changing the time to dawn or dusk.

  3. Adjust the time slider to 08:45 AM CET.

    Time slider set to 08:45 AM CET

  4. Explore the scene.

    Scene with shadows

    The dramatic shadows help emphasize the detail of the buildings.

Capture slides

Now that your scene looks the way you want it, you'll capture slides so your audience can quickly navigate to areas of interest.

  1. On the Designer toolbar, click Slide Manager.

    Slide Manager button

    The Slide Manager pane appears. You have no slides, so your only option is to capture one. Before you do, you'll make sure the scene extent is the one you want your slide to have.

  2. Zoom, pan, and rotate the scene to show the full extent of downtown Zurich.

    Extent of the first slide

  3. In the Slide Manager pane, click Capture slide.

    Capture slide button

    The slide is added to the pane with a thumbnail and a default name. It also appears under the scene when you point to the scene.


    If you don't like the way a slide looks, you can click the Remove slide button to delete it. Alternatively, you can navigate to a new extent and click the Update slide button.

  4. For Slide 1, click the name of the slide, type Zurich - Altstadt, and press Enter.

    The slide is renamed.

    Zurich - Altstadt slide

  5. Zoom to another area of interest, such as the Bürkliplatz at the southern end of downtown Zurich.
  6. Click Capture slide. Rename the slide appropriately.

    Slide Manager pane with two slides

  7. Optionally, capture more slides.

    The green building is a good location for slides. Try tilting and panning the scene to get a good angle of the terraces.

Save the scene

Your scene is finished. You'll save it to your account so you can access it again and share it.

  1. At the bottom of the scene, click the Zurich - Altstadt slide to return to the full extent of downtown Zurich.

    When you save a scene, you have the option of saving the current scene extent as the default extent, so showing the entire area of interest is a good idea before saving.

  2. On the Designer toolbar, click Save.

    Save button

    The Save scene window appears. By default, the thumbnail is set to the current scene extent.

  3. For Title, type Downtown Zurich. For Summary, type A scene showing downtown Zurich with buildings and trees.

    Save scene window parameters

    You can optionally add search tags to help others search for and find your scene.

  4. Click Save.

    Your scene is saved. You can access it in your account's content.

What can you do with your scene next? You can share it so others can view it. You can also create an app that offers a specialized user experience. Other options include creating an ArcGIS StoryMaps story or embedding your scene in a website.

You can find more tutorials in the tutorial gallery.