Knowledge Base - Technical Articles

Technical Article   Problem:  Maps print or export blocky, chunky, low quality, or raster banded from ArcMap

Article ID: 17332
Bug Id: N/A
Software:  ArcGIS - ArcEditor 8.3, 8.1, 8.1.2, 8.2, 9.0, 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 9.3.1, 10 ArcGIS - ArcInfo 8.2, 9.0, 8.0.1, 8.0.2, 8.1, 8.1.2, 8.3, 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 9.3.1, 10 ArcGIS - ArcView 8.3, 8.1, 8.1.2, 8.2, 9.0, 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 10, 9.3.1
Platforms:  Windows NT 4.0, 2000, XP


Maps printed or exported from ArcMap are bitmapped, scattered, banded, or display with low quality.


This happens for several reasons, independently or combined:

• The maps are printed or exported with either a low output resolution or a low Output Image Quality (OIQ) setting.

• The map uses a picture/bitmap fill, picture marker, and/or transparent symbology.

When exported or printed, ArcMap flattens and rasterizes the layer that is symbolized with either a picture fill, picture marker or transparency, and any layers beneath it in the Table Of Contents (TOC).

Other data frames in the map that do not contain picture fills, picture markers, or transparency are not effected.

Solution or Workaround

What is the preferred method for exporting and printing items in ArcMap? Answer
It is highly recommended to use ArcGIS Pro for printing and exporting, especially when experiencing issues caused by the limitations of the ArcMap display engine. More specifically, ArcGIS Pro is not restricted by the graphical device interface (GDI) limitations that some users experience in ArcMap. For example, transparency is natively supported in ArcGIS Pro, preventing the rasterization of layers. Additionally, ArcGIS Pro supports transparency in layout elements.

  ArcGIS Pro does not support exporting Adobe Illustrator files; it is recommended to export using PDF or SVG instead. Also, because ArcGIS Pro does not use the Windows GDI, font substitution or fallback does not occur in ArcGIS Pro. Boxes may appear if using characters unsupported by the chosen font.

If using ArcGIS Pro is not an option, use any of the following options below.

  • Increase the output resolution. -show me-

    Instructions provided describe how to modify the dots per inch (dpi) or output resolution from ArcMap default when printing or exporting at a higher or lower resolution.
    • When printing with the Windows printer engine:
      -show me-
    • When printing with the PostScript printer engine:
      - Select the PostScript printer description PPD file:
      -show me-
      - Select the output resolution:
      -show me-
    • When printing with the ArcPress printer engine:
      - ArcMap 9.2 and above:
      -show me-
      - ArcMap 9.0 and 9.1:
      -show me-
      - ArcMap 8.x:
      -show me-
    • ArcMap 9.x and above exporters:
      - EMF, EPS, PDF, AI, and SVG
      -show me-
      -show me-
    • ArcMap 8.x exporters:
      - EMF, EPS, TIFF, PDF, CGM, and the ArcPress formats PCX, PNG, JPEG, and TIFF
      -show me-
      - BMP
      -show me-
      - JPEG
      -show me-
      - ArcMap export format default resolutions
      -show me-

       When exporting, always set the Output Image Quality to Best.

  • Increase the Output Image Quality (OIQ) setting. -show me-

    The Output Image Quality (OIQ) option allows the amount of raster resampling that occurs when a map is printed or exported to be controlled.

    This resampling affects any raster data, transparent map layers, and picture fill symbols.

    Increasing OIQ towards 'Best' improves the quality of the output image but can also significantly increase file size and printing time.

    Decreasing OIQ towards 'Fast' decreases files sizes and printing times, but with a proportional degradation of the image quality.

    The setting between 'Normal' and 'Best' is a good compromise solution. This setting combines good output quality with manageable file sizes and acceptable printing and exporting times.
    Instructions provided describe how to use the Output Image Quality (OIQ) option. The OIQ option is available on the Page Setup dialog box in ArcMap 8.x versions, but was removed from Page Setup and added separately to both the Print and Export Map dialog boxes for version 9.x and above.

    • ArcMap 9.x and above
      1. When printing, click File/Print.

      When exporting, click File/Export. Click the Options triangle to expand the Export Options panel if it is not already visible.

      2. Move the Output Image Quality slider left or right to increase or decrease the output image quality, or type a 1 into the x value in the edit box. For example, 1:1 equates to Best mode or no change.
      -show me-

      The Output Image Quality setting is only available for the five vector export formats: EMF, PDF, EPS, AI, and SVG. For raster export formats, OIQ always exports with a setting equivalent to Best. For those formats, the resolution setting can be decreased to create smaller export files.
    • ArcMap 8.x
      1. Click File/Page Setup.

      2. Move the Output Image Quality slider left or right to increase or decrease the output image quality.

      For ArcMap versions 8.1 through 8.3, the slider snaps to the tic marks.
      -show me-

      For ArcMap versions 8.0.1 and 8.0.2, the slider is continuous.
  • Reorder the map elements and layers to have layers containing picture fill, picture marker, or transparent symbols at the lowest possible order in the Table Of Contents.
  • Replace the Picture Fill symbols with simpler, vector fills.
  • Replace the Picture Marker symbols with font-based vector marker symbols.
  • Remove transparency. For exported maps, transparency can be re-applied to the desired elements in an external editing application, such as Adobe Illustrator.

Related Information

Created: 3/21/2001
Last Modified: 9/23/2015

Article Rating: (1)
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By Bill_Schmid - 06/19/2013 1:46 PM

The article is incorrect or the solution didn’t work.

The article said to improve the quality of my output, increase the OIC, which I did. All that did was increase the file size (I'm exporting to a PDF). Image quality of the images from the WMS server I'm using didn't improve at all. The article also said to increase the output resolution. I did. All that did was increase the file size. If I zoom in on my map in Data View, the higher resolution images are there, ArcGIS just doesn't request or use them.