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Is it possible to improve the resolution of a basemap from ArcGIS Online?
No, it is not possible to improve the resolution of a basemap from ArcGIS Online. The basemap service layers are optimized for the average monitor, which is at 96 dpi. Even if the metafile size is increased in Advanced ArcMap Settings, the quality of the imagery remains the same.
Issues may arise when attempting to print or export maps with service layers, as the map printed is in low quality. Most cached web map services such as those available from ArcGIS Online are designed for viewing on the screen at this resolution and are expected to print at a lower quality because the services are not designed for printing at higher quality. The basemaps are provided as services, thus such behavior is expected. There are no settings that can be changed at the user’s end to obtain a higher export quality. Other than that, certain areas on maps are displayed in lower quality in ArcMap because the imagery basemap is a patchwork of imagery, therefore different areas vary in resolution.
As a suggestion, use Data Appliance for ArcGIS to get a better printing quality and fast rendering speeds as the software contains the local copy for Esri’s online basemaps. For more information on Data Appliance for ArcGIS, refer to the following ArcGIS Web Help page: Data Appliance overview.