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FAQ: Is it possible to display rasters as layers after exporting to PDF?

Question

Is it possible to display rasters as layers after exporting to PDF?

Answer

No, it is not possible to display rasters as layers after exporting to PDF. This is a design limitation of ArcGIS Desktop due to its dependency on the Windows GDI technology. When working with more than one raster layer, the rasters are exported as a single raster image. The functionality to turn a layer on and off after exporting to PDF is available only with vector data.

Nevertheless, there are a few alternatives to this issue:

  • Split the map into multiple data frames, with one raster in each. Align the data frames on the layout page to ensure the layers are right on top of one another. As the PDF has each data frame in a separate 'folder', they can be toggled separately. However, this does not work when using Data Driven Pages, as Data Driven Pages can only be configured for one data frame per MXD file.
  • Use the Production Mapping extension. The extension has an entire set of tools dedicated to producing high quality PDF. For more details, refer to the following help page: Exporting a raster with Production PDF.
  • 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. ArcGIS Pro preserves each raster as a separate layer without any additional configurations.
Note: 
Data Driven Pages are referred to as map series in ArcGIS Pro.

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