Georeference an image to align with other data in ArcMap

Last Published: December 20, 2022


This article provides instructions to georeference raster data so they align correctly with other data.

This article applies to retired ArcMap versions 8.x and 9.x. Later versions of ArcGIS may contain different functionality, as well as different names and locations for menus, commands and geoprocessing tools.


The general steps for georeferencing a raster dataset are:

  1. Add the raster dataset that aligns with the projected data.
  2. Add control points that link known raster dataset positions to known positions in map coordinates.
  3. Save the georeferencing information when the registration is satisfactory.
Some helpful tips:
•  To display the Georeferencing toolbar, click Customize > Toolbars, and click Georeferencing.
•  Look for road intersections, land features, building corners, or other objects that can be identified and matched in the raster or aligned datasets.
•  Permanently transform the raster dataset after georeferencing using the Rectify command. Click Georeferencing > Rectify.

For most rasters, the georeferencing information is stored in a separate file with the same name as the raster, but with an AUX file extension. Permanently transform the raster using the Rectify command on the georeferencing toolbar. The coordinate system assigned to the raster is the same as the coordinate system defined on the raster's data frame.

  1. Add the layers residing in the map coordinates and the raster dataset to be georeferenced.
  2. Right-click Table of Contents, select a target layer (the referenced dataset), and click Zoom To Layer.
List of layers in the Table Of Contents pane.
  1. On the Georeferencing toolbar, click the Layer drop-down arrow, and select the raster layer to be georeferenced.
The Georeferencing toolbar.
  1. Click Georeferencing > Fit To Display. This displays the raster dataset in the same area as the reference layer.
The georeferencing toolbar.
  1. Click the Add Control Points tool to add control points.
  2. To add a link, click on a known location on the raster dataset and on a known location on the referenced data.
It may be useful to use a Magnification window to add the links. When working with two raster datasets, open the Effects toolbar and adjust the transparency, or turn layers on or off in the Table of Contents to view each image as links are added.
  1. Notice the image shift with each control point added. Add as many controls as needed until the data are aligned cor rectly.
  2. Click Georeferencing > Update Georeferencing to save the transformation information with the raster dataset. This creates a new file with the same name as the raster dataset, but with an AUX file extension. It also creates a world file for TIFF and IMG files.
The georeferencing toolbar.

Article ID:000008595

  • ArcMap

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