How To: Diagnose an ArcMap printing or exporting problem


When printing or exporting from ArcMap, ArcMap first creates a Windows enhanced metafile (*.EMF) of the layout or data view. Once the EMF file has been created, ArcMap sends it to the printer engine or export driver selected for the conversion to the final output.

When experiencing a problem with printing or exporting from ArcMap, narrow down where in the output process the problem is occurring by verifying that the map is being written correctly to EMF.

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.


Export the map to EMF in ArcMap and visually evaluate the EMF on screen to make sure it is correct.

  1. Navigate to File > Export map.
  2. Click the Save as type drop-down and select EMF. Click OK.
  3. Insert the EMF as a picture into an empty ArcMap document.

    To do this, navigate to Insert > Picture. Browse to the location disk where the EMF is saved, and click OK.
  4. Evaluate the resulting image.
  • If the EMF is correct, the problem exists in either the printer or exporter driver, in the printer itself, or the application reading the exported file.
  • If the EMF is incorrect, the problem exists within ArcMap, usually in converting the elements drawn in the map to the EMF format.
  • If the EMF appears low quality or is hard to see, use the appropriate zoom-in tools: Layout Zoom In/Zoom out if the EMF picture is inserted into Layout view, or the regular Zoom In and Zoom Out tools if the EMF was inserted in Data View.
Figure 1: The image on the right is an example map in Layout view in ArcMap. The image on the left is the inserted EMF picture of the same map. Its inferior quality is due to the way Windows drawing works with EMF files.

If you zoom into the picture on the left (using the Layout Zoom In tool because the picture was inserted in Layout View) until you are looking at the image as if it were life size, the quality is better and the image looks as expected.

[O-Image] Example of an inserted EMF in comparison to the orginal map layout

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