Skip To Content

Tile layers

Portal for ArcGIS includes a variety of basemaps that provide immediate geographic context for your operational layers. The basemaps are stored as tile layers, designed for fast and simple access by web maps, web apps, ArcGIS, and nearly any mapping software application. For example, you might include a basemap with tiles of streets in your neighborhood to provide a visual reference for the street signs in your feature layer. Tile layers are also useful when you need to expose a map or layer on the web for the visualization of relatively static data.

Tile layers come in different formats based on the original source data. Tile layers can be stored as prerendered raster tiles or as vector tiles. Both raster and vector tiles are designed to provide high-performance and high-scalability delivery of map data for visualization purposes.

Raster tile layers

Raster tile layers deliver basemaps to your client application as image files (for example, JPG or PNG format) that have been prerendered and stored on the server and are displayed as is by the client. Raster tile layers are most appropriate for basemaps that give your maps geographic context such as imagery (as in the World Imagery basemap) or feature-based maps such as in the Topographic, National Geographic, Oceans, and other basemaps. Raster tile layers can also be composed of static operational layers such as thematic maps of your data.

The tile layer format is fast to transmit over the Internet and is easily understood by most common mapping software applications, so these basemaps are compatible not only with ArcGIS and web apps built with the ArcGIS APIs, but also third-party apps that use OGC protocols such as WMS/WMTS. Other benefits of raster tile layers include the following:

  • Work well across a wide range of applications and devices (web, desktop, and mobile), including desktop applications like ArcMap and older versions of web browsers.
  • Provide high-end cartographic capabilities such as advanced label placement and symbology.
  • Support various raster data sources such as imagery and elevation data.
  • Can be printed from web mapping applications.

Vector tile layers

Vector tile layers deliver map data as vector files (for example, PBF format) and include one or more layers that are rendered on the client based on a style delivered with the layer. See Vector tile layers for more information.