Using dot density layers

The Dot Density renderer is used to represent quantitative values for a field as a series of pattern fills based on the field value for each polygon. Data is not classified. Instead, each polygon is filled with dots based on the field value. Each dot represents a certain value (for example, one dot for every 12,000 people in the density map below).


The Dot Density renderer is only available for polygon features.

Dot density map of population across the United States
A dot density layer showing population for U.S. counties. Dot density display was produced by county for the United States. No county boundaries are displayed. This helps illustrate how people are distributed across the eastern United States using relative density patterns.

When creating a dot density map, you specify how many features each dot represents and the size of the dots. You may need to try several combinations of amount and size to see which one best shows the pattern. In general, you should choose values that ensure that the dots are not so close as to form solid areas that obscure the patterns or so far apart as to make the variations in density hard to see. In most cases, you'll only map one field using a dot density map. In special cases, you may want to compare distributions of different types and may choose to map two or three fields.

Use the Symbology tab on the Layer Properties dialog box to specify how to use the Dot Density renderer to display your layer.

The Dot Density renderer

  1. Right-click the layer you want to draw using the Dot Density renderer and click Properties.
  2. Click the Symbology tab on the Layer Properties dialog box.
  3. Click Quantities and click Dot density.
  4. Under Field Selection, click the numeric field(s) that you want to map, then use the arrow buttons to add and remove fields to and from the field list.
  5. To change the dot symbol appearance, double-click the dot symbol in the field list to open the Symbol Selector dialog box.
  6. Select the desired the color ramp, which will be used to assign dot colors for each of the fields you will display as part of your dot density layer.
  7. Use the Densities box to set the dot size and density display properties. You can change the Dot Size or click the slider to adjust the size. You can also use the Dot Value to set how much each dot represents, or click the slider to adjust the value.
  8. Check Maintain Density to increase the dot size as you zoom the map display.
  9. When Maintain Density is checked, as you zoom in, the dot size will increase so that a given area will visually appear as dense. Otherwise, the dot size will remain constant.

  10. Optionally, click Properties to set the dot placement options and to use masking. You have two options for placing your dots within an area: Non-fixed Placement, the default option, indicates that the dots will be placed randomly each time the map is refreshed, while Fixed Placement freezes the placement of dots as the map is refreshed.
  11. Optionally, click the Exclusion button and use a SQL expression to exclude values (such as outliers).
  12. Use the background properties to define how the features used for dot density fill will be displayed. Often, you would select No color for the boundary lines so that the feature boundaries are not displayed.
  13. Click OK.