Weighting labels and features

Label weights and feature weights are used to assign relative importance to labels and features. This weight is to be used only when there is a conflict, that is, an overlap between a label and a feature. Ultimately, the final positioning of labels on your map is dependent on label and feature weights. In addition, when working with weights, keep in mind that when you allow labels to overlap some features, generally, more labels will be placed on your map because ArcMap has more room to place them.

All of the label classes in the currently active data frame are listed on the Label Weight Ranking dialog box. Each is listed with the feature layer name, then a dash, and then the label class name. Also listed, because they can act as barriers to label placement, are all of the annotation layers and annotation groups in the currently active data frame. Both are listed by name. The default annotation group for the active data frame is always listed as <Default>.

Labels can have a weight of Low, Medium, or High. Features can have a weight of None, Low, Medium, or High. The general rule is that a feature cannot be overlapped by a label with an equal or lesser weight. By default, features have a label weight of High. In general, you should give more important labels higher label weights. By default, features have a feature weight of None for label classes and High for annotation layers and annotation groups because typically you do not want labels placed on top of annotation text. Increasing the weight of features will increase the processing time ArcMap needs to place labels. Setting a feature weight of high for point or line features ensures that no labels will be placed on top of these features. Setting a feature weight of high for polygon features ensures that no labels will be placed on the outline of these features.

Some common uses for weights:

By default, ArcMap automatically resolves conflicts between labels and does not allow them to overlap. You can change this behavior by confirming the layer or label class is at the top of the Label Priority List, has a label weight of High, and has Place Overlapping Labels checked when using the Standard Label Engine and Never Remove checked when using the Maplex Label Engine.


If you install and enable the Maplex for ArcGIS extension, weights work differently. With Maplex labeling, there are no label weights and there are separate settings for polygon feature weights and polygon boundary feature weights.

Learn more about labeling with the Maplex Labeling Engine
  1. Click the Label Weight Ranking button Label Weight Ranking on the Labeling toolbar.
  2. Click the label or feature weight you want to change and click the desired weight from the drop-down list.

    Annotation and graphics properties are accessible by choosing Annotation and Graphics from the list at the bottom of the dialog box.

  3. Click OK.
Except for point features and geodatabase annotation features, use feature weights sparingly because they can dramatically slow labeling speed. Feature weights set to other than None can dramatically slow labeling speed because ArcMap must evaluate the location of every feature before placing each label.

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