What’s New in Esri Vector Basemaps (December 2017)

The Esri Vector Basemaps have recently been updated with some important changes and enhancements. The existing web maps were updated with new vector tile layers that use a new vector tile set. The most current vector tile set is known as (v2). This is published across the many different vector map styles that are included in the default Esri Vector basemap gallery as well as many of the creative styles available through the Living Atlas. As part of this latest (v2) release, Esri updated the data content, vector tile set, and cartographic styles, including JSON changes, through which the vector tile layers are displayed in ArcGIS.com, Pro and other clients. In preparation for this release, we recently posted a blog on the benefits of the Esri Vector Basemaps.

What does the new version (v2) update mean to me?

First, it means that there are all-new tile layers available. The new version (v2) items are the maps that we are updating moving forward. The previous version (v1) items are now in mature support. To take advantage of the updated content, migrate to the updated basemap styles of the new (v2) content. The Esri Vector Basemaps as web maps are now referencing the (v2) tile layers. If you are using vector tile layers or have customized your version of the map, you should update your maps and apps to consume the new (v2) tile layers.

  • Q: Are you using one or more of the Esri Vector Web Maps?
  • A: If you are using any of the web maps from the Esri Vector Basemap group, you won’t have to do anything differently to be able to use the updated (v2) vector basemaps. The web maps include the latest tile layers with updated data and styles (v2).
  • Q: Are you using one or more of the Esri Vector Tile Layers named (v1 or older), now in mature support?
  • A: Your map will continue to work with that tile layer, but the previous version (v1) is now in mature support and will not be updated. Accessing the new version (v2) tile layers and web maps will ensure the latest data and styles are in your map.
  • Q: Did you make any style customization to the root.json file of Esri Vector Tile Layer ?
  • Your map will continue to work in your customized layer, but the previous version (v1) map tiles are now in mature support and will not be updated. Since both the data and the basemap styles are updated in the new version (v2), we recommend you update non-v2 tile layers that you customized with the new version (v2) vector tile layers. Customization will need to be re-applied in the new (v2) root.json styles associated with the new (v2) tiles.


We’ll post a separate blog with more information and step-by-step instructions
on updating your basemaps to the new version (v2) of Esri Vector Basemaps

How to find Esri vector tile layer and web maps?

There are several ways to find the latest set of Esri vector basemap styles in ArcGIS Online. One way is to have your ArcGIS.com organization select the Esri Vector Basemaps as the default map gallery, or build a custom map gallery containing Esri Vector Basemap web maps. Another way is through the Esri Vector Basemaps group. Bookmark it! This group references the latest vector styles available. Some styles closely resemble existing Esri raster basemaps and other styles are only available as a vector map layer. Another way is through the Living Atlas searching in the Basemaps category for vector maps.

What are the changes between the new version (v2) and the previous (v1)?

Tile Set & URL

Starting with the tile changes, there is a completely new tile set to use with the new version (v2) that is published through a new serviceURL (World_Basemap_v2) than the previous version. The change in URL was necessary due to a change in how we are serving the Esri Vector Basemap tiles. They are now a hosted tile layer on ArcGIS.com. Users may continue to use their existing vector tile layers and web maps while migrating to the new (v2) web maps or tile layers. All of the latest Esri vector basemap tile layers are pointing to this new (v2) URL path.

Data Changes

The data used to create the tiles and maps has been significantly updated in this latest release. In addition to commercially sourced and open data sources, we receive data contributions through our Community Maps Program. With this update to the new (v2) set of maps, we are now displaying authoritative community contributed roads, ferries and administrative boundary lines for participants in the program. These additional community features are now available as the default data displayed in the World Topographic Map. The other Esri Vector Basemap styles, such as World Street Map, Canvas and Navigation, continue to display commercially sourced roads to correspond with our routing and geocoding applications that use the same commercially sourced data. For more detail on data content and changes, see the updated (v2) version of the reference documentation.

Because all the vector basemaps are styled from a single set of vector tiles, all community map data contributed through the program is integrated into our global database and available for use in any of the Esri Vector Basemap styles or your customized maps.

Styles and root.json Changes

The non-backwards compatible changes between the previous version (v1) and this new version (v2) required all new root.json files for the Esri styles. One of the main changes in (v2) is a code change to be able to display those community-provided roads and admin boundaries or the commercially sourced data set. This was achieved in the JSON style files by applying a filter including a setting on our VIZ (visibility value) on the community and commercially sourced data. Other changes included layering improvements to better display road shields and updates to our sprites (map patterns and symbols) for better cartographic display. Overall map style refinements continue to improve the map display colors, line widths, and labeling properties. For more detail on these changes, see the updated (v2) version of the reference documentation.

Canvas Basemaps

One of the more significant changes to note occurred to both the Dark and Light Gray Canvas map layers. Cartographic improvements were applied to allow a presentation of the map for its designed purpose. The biggest change is the content of both the Base and Reference layers. We moved all map labels to the canvas reference layer, which previously only featured city labels. This helps create “base” and “reference” layers that are more true to their name. This also follows the pattern previously set in the World Terrain with Labels and Human Geography vector basemaps.


We uploaded additional fonts to our resources folder that allow more options to our users for making font style changes to your map design. For the full list of fonts available for use in the Esri Vector Basemaps, see the updated (v2) version of the reference documentation.

Still More to Come

As we continue to make data updates and cartographic improvements to our vector basemaps, look for announcements on our blog site, Twitter, and Facebook.

More Frequent Data Updates

This means the Esri Vector Basemaps will have more current data updates than our other Esri basemaps available at ArcGIS.com. And it’s not just a single basemap style getting updated. Because all the vector styles utilize the same tile set, we can display the additional data across all of the other (v2) vector basemap styles.

And the vector tile layer can be used as an overlay to world imagery, as seen in our Imagery Hybrid web map. This vector layer combines roads, boundaries, and place names (cities, buildings, land use, and so on) into one map style.


Tell us about your experience with Esri Vector Basemaps

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Leave a Reply


  1. dcoley says:

    Hi – In updating my copy of the Human Geography Basemap to v2, I’ve noticed that when I set the Detail as a reference layer that the Detail reference now overrides my webmap operational layer labels.

    For example, the building footprint polys now hide a parcel label. Other than tweaking the transparency setting of the Detail layer, or updating the style to maybe change a solid footprint poly to an outline, does anyone have any suggestions on how to overcome this?

    • desfam22 says:

      Yes, I ran into this issue too. If you want, shoot me an e-mail and we can talk more specifically about how/when you are experiencing it. I am curious because I did open a tech support ticket but the issue was so inconsistent that it was hard to nail down exactly what about the vector tiles was causing it.

      Ultimately, if you are operating off of ArcGIS Server (like my organization is), the workaround my support analyst suggested was to add your layers from your map service individually.

    • ajskinner2 says:

      The basemap was designed to work in precisely this way – The detail layer is a reference layer that sits on top, and depends on a level of transparency (ideally 60% or higher) to work with your operational data (I talk about it more in the blog ‘Introducing a Human Geography Basemap’). I’m not aware of anything that was introduced in v2 that changed this relationship, so if you are seeing a different behavior please contact us.

      You have touched on the possible solutions:
      - Adjust the transparency,
      - Consider creating a custom version of the basemap (see the blog ‘Working with and Customizing Esri Vector Basemaps: The Basics’). You can delete the buildings, outline them, or move them into the base layer.

      Andy S

  2. marcwouters says:

    I have tried the new vectorised layer, and I am not happy.
    It loads so much slower than a standard TiledLayer (in a Runtime SDK for Qt application : (ArcGISVectorTiledLayer vs. ArcGISTiledLayer class)

    Also I cannot catch if it is properly loaded (e.g. when you have no Internet connection) :
    the loadStatus() always returns NotLoaded, whether you are connected or not, the loadError() is always empty.
    Is this method not implemented ?
    Please advise how I can check if it’s loaded or not.

  3. kmsagis says:

    I love the speed of these and beautiful cartography! Most of all, the new themer. I am using it to tone the green of parks and forest down a tad, and then the Navigation map will be perfect. This really sizzles, it loads faster than Google even. :)

    I noticed on the Topo vector map the interstate numbers are misaligned in the shields. Look at I-16 and I-95 near Savannah at all scales. They are also off on the Sreet map. The Navigation, they are a little better. 95 is good, 16 is just slight. Can that be refined?

  4. joel.mckechnie_qgsp says:

    Is it possible to have a basemap and a vector tile layer in the same web map? Any workarounds? If not, is it on the cards?


    • Andrew Green says:

      The answer is Yes. The basemap in your web map can be either a raster layer or a vector layer, and actually you can combine formats. We do this with the Topographic and Streets (with Relief) vector web maps. We have a raster hillshade layer with the vector layer above. Both of these layers are part of the web map’s basemap. You can add additional layers in either format (raster or vector) and continue to save your web map to your content account. I’ve reached out with an email to you with some additional information or if you have additional questions. Thanks.

  5. Kevin MacLeod says:

    On the Streets and Topo vector basemaps, the marsh symbols are spread uniformly, it’s very glaring and distracting. Can you please make it like the ones on the old raster topo basemap? They were irregularly spaced and also had little dashes intermittently, and this broke it up and was easier on the eye, less distracting. Also they were a little more faded which would also be good. Until this is done I probably won’t use the topo basemap for our coastal city. I know it sounds minor but it’s very noticeable! Thank you, I really love these new vector maps and the map stylers. And they load beautifully fast!

    Also for the stylers it would be super helpful to be able to click on an area to ‘query’ what Layer it is. I had to trial and error figure out what colors and Administrative areas controlled various areas on our county. Would be nice to click a little ? icon, click a spot, and it take me right to the right layer(s) to adjust the color. For both JSON and Map Styler. Those should be merged, too. One is WYSIWYG but only the JSON one can set zoom apparently. Thanks! I am already looking forward to leveraging the Navigation one a lot, it looks great.

    • Andrew Green says:

      Thanks for your comments Kevin.
      Marsh symbols – we’re continually looking at how we can improve the basemaps. We’ll consider your comments for a future update.
      Map Stylers – The Vector Basemap Style Editor (more WYSIWYG than the JSON split screen editor) does have the ability to set zoom values. The zoom level bar is just a guide as to when the feature displays. But you can expose some of the JSON settings by clicking on the ID name of the layer. You can change min / max zoom values and if a feature doesn’t have one of these settings, you can insert the setting.
      Bookmark this set of blogs for the latest information on the Esri Vector Basemaps.