Draw and Edit Feature Class in ArcGIS Pro

This is part 2 in our how-to series for ArcGIS Pro. Check out our previous post on georeferencing here: Georeferencing A Site Map

One of the most notable differences between ESRI’s ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Pro is the process used to create new shapefiles and feature classes. Use the walkthrough below to learn how to draw your own polygon and create an editable feature class in ArcGIS Pro.


Feature Class- A single feature or group of features used to represent an area or point in ArcGIS. Typically, they are either points, lines, or polygons. Feature classes come in many different file types.

Shapefile- A type of feature class. The terms feature class and shapefile can be used interchangeably in this how-to.

Coordinate System- This is how we define where to place or locate any given point on earth. For GIS, there are projected and geometric coordinate systems which have different systems for represent locations on earth.

Vertex (Vertices plural)- When drawing a polygon, the vertex will be the corners or where to lines of the polygon meet. A polygon needs at least 3 vertices to exist.

How to Draw a Feature Class in ArcGIS Pro:

This process involves two basic steps that we have broken into several parts:

  1. Create an empty shapefile/feature class file
  2. Draw and save the polygon boundaries

1) Create an empty shapefile file

1a) Turn on a basemap and locate your site.

If you have GPS coordinates, use the locate XY tool to zoom to that location. If not, try zooming in and out on the aerial imagery basemap to find a geographic landmark you recognize (a city, specific roads and intersections, lakes or other bodies of water) until you find your site.

If you are drawing a polygon based on a previously georeferenced image, you can right click on the layer in the Contents pane and select “Zoom to Layer”.

1b) Open the Geoprocessing toolbar and search for ‘create feature class’.

To find this locate, the Analysis tab on the Ribbon and click “Tools”.

1c) Define your parameters & run the Create Feature Class tool.

Below, I have highlighted the basic Parameters necessary for creating a basic feature class:

  • Feature Class Location – this is where your new feature class will be saved. Use the browse button to navigate to the proper save location on your computer.
  • Feature Class Name – this is what your new feature class will be called.
  • Geometry Type– is where you select the kind of shape for your new feature class. For the sake of this tutorial, we will be drawing a Polygon, but feel free to explore the other options, as the process is very similar.
  • Coordinate System– select whichever coordinate system you need to use in your project. GCS North American 1983 is used for this tutorial.
  • In this example, you can use the default settings for: “Template Feature Class”, “Has M”, “Has Z” and “Feature Class Alias”.

When all your parameters are defined, go to the bottom right and select “Run”. This will create an empty feature class for you to start adding polygons to.

2)Draw and save the polygon boundaries

2a) Being to edit your new Feature Class.

After your empty feature class has been created, it will appear in your Contents panel. You may now close out of the Create Feature Class pane. Navigate to the Edit tab in the Ribbon and select “Create”. Select your feature class, then select “Polygon” (there are several drawing tools you can explore as well).

2b) Begin drawing your Feature Class.

Click on the map to place vertices along the border of your desired shape and double-click when finished. If you have georeferenced a site map, you can always draw along the borders of your site.

2c) Save your edits and you’re done!

Now, you have created your feature class.


How to Edit a Feature Class in ArcGIS Pro:

If, by an accident, you placed an extra point, or a point in the wrong place, there are several options you have to correct it. Below are solutions for most of your basic fixes.

1)  Select the “Modify” tool in the Edit tab.

This opens a variety of options for you to shape and modify your feature class. Here we are going to be focusing on the “Vertices” tool. If for some reason the vertices of your feature class are not appearing, try clicking on your feature class. Sometimes, other feature classes in a project will be selected in your editing session.

2) Move vertices.

In the “Normal” function of this tool, you may select any vertex by clicking on it and dragging it to your newly desired location to update your polygon.

3) Add/delete vertices.

In the “Add” function of this tool, you can create a new vertex anywhere on the edge of the polygon. Click on the new vertex to select it and then drag it into a desired location.

In the “Delete” function of this tool, you can delete any existing vertex.

4) Continue building feature

In the “Continue Feature” function of this tool, you can easily add larger areas or sections to your feature. I have found it easier to start and end on existing vertexes.

5) Save all edits.

For more information:


Will Maxwell

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