Creating a Map Layout from Start to Finish - Titles, Subtitles, and Additional Text

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Title, Subtitle, and Additional Text

Every map, whether it is general purpose or thematic, should have a title*. The title should be short, descriptive, audience appropriate, and visually clear. Subtitles can be used if clarification is needed. Other title considerations should be spelling and grammar as well as choosing a font that is appropriate for the map, clearly readable, and large enough to say “title” without taking over the map. There are no specific rules about title placement - top and center is the most common place, but above the legend, along a left or right edge, and at the bottom of the map are all acceptable.

There are two ways to add a title to an ArcMap layout: with a text box (text boxes are also used for subtitles and additional text) or with dynamic text.

Dynamic Text

Dynamic text is one option in ArcMap layout that is added to the map and controlled in the map document properties. When dynamic text is set, elements can be added to a layout without need to type in the box (as if you did a text box). One of the more common dynamic text elements is the map title. After selecting Title from the insert menu, a pop-up will allow you to add a title to your map, but changing it will require you to access the dynamic text in the Map Document Properties, found in the file menu. If you double click on the title in the layout view, you will be presented with “<dyn type=”document” property=”title”/> ”, thus the need to use the Map Document Properties.


Text Boxes

The other way to add a title - as well as subtitles and additional text - is using a text box. While a text box added from the insert menu, is usually better for adding titles, adding rectangle text from the Draw toolbar is usually better for subtitles and additional text. The text box options in the Draw toolbar are more robust, allowing for outlines, backgrounds, rectangular, polygon, circle, and splined text.

To make a simple text box


  1. Select”Text” from the Insert menu
  2. Press “Enter” on the keyboard
  1. Double-click on the resulting text box to more easily type the information
  1. In the resulting Properties dialog box, set the justification
  2. Use the “Change Symbol” button to adjust the font

To make a rectangular text box:

  1. From the Customize menu, add the Draw toolbar
  2. From the Draw toolbar, drop down the arrow to the right of the A and select “Rectangle Text”.
  3. Press and hold the left mouse button, then drag a box. Let the button go to accept the shape.
  1. Double-click inside the resulting shape to open the Properties dialog box (shown below).

This is just one example of the resulting rectangle text box. Yours may vary in frame and background color.
  1. Type in the “Text:” area to add the text you want.
  2. Use the “Change Symbol” button to adjust text font
  3. Use the “Frame” tab to adjust the background and border of the text box.