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ArcGIS Pro

Shapefile to Raster in ArcGIS Pro

Converting a Shapefile to Raster in ArcGIS Pro

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the process of converting feature classes, like shapefiles, into raster datasets in ArcGIS Pro. This transformation is essential for various spatial analyses, especially when integrating vector and raster data. Join us as we break down the steps, address common questions, and provide insights to ensure a smooth conversion process. Let’s dive in!

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Step-by-step guide on how to convert a shapefile to a raster in ArcGIS Pro:

  1. Open ArcGIS Pro: Launch the ArcGIS Pro application on your computer.
  2. Open Your Project: Navigate to and open the project where you have the shapefile you want to convert.
  3. Load the Shapefile: If the shapefile isn’t already added to your project, navigate to the folder where it’s stored using the Catalog pane and drag it into your map view.
  4. Access Conversion Tools:
  • In the ribbon at the top, click on the Analysis tab.
  • Click on Tools to open the Geoprocessing pane.
  1. Search for the Conversion Tool:
  • In the Geoprocessing pane, type “Feature to Raster” in the search bar.
  • From the search results, select the Feature to Raster tool.
  1. Configure the Conversion:
  • For Input Features, select the shapefile you want to convert.
  • For Field, choose the attribute from the shapefile that you want to store in the raster. This will determine the value of each cell in the raster.
  • Specify the Output Raster Dataset by providing a name and location for the new raster file.
  • Set the Cell Size for the raster. This determines the resolution of the raster. Smaller cell sizes will result in a higher resolution raster.
  1. Set Environments (Optional):
  • If you want your raster to match the properties of another raster (like extent, cell size, or alignment), click on the Environments button at the bottom of the Geoprocessing pane.
  • Set the desired properties:
    • Extent: Define the spatial area for the raster.
    • Cell Size: Define the resolution.
    • Snap Raster: Ensure the alignment matches another raster.
  1. Run the Tool: Click the Run button at the bottom of the Geoprocessing pane to start the conversion process.
  2. Review the Output: Once the process is complete, the new raster will be added to your map view. Review it to ensure it meets your expectations.
  3. Save Your Project: Don’t forget to save your ArcGIS Pro project to retain the changes and the newly created raster.’

This process for converting a shapefile to a raster in ArcGIS Pro can also be applied to other feature classes. In ArcGIS, a shapefile is just one type of feature class. Other feature classes, such as those stored in a geodatabase, can also be converted to rasters using the same method.

Here are some clarifications:

  1. Input Data: While the example specifically mentions shapefiles, the “Feature to Raster” tool in ArcGIS Pro accepts any feature class as input, whether it’s a shapefile or a feature class from a file geodatabase, personal geodatabase, or enterprise geodatabase.
  2. Attributes: Just like with shapefiles, when converting other feature classes to rasters, you’ll need to select an attribute field that will determine the value of the raster cells. The attribute field you choose should be numeric.
  3. Cell Size and Other Settings: The considerations for determining cell size, setting the “Snap Raster” environment, and other settings remain the same regardless of whether you’re converting a shapefile or another type of feature class.
  4. Output: The output will be a raster dataset, and the considerations about resolution, alignment with other rasters, and handling of NoData values apply in the same way.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the process of converting a shapefile to a raster in ArcGIS Pro:

Why would I need to convert a shapefile to a raster?

  • Answer: Converting a shapefile to a raster can be beneficial for certain types of spatial analyses, especially when integrating with other raster datasets or when performing cell-based calculations.

What attribute should I choose when converting my shapefile to a raster?

  • Answer: The attribute you choose should represent the information you want to capture in the raster format. This could be elevation, land use type, population density, etc., depending on the data in your shapefile.

How do I determine the appropriate cell size for my raster?

  • Answer: The cell size determines the resolution of the raster. Smaller cell sizes result in higher resolution (more detail) but larger file sizes. Your choice should be based on the level of detail you need for your analysis and the computational resources available.

What is the “Snap Raster” environment setting, and why is it important?

  • Answer: The “Snap Raster” setting ensures that the output raster aligns perfectly with an existing raster. This is crucial when you’re performing analyses with multiple rasters to ensure cells from different rasters align correctly.

Can I convert any shapefile to a raster?

  • Answer: While most shapefiles can be converted to raster, the content and purpose of the shapefile should dictate whether such a conversion is meaningful. For instance, point shapefiles might not always be suitable for raster conversion unless they represent a density or continuous phenomenon.

What happens if my shapefile has overlapping polygons?

  • Answer: If polygons overlap, the conversion process will typically use the value of the topmost polygon for the raster cell. It’s essential to ensure your shapefile is appropriately cleaned and processed to avoid unintended results.

How do I handle NoData values when converting?

  • Answer: NoData values represent areas where data is absent. When converting, you can specify how these values are handled, either by setting them to a specific value or leaving them as NoData in the raster.

Does converting a shapefile to a raster affect the accuracy of my data?

  • Answer: The conversion process can lead to some loss of detail, especially if a larger cell size is chosen. It’s essential to choose appropriate settings and understand the implications of the conversion on data accuracy.

Can I reverse the process and convert a raster back to a shapefile?

  • Answer: Yes, ArcGIS Pro offers tools to convert rasters back to vector format, such as the “Raster to Polygon” tool. However, some data detail might be lost in the back-and-forth conversion.

How does the coordinate system of my shapefile affect the conversion process?

  • Answer: It’s crucial to ensure that the shapefile and any other datasets you’re working with are in the same coordinate system. If they’re not, you might need to reproject your shapefile or raster to ensure consistent and accurate results.
About the Author
I'm Daniel O'Donohue, the voice and creator behind The MapScaping Podcast ( A podcast for the geospatial community ). With a professional background as a geospatial specialist, I've spent years harnessing the power of spatial to unravel the complexities of our world, one layer at a time.