For context, I'm a cartographer so I make a lot of maps with GIS software (ArcGIS Pro 2.5 in this case). Often for design purposes, once the analysis is done, I export my maps to Illustrator for design work. I'm using Illustrator CC 2020.

The question I have pertains to 2 different layers on a map. I have a statewide map that shows a pattern by county, so there are county boundaries for the whole state. I then have 4 larger regions, so each county falls into 1 of these 4 regions. The county info is grouped into its own layer, and the 4 regions are grouped into their own layer. I would like to know if there's a quick way to select all the counties that fall inside 1 particular region. The outcome would be only those counties that fall in 1 particular region get selected, so I can further group them. Currently I'm doing this manually in the layers panel.

This becomes problematic when I start getting to much smaller geographies (such as census tracts or block groups) where the number of vectors in 1 layer can be in the order of thousands, so a quick way to select of subset of vectors is key.

To be clear, I already did the county selections manually, but I'm now working with very small census tracts (my state has > 1,000). Each little tract is a vector within the tract layer, with no outline and a fill with 1 of 4 possible colors, since this is a dasymetric map.

I know these selections can be done in GIS, but the problem is that the groupings I did in there came undone once I exported to AI and PDF, so I'm wondering if anyone has a workaround to do this in AI instead. Or possibly a better way to export to AI from ArcGIS Pro to ensure my map layers group as they were in GIS. Thanks.

Here are some pics to help illustrate: 1)The part of the map in question 2) the corresponding layers panel, the dark teal areas have over 1,000 vectors in that layer

  • I don't really understand.. but I'm not an ArcGIS user either. In Illustrator you can see groups in the Layers Panel and make selections there. But I kind of assume you know this. There may be a way to use various features, but I'm afraid without seeing layer structure and possibly sample artwork, it's very hard to provide any direction.
    – Scott
    Feb 20, 2020 at 22:20
  • Are you using the ESRI-Adobe ArcGIS 2 Illustrator plug-in, or exporting / importing? There's a huge difference in workflow / usability depending upon your workflow. Feb 21, 2020 at 0:50
  • This plugin you're referring to only works for ArcGIS Online. I am using ArcGIS Pro, which is a desktop software program. Feb 21, 2020 at 13:49
  • 1
    Sorry, even with the images I'm struggling to figure out what specifically you are trying to select. There seems to me that there are many ways to target items - by fill, by color, by group, by locking/hiding others, etc. Unfortunately, this may require some file examination to determine optimal selection methods -- and that, sort of pushes the question into the off topic range.
    – Scott
    Feb 21, 2020 at 19:06
  • those small little vectors that are sub-county level on the maps--those are called census tracts. they're all in 1 census tract layer in AI that covers the entire state. i want to only select those tracts that fall inside 1 region of the state. i have another layer in AI for the 4 regions of the state. i want to only select tracts that fall in 1 of the 4 regions within AI. to put it another way, i want to make a selection where some components of one layer can be selected based off 1 component of another layer. i can do this in GIS, but once i export to AI, those groupings go away. Feb 21, 2020 at 19:34


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