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Tutorial: Georeferencing Material for use in ArcGIS (such as scanned plans, maps and sketches, or aerial

images)

Module content:

This tutorial will cover how to define co-ordinates for an unreferenced file so that it can be used within a .mxd
project, also known as georeferencing. This example will use an image which has been scanned from a book and
saved as an .jpeg. The same procedure can be used to georeference other material, such as scans of historic
maps or plans or hand drawn sketch plans or even images from sources such as GoogleEarth.

The image that we are going to georeference is called


‘Loxley_mills2’ and is saved in the ‘Resources’ folder in the ‘GIS
Tutorial Data Folder’.

Source: Crossley, D. 1989. Water


Power on the Sheffield Rivers.
Sheffield Trades Historical
Association and the University of
Sheffield. Page 77.


 
Open your tutorial .mxd project and add the .jpeg file
Loxley_mills2.

The file is not georeferenced, so a warning stating ‘Unknown Spatial


Reference’ will come up on screen. Click OK.

You need to add the ‘Georeferencing’ toolbar to your project window. Right click in an area of grey at the top of
the ArcMap screen and select Georeferencing from the drop down list.

OS map data © Crown Copyright/database right 2009. An Ordnance Survey/EDINA supplied service.

The ‘Georeferencing’ toolbar will be added.

Select the target layer from the drop down list. In this
case the ‘Layer:’ text box is already set to the layer that we want
to georeference: Loxley_mills2.jpeg.

Click Georeferencing and select Fit To Diplay, so that the


image is moved to the same area as the target layers.

The image will be moved so that it appears in your data view.

OS map data © Crown Copyright/database right 2009. An


Ordnance Survey/EDINA supplied service. 

 
OS map data © Crown Copyright/database right 2009. An Ordnance Survey/EDINA supplied service.

Select the ‘Add Control Points’ tool.

The ‘Add Control Points’ tool allows you to define the correct geographical co-ordinates for the .jpeg image, using
corresponding known features on already georeferenced layers within the .mxd. You need to study image and
the .mxd to select out features which occur on both.

It is best to try and spread the control points over the entire image, rather than just concentrating them in one
specific area. Ideally, try to have control points near each corner of the image and several spread throughout. A
minimum of 3 control points are necessary to georeference an image in ArcMap. Selecting more control points
does not necessarily improve accuracy.

The first click is used to define the source coordinates (on the image file). The second click is used to define the
destination coordinate. The source control point is defined with a green cross hair, the destination control point
with a red cross hair.

Select your first control point on the


image. You will probably need to zoom in
for accuracy.

First source control point


 
Next we need to select the same point on one of the georeferenced layers, such as ‘Topo_Line’, which is an OS
survey layer.

Select the same point on the ‘Topo_Line’ layer. You will probably need to use the pan and zoom tools. Click to
add a destination control point. The .jpeg will be moved to line up the source and destination control points.

We need to add a second set of control points. Select


another point on the .jpeg.

Use the zoom and pan tools to find the same feature
on the ‘Topo_Line’ layer and click to add the
destination control point.

The location of the image will update. The image is better aligned, but we still need to add at least one more set
of control points.

OS map data © Crown Copyright/database right 2009. An Ordnance Survey/EDINA supplied service.

Add a third set of control points.

In this case, the image is still not aligned. Try


adding some more control points to improve
the alignment.

OS map data © Crown Copyright/database right 2009. An Ordnance


Survey/EDINA supplied service.


 
OS map data © Crown Copyright/database right 2009. An Ordnance Survey/EDINA supplied service.
You can check the alignment between each of your source and destination points in the ‘Link Table’. Click on the
‘View Link Table’ icon in the ‘Georeferencing’ toolbar.

The Link Table dialog box provides a way to view the source and
destination coordinates in a tabular format. Each row in the ‘Link
Table’ represents one set of control points.

The ‘Residual’ column shows the ‘error’ between the source and
destination control points. The higher the number the greater the
error or discrepancy. If the value is particularly high, you might
want to delete that set of control points to adjust the error.

To delete a set of points, click the row so that it is selected in blue and then click on the cross icon.

In this case you will find that the hand drawn image is not accurate enough to perfectly georeference it. But try
experimenting with control points to get the best match.

Saving the Georeferencing

Once you are satisfied with the georeferencing, you need to save the information. To save the georeferencing
information, click Georeferencing in the georeferencing toolbar and click Update Georeferencing. This creates
a new file with the same name as the image, but with an .aux.xml file extension. For some file formats (including
.tiff files) the save also creates a world file.

Google Earth Imagery

You could try using control points to georeference an aerial photographs from Google Earth. Google Earth
imagery is available for personal use. The source should be acknowledged and the Google logo retained on the
image. For more information on the use of Google Earth imagery use the following link:
http://earth.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=21422&ctx=sibling