Welcome to Map Practical, where the cartography gets done. These are the cartographic trenches, the domain of greasy hands, busted knuckles, and sore mouse fingers. This is the home of techniques, tutorials, and tricks of all things map. Here’s how we do it;
your job is to make it look good!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Symbols in Illustrator

Symbols are a great if you want to get ahead of the ball while mapping in Illustrator. They are a quick way to put a lot of information on a map fast. But you need to take the time to construct them or install them from 3rd party symbol libraries. One great library comes from the folks over at MapDiva and there Mac platform cartographic software, Ortelius. They have a really slick package that allows users to create symbol libraries and share them with the world via the web. One the coolest symbol sets consists of over a hundred classic mountain stamps for use on historic maps. Unfortunately, they’re only made for use in Ortelius. However, though the creative commons license and some NACIS networking, the converted symbol set for Illustrator can be found here. Enjoy!

Projecting Natural Earth Rasters

The folks over at Natural Earth Vector have created a great free resource for making maps at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110 million scales. The beautiful natural color reliefs generated by Tom Patterson, of the National Park Service, have been complimented with a set of vector data that cover the entire globe. Nathaniel Von Kelso, of the Washington Post, has created world coverages of rivers, cities, borders, and much more. While the vector layers are ready to go, the raster layers require projection before they will align in the GIS. It’s a simple process outlined here in a lab from my Intro to Cartography class. Once the geographic coordinate system is set, the data can be reprojected to your heart’s desire from within the Data Frame, all at within a few clicks. Check it out!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cartographic Workflow

One of the most often questions I’m asked is about workflow. At the NACIS 2009 conference I presented on the steps that we go through at Adventure Cycling to produce our bicycle touring maps. We are in the process of converting from old Freehand files to an ArcGIS, Illustrator, InDesign workflow. Needless to say, it has been a long process of trial and error, resulting in a specific set of steps unique to our organization. While this workflow has been designed for our needs, it has many pertinent tips that can translate to other means of cartographic production. Here is a write-up of what I found to be a reasonable set of best practices. I hope you can find something of use for your maps. Cheers.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Contour Masks in Illustrator

The standard convention for labeling contours is to knockout the line behind the label. Obviously we could cut each line and delete it, but in a small scale mapping project this would not be very efficient. In Illustrator, it is much faster to use a clipping mask to style all the contour labels. And thanks to a few tips from my friends at NACIS, it’s quick and easy. Here is a link to the text version, along with a little video tutorial.