My Account     Contact Us     Cart

Stylizing Road Layers with MAPublisher and Adobe Illustrator

An important component of any map that contains roads is the stylization of such roads, and ensuring that the end user can understand the way they are displayed. To go even further, it may also be important for the user to be able to differentiate between the various road classifications they are viewing. 

When a line layer containing road data is first imported into MAPublisher, all roads appear with the same appearance regardless of their class or type. However, with the help of MAPublisher and some native Illustrator tools, you can easily turn your roads from this:

…into this:

Getting Started

As stated above, this workflow uses tools from both Adobe Illustrator’s native toolbar as well as the MAPublisher extension. More specifically, MAP Stylesheet Themes and MAP Selections along with the Graphic Styles and Appearance panels. 

This process will only work if your road data contains an attribute on which you can base classification rules. For example, my road data has an attribute column named “CLASS” with four categories: Primary Road, Primary Ramp, Secondary Road, and Local Road. I have previously created a graphic style for each road type and saved them in a template document titled In my current document, I have simply imported these styles to the Graphic Styles panel by using the menu option for “Open Graphic Style Library”. For more information about the Graphic Styles panel, check out its Adobe help page.

Controlled Access Highway: Controlled Access Highway
Controlled Access Ramp: Controlled Access Ramp
Major Road: Major Road
Minor Road: Minor Road

These styles have all been created using the Appearance panel to overlay a stroke with a smaller weight over a stroke with a larger weight of a different colour. These road styles are usually referred to as cased roads. For information about the Appearance panel, check out its Adobe help page.

Now that the graphic styles have been created/imported, I can apply a MAP Stylesheet Theme I have created based on the road types.

Cleaning Up with Groups

Now that the main styles have been applied to each road class, we must perform a few more steps to perfect the appearance of our roads. If you zoom in closely on the roads you may notice that intersecting roads do not appear as seamless as you would like. Don’t worry; there is a way to transform your roads from looking like this:

…to this:

Why does this happen? 

This occurs because MAP Stylesheet Themes apply the graphic styles at the path level. To look like intersections, each road classification must become one object, whether by being grouped or by turning the various paths into a compound path. Grouping is the preferred method for managing these objects since a compound path will delete the attributes of all paths that are being compounded. For example, if I turned my road types into compound paths, the street names would be turned blank. This would make automatic labeling with MAPublisher LabelPro impossible. Regardless, using groups instead of compound paths will avoid this issue, as grouped objects retain their original attributes.

Grouping Road Classes

In order to group our road classes we will have to select the road paths belonging to each class. We can use MAP Selections to individually select each of our road classes. The expressions we created when defining our MAP Stylesheet Theme rules can be saved as Named Expressions to be used again through the Expression Library. Once selected the street classes can be grouped using CTRL+G on your keyboard, right-clicking and selecting “Group” or selecting Object > Group from the menu. The final step is to re-apply the graphic style appropriate to each group using the Adobe Graphic Style panel.

If we want to get technical here regarding what has happened to our artwork, using the Appearance panel we can see that each of the paths we initially imported now has a graphic style applied to it on two levels: at the path level (done through MAP Stylesheets) and at the group level (done by grouping and applying a graphic style to the group). It is possible to symbolize our artwork even further, at the layer level, by selecting the target icon for our roads layer. If desired we could apply a transparency at the layer level that would supersede all graphic styles used on objects in the layer. 

Our artwork now has symbolization that suggests intersections, giving our road map a much neater appearance.

Finishing Touches

Now that our roads are grouped together, they are much easier to manage in the Illustrator layers panel.

Groups can be easily arranged using the Layers panel. Many cartographers prefer to arrange their roads with major highways at the top and descending to reach local roads at the bottom of the hierarchy. Groups also make it easier to move objects between groups if necessary: simply select the path in the Layers panel and drag it to another group. 

With our groups, we can now apply some tweaks to finish off their appearance. There will be many instances where we will need to override the intersection appearances that result from grouping. For example, in the image below we have ramps that definitely do not intersect as suggested by their grouping.

To correct this error, we can select the road lines that will pass over the others and, using the Layers panel, drag the paths from their group. This will eliminate the implication on the map that these roads actually intersect.

The ungrouped roads can now be arranged relative to the other paths until we find a layout that is the truest representation of the road network.

Using MAP Stylesheet Themes to Create a Legend

So why do we use MAP Stylesheet Themes if we must manually group the objects again after use? For a few reasons: it keeps us organized, it allows us to add the Named Expressions to the Expression Library, and most importantly, we can use these MAP Stylesheet Themes to automatically generate a Legend for us that reflects our Stylesheet rule names.

A deeper understanding of the Adobe Illustrator toolbox can go a long way in helping you use MAPublisher to leverage the full potential of your GIS datasets to create customized road styles. Happy mapping!

Be sure to check out our tutorial for Creating Line Stylesheet Themes as well as the video tutorial. This tutorial also includes the instructions for creating cased roads!

Blog Archive

September 2023 (1)
August 2023 (1)
July 2023 (3)
June 2023 (1)
May 2023 (1)
February 2023 (1)
January 2023 (2)
December 2022 (1)
November 2022 (2)
October 2022 (2)
September 2022 (1)
August 2022 (3)
July 2022 (1)
June 2022 (2)
May 2022 (1)
February 2022 (1)
January 2022 (2)
December 2021 (3)
November 2021 (5)
October 2021 (1)
September 2021 (3)
August 2021 (2)
July 2021 (1)
June 2021 (2)
May 2021 (2)
April 2021 (3)
March 2021 (3)
February 2021 (2)
January 2021 (1)
November 2020 (1)
October 2020 (1)
June 2020 (2)
May 2020 (1)
April 2020 (3)
March 2020 (2)
December 2019 (1)
November 2019 (2)
September 2019 (1)
August 2019 (1)
July 2019 (1)
June 2019 (3)
May 2019 (4)
April 2019 (2)
March 2019 (1)
February 2019 (2)
January 2019 (3)
December 2018 (2)
November 2018 (1)
October 2018 (1)
September 2018 (2)
August 2018 (4)
July 2018 (2)
June 2018 (1)
July 2018 (1)
June 2018 (4)
May 2018 (1)
April 2018 (2)
March 2018 (5)
February 2018 (1)
January 2018 (1)
November 2017 (1)
October 2017 (2)
August 2017 (2)
July 2017 (1)
March 2017 (1)
February 2017 (2)
January 2017 (2)
November 2016 (1)
January 2017 (1)
November 2016 (1)
October 2016 (2)
May 2016 (1)
April 2016 (2)
December 2015 (2)
June 2015 (1)
May 2015 (1)
April 2015 (2)
December 2014 (4)
October 2014 (2)
May 2014 (4)
February 2014 (1)
October 2013 (3)
April 2013 (1)
January 2013 (2)
October 2012 (1)
August 2012 (1)
July 2012 (3)
May 2012 (2)
January 2012 (2)
August 2011 (1)
July 2011 (2)
June 2011 (2)
May 2011 (2)
March 2011 (1)
February 2011 (1)
January 2011 (5)
December 2010 (1)
November 2010 (1)
December 2010 (1)
November 2010 (1)
October 2010 (1)
August 2010 (4)
July 2010 (2)
June 2010 (3)
May 2010 (2)
April 2010 (2)
March 2010 (2)