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Never Trace Map Borders Again with MAPublisher

Never trace map borders again with MAPublisher

Making maps is a fairly common request made of graphic designers. After all, graphic design is about storytelling and visualization, and maps are about the same things. However, maps are some of the most difficult projects that designers can take on. Whether the goal of the project is to improve the aesthetic of an existing map or to create a new one from scratch, you know it is going to entail a lot of detailed and technical work such as composing layer hierarchies, setting appropriate map scales, and determining feature strokes and colours. Meanwhile your client’s last request of making a map required tracing things like country borders, following and drawing boundary lines and features. All tedious tasks that you don’t actually want to do ever again.

Handy Tools to Have in Your Graphic Design Toolkit

In a nutshell, designing maps can be frustrating for even some of the best graphic designers who know the tools of the trade inside and out. The problem is, the de facto tool of the trade, Adobe Illustrator, isn’t equipped to handle creating maps with data. Luckily, there is a plug-in that adds additional tools to Illustrator to help with making maps, while still allowing you to design in the platform that you are most comfortable with. These are good tools to know about and have in your kit so that when the next map project comes along, you are prepared to crush it while still maintaining productivity.

We May Be Biased But…

One such solution is our MAPublisher cartography plug-in for Adobe Illustrator. MAPublisher enables a variety of basic and advanced cartographic tools in Illustrator that enhance its ability to handle geospatial information, also known as map data. Imagine being able to crop, move, reshape, add, and remove pieces of the map data without losing other important features or geographic accuracy. MAPublisher also ensures that the relationships between map features and their attributes are held together by organizing everything into tables and layers. This allows you to design maps by adding labels and icons, changing colours, and editing other map elements (like north arrows or map scales) automatically, using attribute-based rules rather than having to manually create and place all of these elements.

Design Maps With Data

Focus on What You Do Best

With the right tools, creating a map in Adobe Illustrator won’t cost you days and your sanity. Instead, simply import map data from a free source or purchase MAPublisher-ready maps, manipulate geographic areas (by changing the map projection) if you need to and begin styling the elements the way you want them to be. Whether your map is thematic, like this transit system type map, an infographic like this one, where colours are automatically applied according to the feature attributes, or this one which uses custom-designed symbols. Adding other elements, such as labels can be accomplished with just a few clicks, without the anguish of having to place and re-place labels to avoid crowding and overlapping. 

Knowing how to use basic cartography tools is a good skill set for graphic designers to have in their back pocket. It puts you ahead of the curve in your ability to make beautiful, well-designed, and geographically accurate maps with a reasonable amount of time and effort.

Download a free trial of MAPublisher and find out how easy it can be to make maps with additional cartography functionality in Adobe Illustrator. Or, try our Geographic Imager plug-in for Adobe Photoshop to easily edit geospatial imagery such as satellite and drone images.

 

 

Cartographer Chronicles: Kim Beckmann

Cartographer Chronicles - Avenza Systems

Kim Beckmann is a storyteller above all else. As a graphic designer and Associate Professor of Design & Visual Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), Beckmann
uses visual media to do just that. More recently, she dipped her toes into the world of cartography (another story-telling medium) then fell right into the deep waters.

It all started when researchers from the university’s School of Freshwater Science came to her for help with creating supporting materials for a research project. The team’s ambitious project set out to map several miles of the Milwaukee harbor coastline, studying the effects of urban development on the harbor habitats. The research team had already created highly detailed technical maps but reached out to the Peck School of the Arts for a faculty member who could help put together the material in a way that could be more easily digested by the public and told the a story about the impact of people on the habitats that exist in the harbor.

“I also represent a part of the general public who would be interacting with the maps; individuals that want the maps to tell them a story. I recall at the first team meeting where we discussed research findings and what to present on the maps, I had many questions. What type of fish live in the harbor and rivers? What do they eat? Where do they live? Does water temperature effect where and when we might find them? Interestingly, the questions I raised led to incorporating additional habitat information into the maps,” said Beckmann. “What started as a concept for a single map quickly evolved to a set of five maps due to the amount to information we needed to share, the largest being 3 ft by 4 ft!”

Harbor Habitat - MAPublisher

As a graphic designer, Beckmann had made maps before, including simple, vector-based topographic maps, and maps for wayfinding. But this was her first time working on a larger map project and her first time working with raw geospatial data to create bathymetric maps to illustrate water depth. “I am extremely comfortable with Adobe Illustrator so when I discovered that there was a cartography plug-in for it, called MAPublisher, that could be used to manage GIS data to create maps, I knew that it would be faster and easier than learning an independent cartography software tool.”

The School of Freshwater Science research team carried out data collection for the project using side-scan sonar devices. With technical support from the Avenza Systems team, Beckmann was able to get the data into a shapefile format and import it into Adobe Illustrator using MAPublisher. “I registered for a training course offered by Avenza Systems, on how to use MAPublisher with Illustrator,” said Beckmann. “That led to a meeting with Jeff who was able to provide helpful direction on how to transform the raw map data into the maps I wanted to make.”

Data Progression - MAPublisher

Jeff Cable is the Desktop Product QA Lead at Avenza Systems. In addition to his work with the MAPublisher development team, he is also responsible for providing training to new MAPublisher users. “I met Kim in 2016 at one of our in-class training sessions in Chicago,” said Cable. “She had a very clear vision of what she wanted to create, but after some more discussion and reviewing the data, I realized that it would require advanced GIS workflows in order to get the data to an appropriate level before it was ready for mapping.” Seeing the value in the research project, he offered to assist Kim rather than have her seek out a GIS professional on her own. Once the data was prepared, she took what she learned from the MAPublisher training course and was able to apply visualization techniques to her maps. Cable corresponded several times as the project progressed and provided guidance. “Kim would ask if MAPublisher could do this or that, and in most cases, my answer was You bet it can!” he added. In addition to providing tips and best practices, he showed her many of the useful tools in MAPublisher that made her workflow more streamlined such as copying MAP Objects, working with MAP Stylesheets, and creating insets. “When I saw the finished product, I was blown away by what Kim had created. It was also gratifying as a training instructor to see how far she had come since our first meeting.”

Beckmann has since spoken about her work on the Milwaukee Harbor habitat maps project to the American Geographical Society, cartography clubs, and presented an artist talk as part of the Peck School of the Arts Artist Now! Lecture Series. The series of five maps have been printed on canvas and distributed to local and regional schools and turned into metal signage to be installed along the shores of the harbor to help share important research conducted by Janssen Labs with the public.

Fish Maps by Kim Beckmann using MAPublisher

The first of five maps installed at Harbor View Plaza Park.

Two of the maps installed in the active learning classroom as Discovery World.

Disovery World is located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Beckmann’s maps also currently hang in the Avenza Systems offices and we are proud to have them as a reminder of the amazing things visual artists and cartographers can do with the tools we provide.

Learn more about the project and how the maps were made on the UWM website https://uwm.edu/harbormaps/

__________________

In collaboration with Kim Beckmann, Associate Professor of Design & Visual Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

 

What’s New in MAPublisher 10.6

Continued Compatibility with Adobe 2020

Both Windows (64-bit) and Mac users can explore the exciting new and improved features MAPublisher 10.6 offers with the latest version of Adobe Illustrator. Talk about a power duo — upgrade today (it’s free for maintenance users)!

Spatial Join

In our line of work, spatial relationships are really important and can be complicated, but working with them shouldn’t be. MAPublisher 10.6 delivers the brand-new Spatial Join feature and we’re ecstatic to be sharing it with you. With Spatial Join, you can:

  • copy attributes from one layer to another based on their spatial relationship
  • use relationships including Near, Closest, Identical To, Contains, Within, Has Centre In, and Intersects
  • adjust the Precision and Tolerance

 

Spatial Join Tool

Spatial Join Tool MAPublisher 10.6

Spatial Join tool

Spatial Join for MAPublisher 10.6

Features joined based on spatial relationship

Improved Line Plotter

The Earth isn’t flat, and your plotted lines shouldn’t be either! The improved Line Plotter tool will accurately plot lines with the Geodesic and Rhumb line methods, taking your projection into consideration (or calculation if we’re getting technical) and is available for both Point by Point and Course & Distance plotting styles.

The Rhumb line method will create either straight or curved lines, depending on the projection used. Still want to plot straight lines? The Cartesian method is sticking around and will work just as you remember it. A preview option is now available, so you can take a look at the three different methods on your map before plotting the line (or simply turn it off if your line has too many points).

Line Plotter Settings MAPublisher 10.6

geodesic_lineplotter MAPublisher 10.6

Geodesic Method: Shortest distance between points

Rhumbline Line Plotter MAPublisher 10.6

Rhumb lines: Constant bearing, curved or straight depending on the map projection.

cartesian_lineplotter MAPublisher 10.6

Cartesian lines: straight lines from destination to destination.

Improved Map Measurement Tool

linemeasurement Settings MAPublisher 10.6

 

With the addition of the Geodesic and Rhumb methods for plotting lines, we’ve made sure you can accurately measure the distance between points with these methods as well, whether they’re curved or straight lines.

  • Measure distances between points using Geodesic, Cartesian and Rhumb line methods
  • Like the Line Plotter, Geodesic and Rhumb measurement lines can be curved or straight, depending on the map projection
  • A combination of keyboard presses (Shift + Click) will add the measurement line as an object on your layer

Rhumbline Measurement MAPublisher 10.6

Rhumb Measurement Line

Geodesic Measurement Line MAPublisher 10.6

Geodesic measurement line

cartesian_measurement MAPublisher 10.6

Cartesian Measurement Line

Installer Will Uninstall Previous Versions

We’ve made some improvements to the installer. You’ll notice that the MAPublisher 10.6 installer will prompt you to uninstall previous versions of MAPublisher. We’ve designed the installer to guide you through this process. You can also uninstall older versions through the Control Panel (Windows) or as usually on macOS.

Export Document to Image

Colours on a map can make important information pop or sometimes they just make the map look nice. Whichever way, we’ve made sure your colour profiles stick around when exporting your document to an image. ICC profiles (the data that characterizes a coloured input or output device) will be embedded when documents are exported as TIFF files. If an Adobe Illustrator document is in the CMYK colour space, its colour profile will be embedded in the TIFF if the exported TIFF’s colour mode is also set to CMYK.

Map Data Links

We’ve made it easier to keep your workspace clean. Previously, when a layer is deleted, data links were not removed. In MAPublisher 10.6, data links are now removed when a layer is deleted and is the new default behaviour.

Stay safe out there and happy Spring cleaning!

What’s New? MAPublisher 10.5

MAPublisher 10.5 was released today and it has lots of new and improved features to make it even easier to make beautiful maps in Adobe Illustrator. If you’re new to MAPublisher, you can get a rundown of the full feature set here, and even try it free for 14 days. If you already use MAPublisher, we would love for you to tell us, on our Facebook page about your favourite feature or even share a map you’ve made!

Adobe 2020 Compatibility

This version of MAPublisher is fully compatible with Adobe Illustrator 2020 so go ahead and upgrade! Are you excited? We are too, but mostly about the other new stuff that is also included in this version of MAPublisher.

Interval Markers

Want to add mileage markers or mark intervals along roads, trails or other paths? Do it automatically using this new feature! Options for interval markers are found in the Path Utilities tool.

  • Define the distance of the interval and the units
  • Select and style the shape of the interval marker
  • Choose the font type, size, and spacing within the marker shape
  • Choose where to start and how to increment the markers

 

Map without interval markers - MAPublisher

Interval Marker Dialog Box

Map with interval markers - MAPublisher

Favourite Fonts

Tired of scrolling through hundreds of irrelevant fonts to find the ones you like? Now you can select your favourite fonts to appear at the top of the font selection list in Illustrator, saving you time and the reactivation of your repetitive stress injury. Recently used fonts will also appear at the top of the list.

NOTE: Screenshot is for illustrative purposes only. We do not advocate for the use of the Comic Sans font by anyone, at any time, for any reason. Ever.)

Customizable MAPublisher Toolbar

MAPublisher has a lot of tools. That’s a good thing, right? But let’s say you’re in a minimalist mood, or just want to simplify your life by tidying up the clutter. Customize the MAPublisher toolbar by selecting which tool categories to display on the toolbar, and hiding the ones you don’t use often. Ahh, now that’s better.

Customize the MAPublisher toolbar

Display Coordinate System Information on Scale Bar

Often, maps include the name of the coordinate systems in which the map is displayed, for reference purposes. It’s easy enough to create a text box and add this information manually, but we’re all about avoiding manual work.

Click the Display coordinate system checkbox in the Scale Bar to include the MAP View coordinate system as part of the scale bar.

  • Customize the label so that it reads the way you want it to
  • Decide on the positioning of the text above, below or beside the scale bar
  • Choose to center or align the label as you see fit

Add coordinate systems automatically

Other Useful Enhancements

MAP Attributes

You can now copy ‘read-only’ attribute values from MAP Attributes. Presumably, if you need or want to use this capability, the description of it probably makes sense to you.   

Copy MAP Objects

In the past, you could not automatically link copied objects to layers in the destination document if it contained layers with the same name as the layer in which the copied object originated. Still with us? 

Now you can automatically link objects (MAP Themes and Selections) to layers even if the destination document contains layers with the same name as the source document layer which is tied to the copied object. Now, grab a cup of peppermint tea and look at that neat and tidy toolbar for a few minutes to refocus. 

MAP Symbols 

New Oil & Gas symbols have been added to the MAP Symbols Library, as requested by users in this industry. 

MAPublisher makes it easy to make maps in Adobe Illustrator without the manual work, and with the flexibility to style and design maps while retaining the geospatial integrity of the map data. It’s the bridge between the art and science of cartography.

How It’s Done in MAPublisher – Batch Generate Rules

MAP Themes are a great tool for stylizing your data quickly and easily. Since we all love to make our workload easier, did you know that you can batch generate rules for your MAP Theme Stylesheets instead of creating them all individually? Batch generate rules allows you to easily categorize your data and stylize it as you see fit.

Check out this short video that demonstrates how to use the batch generate rules tool in MAP Theme Stylesheets in MAPublisher!

For more How It’s Done in MAPublisher videos, check out our YouTube channel!

How It’s Done in MAPublisher – Adding North Arrows

Adding a north arrow to your map allows your map reader to better understand the direction of the map, and is a key tool for navigation. North arrows can be configured to a custom coordinate, such as magnetic north as well as true north.

Check out this short video that demonstrates how to create and configure north arrows in MAPublisher!

For more How It’s Done in MAPublisher videos, check out our YouTube channel!

Updating and Enhancing Maps with Landsat 8

This guest blog post was written by Tom Patterson — one of the creators of the Equal Earth Projection, and Natural Earth Data, (you can read more about Tom here). Learn how he used Geographic Imager for Adobe Photoshop to create two maps from Landsat 8 imagery.

I am a big fan of Landsat 8 satellite images as a resource when making maps. Typically, I use these free images taken every 16 days for verifying and updating other geospatial datasets. I also transfer Landsat textures to shaded relief art in order to better evoke a sense of the physical environment.

The examples that follow demonstrate how I have used Landsat imagery to enhance two maps. The first example is Prince William Sound, Alaska, a map that I am presently working on. The second example is a Landsat mosaic of the Big Island of Hawaii. Both of my examples will give you a general idea on how to integrate Landsat images into your cartographic workflow—using Avenza’s GIS plugins for Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator—with a few technical tips thrown in for good measure. For in-depth information about using Landsat in Photoshop, refer to this tutorial.

Prince William Sound, Alaska

Prince William Sound, in south-central Alaska, is a spectacular place to map. Its sheltered waters are bounded by the lofty Chugach Mountains, indented by deep fjords with tidewater glaciers, and dotted by forest-cloaked islands. The problem I am facing is out-of-date geospatial data because of the rapidly melting of glaciers. For example, the positions of glaciers, lakes, rivers, and coastlines available in the National Hydro Dataset (NHD) have changed considerably since these data were collected between 2008 and 2012. In order to make an accurate map—if only for this year—I have had to re-digitize these vector elements using Landsat images as a reference.

For this task, I used “LandsatLook Images with Geographic Reference” downloaded from the Earth Explorer website. These quasi-natural color images, which come pre-made from bands 7, 5, and 3, clearly depict water bodies, vegetation, bare earth, and glaciers. They were perfect for mapping the changing landscape of Prince William Sound.

Tom Patterson Geographic ImagerNational Hydro Dataset lines overlaid on a LandsatLook image in Adobe Illustrator.
The lines do not match physical features on the more recent satellite image.

For reference, I used images taken on September 29, 2018, about the time when glacier melting ceases before the onset of winter. Images taken later in the fall are hampered by fresh snow cover and deep mountain shadows due to lower sun angles.

Because the LandsatLook images were in the same projection as my map, I could directly place and then register the images in the Adobe Illustrator file with MAPublisher. Had the projections been different, I first would have had to transform the LandsatLook images using the Geographic Imager plugin in Adobe Photoshop. Finally, I moved the LandsatLook images to a bottom layer and dimmed them for editing the lines with Illustrator’s Pencil tool. Using a Wacom tablet and stylus for editing lines greatly improved my drawing speed and accuracy.

If a 30-meter LandsatLook image lacks enough detail, you can increase the apparent resolution to 15 meters by applying panchromatic sharpening. Doing this will involve downloading all data bands that comprise the Landsat scene (a Zipped archive about 1 GB in size). Within this archive is Band 8, a grayscale image showing the same area as the LandsatLook image, but with double the resolution.

Tom Patterson Geographic ImagerComing into focus. A LandsatLook image before (left) and after (right) panchromatic sharpening.
Besides increasing detail, panchromatic sharpening also shifts colors.

Once Band 8 is downloaded, the first step is to enlarge the size of the LandsatLook image by 200 percent in Photoshop (Image/Image Size). Resample it using the Preserve Details (enlargement) option. Next, copy and paste Band 8 on top of the LandsatLook image. Then, in the Layers window, change the blending mode of the Band 8 layer from Normal to Luminosity. Finally, apply Curves adjustments to both layers until the tonal range of the combined image is to your liking. The pan-sharpened LandsatLook image will keep its georeferencing thanks to the Geographic Imager plugin.

Tom Patterson Geographic Imager Landsat8Use the Layers window in Photoshop to apply panchromatic sharpening. 
Selecting Luminosity blending mode for the Band 8 layer is key.

The Big Island, Hawaii

In 2017, I created a Landsat mosaic of the Big Island as a starting point for making two National Park Service maps: Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I used the Landsat mosaic as a source for land cover textures—forest cover and historic lava flows (those that formed since 1800)—depicted on these maps. Compared to the Landsat mosaic, the map textures print very lightly in the interest of visual cleanliness.

Tom Patterson Geographic ImagerBig Island Landsat mosaic (left) and the maps of Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail (middle) and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (right) derived from it. Click here to see a larger version of the Ala Kahakai map (5 MB) and here for the Hawaii Volcanoes map (6.4 MB).

The first step in creating a Landsat mosaic was downloading the appropriate image data. In a perfect world, a mosaic of the Big Island would only require four 185-kilometer-wide Landsat images. However, because of persistent cloudiness on the windward side of the island, ten images were needed to complete a nearly cloud-free mosaic. Using images taken in previous years was a necessity. When selecting older images with fewer clouds, I looked for those taken at about the same time of year to keep the lighting consistent. I then used the Clone Stamp and Spot Healing Brush tools in Photoshop to carefully delete any unavoidable clouds and their shadows from the mosaic. Fortunately, the few clouds that remained were in remote areas far from the main focus of the final maps.

Tom Patterson Geographic ImagerThe Big Island is covered by four overlapping Landsat images.

Tom Patterson Geographic Imager Landsat 8Clouds be gone. The Landsat mosaic before (left) and after (right) editing.

The Landsat mosaic was assembled in Photoshop using Geographic Imager (File/Automate/GI: Mosaic). In the Mosaic window, I selected the Maintain Layers option to ensure that each Landsat image was placed on a separate layer. I then added layer masks to each image layer to piece together the ten images with the goal of avoiding clouds. Although the masks themselves with feathered edges looked like a messy jig-saw puzzle, they combined to produce a seamless Landsat satellite image mosaic.

Tom Patterson Geographic Imager MosaicGeographic Imager’s Mosaic window.

I created the Big Island mosaic in natural color by compositing Bands 4, 3, and 2 as red, green, and blue channels, respectively, in Photoshop. I also brightened the forested areas with LandsatLook mosaic placed on the topmost Photoshop layer and with the layer opacity reduced (in normal blending mode). The natural color procedure is explained in detail here.

With a Landsat mosaic of the Big Island completed, my next task was extracting the forest and lava textures and applying them to the Ala Kahakai and Hawaii Volcanoes maps. But that was an involved procedure that will have to wait for another blog.

One more thing …

Since making the Big Island mosaic in 2017, the Puna district experienced volcanic activity in 2018 that covered a large area in lava and reconfigured the shoreline. Although Puna is the cloudiest area on the Big Island, I was lucky to find a recent cloud-free Landsat image that I then used to update the mosaic. You can download a GeoTIFF of the updated mosaic here (120 MB). It is in the public domain.

Tom Patterson Geographic ImagerPuna District, Hawaii, before (left) and after (right) the volcanic eruptions of 2018.

Refreshing Your Maps with Linked Data

Does your map have data that updates periodically? Maybe your river data gets updated each year, or the lake boundaries change. Typically, this means importing all the data into your map again as things change. To make your life easier, MAPublisher has the option to Manage Data Links, which allows you to check for updates to linked data and to automatically apply the updates to the map! You can even set your MAP Theme Stylesheets to apply to the new data so you don’t have to re-style it manually.

Say you’ve got a street map that you created last year. But, the city has updated the status of some of the streets. Some of the lanes have changed to local roads, and some of the minor arterial roads have been updated to major arterial. Instead of importing all of your data again, let’s create some data links (with linked MAP Theme Stylesheets) to update the map with ease.

Toronto Streets

Let’s focus on a small inset of this map so we can better see the changes that will happen. In this example, we’ll focus on an area where we know the ‘laneways’ have changed to ‘local’ roads. Our laneways are purple, and our local roads are in blue.

Toronto Streets Inset

Now that we know what we’re looking for, let’s check out the data link itself. Your data link was automatically created when you imported your data. To access the data link, simply open the Manage Data Links in the MAP Views panel.

Edit Data Link

You’ll see that there is one data link, and that’s for the streets file we imported to make the map last year.  To view the settings of the data link, click Edit (pencil icon) at the bottom-left of the dialog box.

Edit Data Link

Now you have the option to turn on the ‘Automatically check for updates when the document is opened’ setting, and (or) turn on ‘Apply any relevant stylesheet or dot density themes to layers on update’. In order for the stylesheet option to work, be sure to set the appropriate destination layer.

Edit Link Details

Once all the settings are set, check if there are any data updates by clicking the Check button in the Manage Data Link window.

Check for Updates

After checking we can see that the Status has updated to say that our data is out of date. Click the Update button to update the data. A dialog box will pop up to confirm that this is indeed the data you’d like to update. Click Update to start the update. I know that some of the ‘laneways’ have been changed to ‘local’ roads, and so the attribute has been updated. Since I created the MAP Theme using those, we should see the changes.

Update Data Links

Updating Data

Once the update is finished, we can see on our map that all of our ‘laneways’ have changed to ‘local’ roads, and they have updated with the MAP Theme Stylesheet as well.

Final Updated Map

Using the Manage Data Links option is an easy way to update your data when updates become available! Save yourself the time and hassle of importing data over and over again and use the data links to your advantage. If you’re looking for more documentation, be sure to check out our help pages.

Cartographer Chronicles: Tom Patterson

The process of making maps can vary greatly depending on the cartographer and the purpose of the map. Tom Patterson, one of the cartographers behind the public domain data set Natural Earth and the popular website Shaded Relief, regards cartography as a creative process. He sees geospatial data as an artist would see paint on their palette. “They are raw materials from which the map is made,” says Patterson. “For me, the map making process starts with an online scavenger hunt for geospatial data, and ends with a visual depiction of the results of that scavenger hunt, a map.”

Patterson recently retired after 26 years with the U.S. National Park Service at the Harpers Ferry Center, located in West Virginia. Harpers Ferry Center is the media hub for the U.S. National Park Service, where most of the maps, exhibits, and publications for public consumption are produced.

Patterson is well-known for making maps with beautiful shaded relief effects, a technique that he has focused on for his entire career. It’s something he has a passion for and is a feature that he believes makes his maps unique. “When making a shaded relief, I go to great pains to portray the natural world in a beautiful and idealized manner, by combining shaded relief with land cover data, drop shadows, gradients and vignettes, with control and restraint,” says Patterson. “I ultimately want to create a shaded relief that readers will find attractive and which will blend harmoniously with the vector elements above.” Patterson prefers light, luminous colours for depicting terrain, and also tell a story. “A map is more than just a combination of points, lines, polygons, type and pixels. To me, a really good map is one that becomes much more than the sum of these parts,” he says. “Maps are an important form of communication, and they should effectively share the ideas of the cartographer to the map reader.”

When making graphically creative maps, you want to use tools that provide you with the most control. With MAPublisher, you can easily access and manipulate geospatial data using Adobe software. “MAPublisher and Geographic Imager bridge the gulf between graphical and GIS worlds.”

Patterson was an early-adopter of MAPublisher, a plug-in for Adobe Illustrator after learning about it in 1996 at the annual North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) conference. If you’ve ever used the Natural Earth data, you might be interested to know that most of the vector elements were created with MAPublisher and Adobe Illustrator.

He was also integral in the development of Geographic Imager when during a presentation about manipulating Digital Raster Elevation Model (DEM) data he commented that having a MAPublisher-like software for Adobe Photoshop would be useful. “My suggestion was heard by the President of Avenza, Ted Florence, who was in the audience. He put me in touch with the software development team at Avenza to brainstorm ideas about a GIS plug-in for Adobe Photoshop. Geographic Imager was the eventual result of our discussions.”

Along with his many contributions to the cartographic community, Patterson has held some important positions as the former president and current Executive Director of NACIS. Patterson has created accessible, open source data for global use (Natural Earth), he recently contributed to a new map projection that is taking the cartography and GIS world by storm; Equal Earth. “This equal-area pseudo-cylindrical projection has gained traction rapidly—it seems that cartographers and map users alike have had an unfilled need for world maps depicting countries at true size and presented in a pleasing manner,” he quips.

As an accomplished and respected veteran of the field, we asked that what advice Patterson would give to new cartographers, finding their way? “Seek out advice,” he states. “Map design and production is mostly a solitary task, and any map you create will seem easy-to-understand and logical to you since you are the one who made it. But, your readers may not see it that way,” says Patterson. “The easiest way to avoid these potential ‘failures to communicate’ is by showing drafts of your maps to people that are not family and close friends.”

Another tip that Patterson has for fledgeling cartographers, is to give readers a reason to slow down and read your map. “The trick in today’s media-saturated environment is to design a map that will catch your reader’s eye, ignite their curiosity, and draw them in. Give the most emphasis to the information you want them to remember long after they put down your map.”

Cartographer Chronicles: Thorfinn Tait

Cartographer Chronicles Thorfinn Tait

A teacher by day and a cartographer by night, Thorfinn Tait (a native of Scotland) has been teaching high school in Japan for almost 20 years while making maps of fantasy lands in his spare time.

Mapping is a hobby for Tait, and his deep love of atlases, along with fantasy role-playing games (known as RPGs), helped drive him towards creating his own maps of fantasy worlds. He started in 2005, making maps in Adobe Illustrator. His goal was to create an atlas of a fantasy world, that included the same variety of maps that you’d find in any traditional world atlas — topographical, political, thematic — along with all the tables of data typically found in an atlas. He chose to map the world of Mystara, a popular Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) campaign setting from the 80s and 90s.

Tait set out to compile all of the original maps of Mystara (more than 250 of them) into a cohesive whole. “One of my biggest struggles was trying to work out what projection Mystara’s maps used. But there was a fundamental disconnect for me in that Illustrator alone did not have the functions I needed,” says Tait. “For example, to change the projection of a map, I tried to use it in tandem with other GIS software, but it was very troublesome having to constantly import and export elements between programs.”

Map of Caldwen

While working on the Atlas of Mystara project, an original Mystara author made a return to the industry, and Tait volunteered to remake his maps in Illustrator. The year after, that same author commissioned Tait to map a new RPG world, the World of Calidar. Determined to avoid the same problems he’d encountered with Mystara, he began establishing dimensions of the new world and creating custom projections based on them. But, working between Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and GIS software was still very complicated.

World of Calidar

I managed to complete the first assignment with just those tools, but as soon as I got my first commission, I invested it right back into my maps by purchasing MAPublisher and Geographic Imager.” With MAPublisher, a plug-in for Adobe Illustrator and Geographic Imager, a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, Tait could work natively in both Illustrator and Photoshop.

“My favourite aspect of MAPublisher is without a doubt the custom coordinate system. It allows me to create resources for fantasy worlds just like they already exist for the real world, and then repurpose them across all of my maps,” says Tait. He also uses MAP Attributes and adds data to the world’s geography. “For example, it’s easy for me to track things like road and river lengths, land areas, dimensions of coastlines and political borders, and so on — MAPublisher calculates all of these things for me automatically.”

MAPublisher has allowed Tait to take his previous work and convert it to the newly established custom coordinate systems, without losing any of the GIS attributes he’d created over previous years. Tait also uses Geographic Imager to create Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) for the World of Calidar. DEMs can help bring maps to life, adding an intricate level of detail and depth.

The Great Caldera

Tait’s tagline for his freelance business is “Mapping fantastic worlds with real-world accuracy”. “I couldn’t do this without MAPublisher and Geographic Imager,” he says. “The software allows me to create and work with data for a fantasy world just like other people map the real world, the only difference is that I am creating all the data myself!”

“MAPublisher has truly expanded my horizons as a cartographer and has also changed the course of my projects. Without it, my current work would simply not be practical — in fact, probably not possible at all.”

Tait is currently working on georeferencing existing Mystara maps and tagging elements with their original sources. Check out more of his mapping projects on his website!