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Exploring Shaded Relief Techniques in Geographic Imager and Adobe Photoshop 3D

In the world of map-making, shaded relief refers to a visual technique that gives the illusion of three-dimensional terrain on an otherwise flat map. Cartographers use shaded relief to draw the viewer’s eye to prominent topographic features such as mountains, valleys and canyons. Using imaginary illumination sources and digital elevation data to cast directional light on a map, the cartographer can give the illusion of depth, casting shadows into valleys and lowlands, and highlighting ridgelines and peaks as if they are bathed in sunlight. 

Historically, this technique was achieved entirely by hand and was extremely labour intensive. Now, with modern graphical software and digital mapping technologies, relief shading can be accomplished right on the desktop. 

To demonstrate this, we are going to use the powerful spatial imagery tools and graphical design capabilities of the Geographic Imager plug-in for Adobe Photoshop to explore relief shading using a really interesting 19th-century historical map. Here is a sneak peek to show what the final product will look like.

Let’s start with our original map. We have taken an absolutely stunning United States Geological Survey Map of the world-renowned Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Originally drafted by hand in the year 1899, the map features beautifully drawn contour lines and colour work showing the mountainous topography of the park and its surrounding area. The map, and thousands of others like it, are available in full-resolution on the USGS Historical Map Catalogue. Our goal will be to bring the map to life using three-dimensional (3D) relief shading techniques available with Geographic Imager and Adobe Photoshop.

First, we need to bring in some elevation data. Elevation data is critical for creating shaded relief, as it determines how light and shadows will behave in different parts of the map. We can obtain high-resolution digital elevation models (DEM) for our region from the USGS EarthExplorer.

Those of your familiar with spatial imagery data and DEMs will know that our first challenge will be working with tiled (discontinuous) imagery data products. In its raw form, DEMs are often stored as identically sized tiles, with each tile representing a specific indexed region of the earth’s surface. It is an unfortunate reality that many times the spatial extent of each DEM tile rarely matches the exact extent of the area you are interested in mapping. As a result, map-makers and spatial imagery specialists need to implement tools to import, merge, and crop these tiles to a more useful format and size.

 

In our case, the elevation data for the area shown by the original 1899 topo-map is now represented by four separate DEM tiles, with roughly one tile for each quadrant of the map. To handle this problem, we can use the powerful Advanced Import tool within the Geographic Imager toolbar. The tool is a one-stop solution to easily import and mosaic our DEM datasets directly into Photoshop, all while retaining the spatial awareness we need to georeference or transform our data layers.

By combining each of the four raw DEM datasets, the tool will mosaic the tiles into a single merged, continuous, and geographically accurate elevation layer covering the entire extent of the map. Even more impressive is that Geographic Imager can use the spatial referencing information in the data to automatically align and overlay the original 1899 topo map onto the elevation layer, removing the need to perform manual georeferencing. (If the imagery data you are using does not have spatial referencing information already, don’t worry – our support team has crafted some excellent, easy to follow georeferencing in Geographic Imager tutorials).

With our DEM data imported into Photoshop, we can start to explore different techniques for creating shaded relief. We will start by using the Terrain Shader tool located on the Geographic Imager toolbar. Terrain shader is a one-click technique to create simple shaded relief instantly. It allows you to configure the angle and intensity of the simulated illumination source to control the prominence and direction of casted shadows. Additionally, you can apply customized colour gradients to easily produce stylized elevation maps or apply hypsometric tints. 

In many situations, the Terrain Shader tool is an all-in-one, quick and easy way to create shaded relief. The output of the tool makes it easy to distinguish topographic features and can be used to quickly produce a shaded-relief backdrop for your map.

One of the greatest benefits of using Geographic Imager is that we retain all the imagery manipulation and spatial referencing capabilities of a GIS while still having access to the massive inventory of powerful image editing tools provided by Photoshop. This allows us to take our shaded relief technique up a notch by incorporating the advanced 3D rendering and lighting tools of Photoshop 3D to truly bring our 1899 Grand Teton survey map to life.

To start, we first need to trim the DEM layer down to our specific area of interest. We used the GeoCrop tool to crop our mosaiced DEM layer down to the exact extent of our topo map (it is important that both layers are the exact same extent – you’ll see why later). Next, we can open up the Photoshop 3D toolbar, and convert our flat DEM into an extruded 3D “Depth Map”. 

To enhance the shaded relief effect, we need to apply a vertical exaggeration to the model. In 3D mode, we can drag the z-axis scaling slider to exaggerate the prominence of the topographical features in our map. By creating vertical exaggeration, we can create more pronounced shaded relief, as canyons and lowlands will capture shadows more effectively.

In 3D mode, we can use the mouse cursor to pan and rotate our “camera” to get different perspectives of our elevation model. This can be useful for creating orthographic or oblique perspective map styles.

Now that we have a configured 3D model of our map area, we can apply our simulated illumination source. Much like the Terrain Shader tool, we can control the illumination intensity and angle of approach. Since we are working in a 3D environment however, we now have three different axes that control where our light is coming from. Notice how the angle is important for affecting the length and intensity of shadows in our relief map. This includes the prominent mountain silhouettes that can be created when we set the light source to approach from a low angle on the horizon.

Next, we can configure the surface properties and apply a texture overlay to our 3D model. Experimenting with these settings changes how light interacts with the surface and can be refined to produce different relief shading effects. Using these surface properties, we can also drape the original 1899 Topo map onto our surface model (this is why it is important for both the DEM and the topo-map to share the exact same extent, otherwise the topo map will be distorted once it is draped over the surface).

Fine-tuning the map at this stage can take some time and experimentation. We can add some additional light sources with different casting angles and intensity to help create a multi-directional hillshade effect. We can also configure the light settings to produce softer, less pronounced shadows that look more realistic. After spending some time adjusting the lighting and surface settings, as well as configuring the camera view angle,  we can hit the “render” button and sit back while it creates a full-resolution rendering of our 3D model (this part can be very computationally intensive, and may require a high-performance machine to process efficiently).

Since we are still creating our map entirely within the Photoshop environment, we can immediately fine-tune the brightness, contrast, and colour of our map before exporting the final product. 

You can see some renders of the final map below. Thanks to the powerful spatial import and manipulation tools of Geographic Imager, and the ability to work entirely within the advanced image editing environment of Photoshop, we were able to create a dramatic 3D shaded relief effect that brings our 1899 USGS Grand Teton Survey map to life.

 

What’s New in Geographic Imager 6.3

Geographic Imager 6.3 - Avenza Systems

What’s New? Geographic Imager 6.3

We are happy to announce that Geographic Imager 6.3 is now available. This release brings continued improvements to compatibility with Adobe Photoshop 2021, and now offers full compatibility with the latest Mac OS 11 Big Sur release. We are also excited to introduce a brand new and easy way to access floating licenses directly from the cloud!

Here is what you can expect with the latest Geographic Imager 6.3 release:

macOS 11 Big Sur Compatibility

Users will be delighted to see that Geographic Imager 6.3 is now fully compatible with macOS 11 Big Sur. This means new and existing users can transition to the latest macOS without any interruption in their Geographic Imager capabilities.

Cloud Floating Licenses: A Better Way to Manage and Checkout Licenses

We have worked hard to deliver a newly improved floating license management system as part of Geographic Imager 6.3. This new license management system greatly improves on previous versions and allows users and administrators within an organization to efficiently and seamlessly access floating licenses directly from the cloud. The new licensing system is built on the RLM Cloud platform and means floating licenses can be implemented without the challenges of setting up, deploying, and managing a local server. Contact our Sales team to learn how you can set up your cloud floating licensing.

See the new cloud licensing options by accessing the license management panel within Geographic Imager 6.3

UXP Implementation for Chinese Versions of Geographic Imager 6.3

The Chinese version of Geographic Imager 6.3 now implements Adobe’s new powerful Unified Extensibility Platform. Which provides user interface improvements and flexibility to develop new tools in the future.

Geographic Imager Available Now

All active maintenance subscribers can upgrade to Geographic Imager 6.3 today for free. Users without an active maintenance subscription or on a previous Geographic Imager version can still upgrade.

 

Avenza Releases Geographic Imager 6.3 for Adobe Photoshop

 

Toronto, ON, February 22, 2021 – Avenza Systems Inc., producers of the Avenza Maps® app for mobile devices and geospatial plugins for Adobe Creative Cloud®, including MAPublisher® for Adobe Illustrator®, is pleased to announce the release of Geographic Imager® 6.3. This latest version provides full compatibility with macOS 11 Big Sur, and introduces a new cloud licensing system to efficiently access and manage floating licenses across an organization without the need to set-up, deploy and manage a local server. 

“Geographic Imager has built a reputation for providing a powerful suite of tools that seamlessly integrate into spatial imagery workflows built around Adobe Photoshop,” said Ted Florence, President of Avenza Systems. “By offering improved cloud licensing features and full compatibility with the latest macOS 11 release, Geographic imager continues to provide the productive, reliable user experience our customers have come to trust and rely upon”

Powering the Geospatial Imagery Editing Process

Geographic Imager for Adobe Photoshop® delivers an all-encompassing solution to import, edit, and export geospatial images such as aerial and satellite imagery. Work with digital elevation models, GeoTIFFs, and other popular GIS image formats while using Adobe Photoshop® features such as transparencies, filters, cropping, and image adjustments; all while maintaining georeferencing and support for hundreds of coordinate systems and projections.

New features of the Geographic Imager 6.3 plugin for Adobe Photoshop® include:

  • macOS 11 compatibility: Fully compatible with macOS 11 Big Sur
  • Cloud-based floating licenses: Access floating licenses easily with RLM Cloud
  • Chinese UXP update: Geographic imager 6.3 (Chinese Version) now uses Adobe’s new Unified Extensibility Platform (UXP)

 

Geographic Imager 6.3 is immediately available and free of charge to all current Geographic Imager Maintenance Program members and starts at US$349 for non-maintenance upgrades. New fixed licenses start at US$749. Geographic Imager Basic Edition licenses start at US$99. Academic, floating, and volume license pricing is also available. For more information, visit www.avenza.com/geographic-imager.

More about Avenza Systems Inc.

Avenza Systems Inc. is an award-winning, privately held corporation that provides cartographers and GIS professionals with powerful software tools to make better maps. In addition to desktop mapping software, Avenza offers the mobile Avenza Maps app to sell, purchase, distribute, and use maps on iOS and Android devices. For more information, visit www.avenza.com.

For further information contact:  416-487-5116 – info@avenza.comwww.avenza.com

Cartographer Chronicles: Mike Boruta

Colorado-based cartographer Mike Boruta knows a thing or two about making maps. In fact, this award-winning cartographer has been designing spectacular maps and trail guides for more than a decade. His work can be seen in the National Geographic Trails Illustrated series, in mountain biking guides released by Fixed Pin Publishing, fly-fishing reference maps curated by Stonefly Press, or most recently in the hiking trails guide for the mountainous town of Ouray, Colorado, where he currently lives. Always fascinated with viewing the world from above, Boruta has dedicated his career to capturing the beauty of mountain landscapes through well-designed maps, and captivating cartographic styles.

Following several years of post-university travel, Boruta found himself living in the tiny tourist-driven town of Ouray. Seeking more opportunities for career advancement, he moved to Arcata, located on the north-western coast of California. He considered returning to school to pursue a computer science degree but realized the subject matter did not entirely excite him. That was when a coworker of his first told him about the excellent Geography and Cartography programs at Humboldt State University nearby. He learned about a subject-stream called Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and although having never heard of GIS before, the concept immediately interested him. His years of travel had given him quite an appreciation for maps, and the GIS and Cartography programs at HSU would allow him to combine this appreciation with an interest in computer technology. 

He quickly developed a passion for cartography and decided to pursue graduate schooling in Athens (OH), where he studied under established cartographer Dr. Margaret Pearce. Forever drawn back to the rugged mountain landscapes where he had lived in the past, Boruta found a particular interest in studying relief representation in cartography, the technique used to create the illusion of 3D-terrain on a 2D map. He fell in love with the work of renowned Austrian cartographer Heinrich Berann, whose painterly style “birdseye” mountain maps continue to inspire him today.

 “Anytime I had to choose a place to use for projects in my cartography or GIS classes I found myself pulled back West, usually to Ouray, Colorado. I grew increasingly interested in mapping mountainous places”

In 2009, Mike Boruta first began using Avenza MAPublisher in his work. He had recently won the Arthur Robinson Award for Best Printed Map, part of the CaGIS Map Design Competition, for his entry “The Million Dollar Highway”, which explored a scenic stretch of road connecting Ouray to Silverton, Colorado. The award included a student license for Avenza MAPublisher software and allowed him to seamlessly integrate its suite of cartography tools into his already Adobe Illustrator-heavy mapping workflows. Shortly after, he began working with the publishing company Fixed Pin to create a mountain-biking guidebook for the entire state of Colorado. The project was extensive and would require the creation of several complete and detailed map sets, each describing a unique part of the state. Recognizing the vast scale of work ahead of him, Boruta sought out mapping solutions that would help him enhance the efficiency of his cartographic workflow. 

 “This was the first time I really got to work with MAPublisher, and it was a joy to learn and to use. I immediately found out how useful it was to set up all my graphic styles and character styles since I was having to create 118 maps with the same look and feel.” 

As Boruta found himself less and less dependent on dedicated GIS software, he opted to focus on completing his projects from start to finish directly in Adobe Illustrator using the many data import and manipulation tools of MAPublisher. This environment, he felt, “lent itself to so much more creativity”. Integrating these mapping tools into his workflow also meant he did not have to continuously replicate shared design features between each map, instead organizing and stylizing his data into a series of 15 “master maps” and using the MAPublisher Vector Crop tool to create separate individual maps for specific regions. 

By 2011, Boruta had begun contract work with National Geographic to help produce maps for the Trails Illustrated line of topographic map products. Incredibly, in 2013 things aligned in such a way that he was able to once again move back to Ouray, the mountain-town he had fallen in love with many years earlier. There, he began meeting with the volunteer-run Ouray Trail Group (OTG) to discuss how he could help them improve their existing trail map, which is a major source of funding for the non-profit group. The first project was getting their map into the Avenza Map Store so that hikers could use the map on their phones and tablets. After that, it was clear that the newly created and extremely popular hiking route called the “Ouray Perimeter Trail” needed its own high-quality map. 

Finding some free time in the summer of 2020, Boruta dedicated himself to fully revising the Ouray Trail Group’s main trail map and also creating an all-new map for the Ouray Perimeter Trail. His vision included a highly-detailed, topographic map showing the entirety of the county’s vast trail system. He set to work collecting datasets and planning the map production, first using dedicated GIS software, before reverting to a more design-focused workflow in Illustrator. 

“I quickly moved things into Illustrator and MAPublisher and never looked back. There are certain tasks I’ve grown used to doing in MAPublisher that I just find so much faster and simpler to do than if I were in ArcGIS or QGIS”. 

As is common with many mapping workflows, working from mixed data sources can be a constant challenge for many cartographers, especially when data from different public agencies do not share the same projection and coordinate systems. Boruta found this to be a common occurrence while working on his OTG trail maps and highlighted his fondness for being able to drag and drop data into different Map Views directly within Illustrator. In this way, he allowed the software to automatically reproject datasets to a shared projection without having to open up any sort of tool or repeatedly configure data parameters. 

Boruta also emphasized how powerful the Vector Crop tools and “spatial filter on import” capabilities were, allowing him to quickly specify or delineate a region of interest and immediately crop all data layers to that area, retaining topology and attribute integrity, all within the Illustrator environment. When handling the reference maps used to guide the creation of the OTG trail maps, he implemented the Georeferencing tools in the Avenza Geographic Imager plug-in for Adobe Photoshop to efficiently georeference and georectify unprojected reference map images before integrating them back into his Illustrator project. After a large chunk of the summer working on the map, he delivered the finished trail map. On completing the project, he noted “It was one of the most satisfying projects I’ve ever worked on since I was literally mapping my own beloved backyard.”

The completed Hiking Trails of Ouray County and the Uncompahgre Wilderness map is available in printed form, and users can also purchase digital forms of that map and the new Ouray Perimeter Trail Map in the Avenza Map Store. The digital maps are fully geo-enabled and support offline use for navigation and GPS-location on mobile devices using the Avenza Maps app. 

Mike Boruta still lives in his beloved town of Ouray. He spends his free time enjoying the trails and mountains which he has helped to map. He continues his work for National Geographic and has branched out his interests to include drone photography and videography. He operates the website OuraybyFlight.com, which showcases some of his spectacular drone photography work. His dream is to combine these dramatic landscape panoramas with overlaid symbols and text to create those iconic “birdseye” mountain maps that inspired him years ago. 

“I envision something that would hopefully be more aesthetically pleasing, something that aims to capture the soul of these San Juan Mountains while also illustrating the geography. And just maybe it might also be something pretty enough to hang on the wall.”

Cartographer Chronicles: Robert Simmon

Rob Simmon for Avenza Systems

The visual portrayal of quantitative and qualitative data is a process that requires the right tools. You want your audience to be able to make sense of the data you are sharing and be able to weave that data into a compelling and inspiring story. Here is how Avenza MAPublisher and Geographic Imager assisted Robert Simmon, Senior Data Visualization Engineer at Planet.

Robert isn’t your typical data visualization engineer who had formal training in scientific graphic design or cartography. His passion and interest in computer graphics and a master’s degree in materials science gave him the technical skills to start turning numbers into pictures that eventually helped him communicate with research scientists in his professional career.

Robert’s stepping stone into the fields of cartography, design, and data visualization happened during his work at NASA, where one of his first projects was creating a CD-ROM that would allow students and the interested public to explore a global ozone dataset. During his work there, he began to realize that the graphics published and used by NASA were made more for other scientists than for a broad audience. He also realized that good design was a powerful tool to improve communication. So, he tried to re-create scientific graphics in a more user-friendly form, with mixed success. “It wasn’t until I attended a talk by a popular lecturer on visualization that I learned there was a theory behind good design, and a big lightbulb went off in my head,” says Robert. “I began to read everything I could get my hands on about design, data visualization, and cartography—particularly map projections and the use of colour to encode information, since so much visualization at NASA revolved around satellite remote sensing data, which is quantitative and inherently geospatial.”

Eventually, Robert went on to found the Earth Observatory to share the breadth of NASA’s Earth science research with the interested public. After more than a decade with NASA, he received the chance to join the exciting startup—Planet—and work with an unprecedented, high-resolution, global dataset.

Robert developed a fairly unconventional workflow centred around Adobe design tools rather than GIS or scientific visualization software. This is where the Geographic Imager plugin for Adobe Photoshop and MAPublisher plugin for Adobe Illustrator proved invaluable to bridge the gap between data and visualization.

Map created using MAPublisher and Geographic Imager by Robert Simmon

Today, Robert’s day-to-day work largely revolves around processing visible and near-infrared imagery. Every image he works with gets imported into Photoshop with Geographic Imager. Creating maps in Adobe has proven to be effective and highly efficient as software like Adobe Photoshop possess powerful colour-correction tools, fast previews, layers, high bit-depth support, and undo history options.

This aids highly competent visualizers to work seamlessly and flexibly until an image is made perfect. Robert uses Geographic Imager to merge multiple adjacent image scenes or align a time series to make an animation (even if they’re in different projections), all with a single “import” step. He then exports the file as a GeoTIFF, so the image can later be combined with other, complementary data.

Robert Simmon uses Avenza Plugins

Although Robert enjoys working with imagery, he has had the most fun combining multiple data sources, especially raster and vector. Delving into his design workflow a bit deeper, he involves both Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator together. In Adobe Photoshop/Geographic Imager he works on the initial colour work and crops his desired map extents, then imports it into Illustrator/MAPublisher to overlay with vector data and create masks. “It’s particularly useful to be able to crop the imported vector data to match the area of interest, rather than having to manually select and delete objects that lie outside the Illustrator artboard,” says Robert. After setting up his vector layers, he then exports them as a layered Photoshop file and re-combines them with the original raster imagery, to ensure pixel-perfect accuracy.

Data Visualization with Avenza Systems

Robert’s love for MAPublisher goes back to 2006 when he first used it to make maps with Landsat data. He used MAPublisher to create a water mask with ZIP code data, which was the only data source he could find with high enough resolution to accurately capture the jutting piers of lower Manhattan. Robert also used MAPublisher to create a map of Amazonia (one of his personal favourites from his portfolio) with the help of MAPublisher’s powerful attribute tools, which allowed him to select and merge data vector data of Amazon biome, distinct from the Political Amazon, for which data is readily available. He continued to create variations on this theme at Planet, including a map of the vegetation of Germany. It was derived from a Planet Surface Reflectance Basemap and given context with Natural Earth boundary, urban area, and transportation data.

Robert continues to tweak his colour palette for his vegetation maps since just being ‘good enough’ has never really been his forte.

_______

In collaboration with Robert Simmon, Senior Data Visualization Engineer at Planet.

Avenza Releases Geographic Imager 6.2 for Adobe Photoshop

Toronto, ON, October 21, 2020 – Avenza Systems Inc., producers of the Avenza Maps® app for mobile devices and geospatial plugins for Adobe Creative Cloud®, including MAPublisher® for Adobe Illustrator®, is pleased to announce the release of Geographic Imager® 6.2. This latest version is powered by Adobe’s new Unified Extensibility Platform (UXP), which provides tremendous performance and user interface improvements to the Geographic Imager plugin for Adobe Photoshop.

“Geographic Imager has become a product many organizations trust and depend on to quickly edit and process spatial imagery,” said Ted Florence, President of Avenza Systems. “With increased performance and even more opportunities to develop new tools and experiences with UXP, the possibilities are endless.”

Powering the Geospatial Imagery Editing Process

Geographic Imager for Adobe Photoshop® delivers an all-encompassing solution to import, edit, and export geospatial images such as aerial and satellite imagery. Work with digital elevation models, GeoTIFFs, and other popular GIS image formats while using Adobe Photoshop® features such as transparencies, filters, cropping and image adjustments; all while maintaining georeferencing and support for hundreds of coordinate systems and projections.

New features of the Geographic Imager 6.2 plugin for Adobe Photoshop® include:

  • Compatibility: Fully compatible with Adobe Photoshop® 2021 on both Windows and Mac, powered by Adobe’s new Unified Extensibility Platform (UXP)
  • Exporting: Vector map data is now able to export to many industry geospatial formats
  • Advanced Importing: Ability to remove backgrounds from images during import

 

Geographic Imager is immediately available and free of charge to all current Geographic Imager Maintenance Program members and starts at US$319 for non-maintenance upgrades. New fixed licenses start at US$699. Geographic Imager Basic Edition licenses start at US$99. Academic, floating and volume license pricing is also available.
For more information, visit www.avenza.com/geographic-imager.

More about Avenza Systems Inc.

Avenza Systems Inc. is an award-winning, privately held corporation that provides cartographers and GIS professionals with powerful software tools to make better maps. In addition to desktop mapping software, Avenza offers the mobile Avenza Maps app to sell, purchase, distribute, and use maps on iOS and Android devices. For more information, visit www.avenza.com.

For further information contact: 416-487-5116 – info@avenza.com – www.avenza.com

Where to begin when you don’t have any data

Unless you are a GIS professional or a professional cartographer, finding the raw data to make a map may seem like a rather large barrier to success. However, there is plenty of publically available free map data out there to be used by graphic designers, and any cartographer that doesn’t have the means to generate their own data. Free map data is a great place to start when making a map, using MAPublisher and Adobe Illustrator to make it your own.    

First, You Have to Find It

Depending on what kind of map you want to make, and for what region or country, finding map data can be easy. There are plenty of governments and other agencies that make their geospatial data available for free. You just have to know where to look for it. Here is a list of the five that, in our opinion, are among the most useful.   

USGS Earth Explorer

The USGS Earth Explorer is an amazing resource for free satellite and aerial imagery. You can download imagery simply by creating a free account. The available imagery covers most of the globe and is often updated. The Earth Explorer user interface is relatively user-friendly so you can find what you need without too much effort. Among other sources, Earth Explorer includes high-quality Landsat and Sentinel 2 imagery.   

FreeGISData

By far the most complete compilation of free map data, FreeGISData contains links to over 500 data sets, categorized for easy browsing by data type and country. The list is maintained by Dr. Robin Wilson, an expert in remote sensing and GIS. This website is a great place to start if you don’t know exactly what you need or want to see what options are available to you in a particular region.  

Open Street Maps

Open Street Maps (OSM) is a crowdsourcing platform for GIS data meaning that all of the data is created by the public, so the accuracy can vary based on who created it and how. However, as with most crowdsourcing efforts, the quality is generally pretty good for most use cases, and the amount of data available is impressive. 

Natural Earth Data

Natural Earth Data offers vector and raster datasets that are in the public domain so you can modify them, use them and distribute them in any way you want without worrying about infringing copyrights or attribution. This is a great place to look if you simply want a base map to start your project. The available data spans the globe and includes the key cultural and physical data you may need for your map. The raster datasets also provide hillshade relief for aesthetically pleasing maps. 

NASA’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC)

SEDAC is a data center in NASA’s Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS). Its mission is to support the integration of socioeconomic and earth science data and to serve as an ‘Information Gateway’ between earth sciences and social sciences. In addition to the gallery of downloadable maps, which includes a gridded population of the world, SEDAC offers a variety of data sets of socioeconomic data. You can search the available data sets by theme such as agriculture, climate, infrastructure, population, poverty, etc., or choose to data sets that include historical data, reaching back to the 18th century and that look ahead to a century from now. Neat! 

Join Data Sets to Make Your Map

Often cartographers and GIS analysts use open-source or publically available map data as a starting point then add some other data or additional insight. For example, you downloaded population data obtained from SEDAC but you want to add in some national sales data generated by your company. It’s possible to do it when all datasets are in the same format. GIS platforms like qGIS or use a conversion tool like this one can do the trick. 

Import Data Into Illustrator Using MAPublisher

Once you have your data is in order, it is time to get down to the business of making your map! Import the data into Adobe Illustrator to manipulate the design elements that will make the map interesting and informative. MAPublisher makes it possible to import map data in almost any format into Illustrator, and also enables a plethora of cartography specific tools right in the Illustrator environment. With all of your data arranged in layers in Illustrator, it is easy to work with, turning on and off the data you don’t want. 

Pro Tip: MAPublisher uses import filters to limit the amount of data that you bring into Illustrator to a manageable amount before you start working with it.   

Design Your Map Without Losing Geospatial Integrity

You now have layers and layers of lovely map data in Adobe Illustrator but it doesn’t yet look the way you want it to. MAPublisher’s cartography tools can change all that!  

    • Reproject or change the coordinate systems to change the appearance of the map
    • Crop or edit the data on the artboard
    • Add/remove layers
    • Style features by creating rules for the attributes
    • Add more data as new layers
    • Add labels and symbols based on rules
    • Create North Arrows and accurate scale bars with just a few clicks.

Each of these could be the subject of its own blog, however, lots of helpful resources on how to use MAPublisher tools including tutorials and how-to videos are available on our website and YouTube channel

Make Your Vision Come to Life

One of the best things about the MAPublisher plug-in for Adobe Illustrator is that it supports hundreds of data formats, allowing you to import almost any map data you can find into Adobe Illustrator. Happily, there is plenty of publically available, open-source map data available on the internet. Whether you are a professional cartographer, a hobbyist, or a graphic designer under the gun to design a map, you can use free map data as a starting point for your own map. Download a trial of MAPublisher today and find a data set to experiment with and make something amazing!  

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/

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

 

What’s New? Geographic Imager 6.1

Geographic Imager 6.1 is available now and in addition to full compatibility with Adobe Photoshop 2020, here are the other exciting new features to make working with spatial imagery in Photoshop even easier:

Vector Import from databases

Geographic Imager allows you to import a number of GIS vector formats directly on to your images in Photoshop. Whether performing a check to ensure accurate georeferencing, QA/QC or simply including supplemental data, this functionality allows you to improve the efficiency of your workflow. For a while, it was only possible to import vector data from your own files however we have added the capability to import from databases including PostGIS Spatial Database, and ESRI File and Personal Databases (.gdb and .mdb). Note that importing vector data from databases is only available in the full version of Geographic Imager.

Improved Mosaic Layer organization

When mosaicking documents in Photoshop with Geographic Imager’s Mosaic tools, you previously had the option to either group the layers from each document into folders or merge all layers into one single layer. In this new release, we’ve added a new option to merge source document layers which will flatten each source document into a single layer, but also keep each document separated in the destination, without the use of folders. This helps to keep the individual images separate while minimizing the number of layers and folders you need to deal with.

Improved mosaic layer

Geographic Imager 6.1 Improved mosaic layer

7 GIS terms To Know: Map Making for Designers

Many of our MAPublisher clients are cartographers and GIS professionals, but a growing number are graphic designers who are tired of the tedious work of making maps without specialized tools. Making a map is part art and part science and while we help bridge the gap between Geographic Information Systems (the science) and graphic design (the art), as a graphic designer, you may not be familiar with the wonderful world of GIS.

So on this GIS Day, we have compiled the definitions to a few common GIS terms that you may encounter; GIS Day, celebrated each year, in November to help educate non-GIS professionals about the importance of geospatial information systems and the benefits that GIS brings to our lives.

1. Spatial Analysis

Any good and useful design involves analysis. This process of stacking layers, inspecting and interpreting model results seeks to solve complex location-oriented problems. This can be used for predictive analysis, estimating the level of suitability and for further understanding of the geographic location. 

spatial analysis

2. Layer 

Maps contain several layers, each representing a set of spatial features. Layers are laid atop one another for viewing or spatial analysis. This lends itself to working with the map layers in Illustrator, as they can be treated similarly to a layer containing artwork.  

3. Attributes

Attributes denote a geographic feature on a map. The information is typically stored in a tabular format that is linked to the feature. For instance, the attributes of a well-represented point along a river may include the name, the course of the river/ length, sediment load, etc. 

When you are familiar with the attributes associated with the map data, you can do things like applying rules to style your map according to attributes in the table.

4. Geocoding

Geocoding

The process identifies a location by its geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude). This is used to position places and features on a map as well as to reference the map itself. 

5. Buffers

Buffer

A buffer is a zone around a specific map feature, that is measured in units of time or distance. A buffer is useful for proximity analysis or visualizing the areas that are within a certain distance from another feature (i.e. within school zones, or floodplains) 

6. Polygons/Areas

Areas / Polygons on a map

Enclosed Polygons on a map are often referred to as areas. Polygons can have attributes associated with them to represent a particular real-world entity such as postal code, economic identifiers, population demographics, environmental factors, or social behaviors.

The image above depicts areas on a map.

7. Coordinate systems

The planet is not flat, however, we routinely try to represent it in 2 dimensions on paper and screens. The Coordinate systems act as a reference framework that helps position features in order to make a map more useful for the purpose desired.

Coordinate Systems

It is important to note that there are thousands of coordinate systems, so it’s important to take the time to figure out which would work best for the type of map you intend on creating. Sometimes you’ll need to change the coordinate system from the one defined in the underlying map data, to help the map make more sense to the end-user. 

They say an artist is one who gives people something they didn’t know they were missing. If you happen to be an artist or know an artist (graphic designer) who seeks to give people direction – literally ‘direction’ – you’ve landed in the right place. Go ahead and share this article with like-minded map enthusiasts to begin learning and delivering high-quality maps the easy way. 

Sources:

https://researchguides.dartmouth.edu/gis/spatialanalysis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffer_(GIS)