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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!  

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.

 

 

Explore all that you can do with the latest ‘Spatial Join’

By Olly Normanton, QA Specialist


This is one feature we have all been waiting for. Spatial Join is a very useful tool to be included in the MAPublisher roster as of version 10.6 and I would like to share a little bit about the tool with you in this feature blog. 

The Spatial Join tool inserts the columns and attributes from one feature table to another based on location or proximity. Currently, we support several Spatial Join types including:

  • Intersects: If any part of two features touch at any location
  • Identical To: Both features match identically
  • Contains: When one feature intersects with the interior or boundary of another
  • Near: If a line can be drawn from any part of A to any part of B that is less than the specified minimum distance
  • Closest: If a line can be drawn from any part of A to any part of B that is less than any other such line between B & any other feature
  • Has Centre In: When one features centroid lies Within another feature
  • Within: If all of one feature lies within the interior boundary of another

 

Here is a wonderful map of Italy created by Hans van der Maarel of Red Geographics available through the One Stop Map service. It will provide a great way to show you some examples of the Spatial Join tool in action. It contains a Cities layer and a Regions layer and I would like to see which cities fall into each region by using Spatial Join.

Cities and Region Layer using MAPublisher 10.6

You can see below that the Cities attribute table contains the name of each city and there are 70 in total. 

MAP Attributes on MAPublisher 10.6

There are 20 different regions that these cities lie within. To figure out which cities belong to which region, we have the ability to spatially join attribute information from the Cities point layer to the Regions area layer. In addition, we’ll use the Concatenate operation on the NAME attribute to list all the cities that belong to a region in one field.

To do this, click the new Spatial Join button on the MAPublisher toolbar or access the Spatial Join dialog box via Object > MAPublisher > Spatial Join. 

Spatial Join Button on MAPublisher 10.6

The Spatial Join tool will always open on the Join tab seen below. I will be adding data to my Regions area layer and joining data from my Cities point layer. The relationship is set to Contains—in other words, when one feature intersects with the interior or boundary of another. A description of the operation is always provided beneath the relationship. 

Spatial Join Tool on MAPublisher 10.6

The Precision slider alters the tolerance that is used to determine when two values are equivalent (or approaching equivalent). Depending on your data, this may need to be altered in some cases but for this example, I will be leaving it in the default position. 

On the Attributes tab, I am going to concatenate the NAME field. By double-clicking on the attribute, I can access the Edit Calculated Attribute Operation dialog box. In addition, I am going to sum both the POP_MAX and POP_MIN attributes. I’m also going to append a Count attribute to the table so I can quickly verify how many cities are in each region.

Spatial Join Tool on MAPublisher 10.6

Within the Edit Calculated Attribute Operation dialog box, I am going to set the Operation drop-down to Concatenate and leave the separator as default as Comma then space. 

Spatial Join Tool on MAPublisher 10.6

After confirming the Spatial Join with the OK button, we’ll open the MAP Attribute table for the Regions area layer and take a look at the results.

Spatial Join Result

You can see that the cities have been concatenated by region and the POP_MAX and POP_MIN attributes have been summed for the regions based on the cities contained within them. The count attribute was also added to the attribute table and as only 56 of our 70 cities were within the Italian Regions area layer, that is the total value of our count. 

For the eagle-eyed readers who may have noticed that there are only 12 cities that surround Italy in the full map displayed at the beginning of this article and 70 – 56 = 14, the difference can be explained by San Marino and Vatican City, both of which are autonomous countries and not part of Italy. You can see that they are in fact separate polygons. 

City Map

For a full list of the relationships that are available based on the different layer types, and also the input attribute types, please see the tables below. 

Layer Attributes
Input Attribute Table

This post was made using the incredibly beautiful map data provided by our good friends over at One Stop Map. Stay tuned as MAPublisher Aware Maps are coming very soon to the One Stop Map Store, which will allow you to directly purchase the Adobe Illustrator files and put your own style on the maps! If you’re interested in seeing more of their work, take a look at these One Stop Map Country Maps.

 

Plotting Curved Lines in MAPublisher: It’s Here!

MAPublisher 10.6 has now been released and we are very excited to share these powerful new features with you. 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. In this feature highlight blog, I will be providing a brief overview of the ability to Plot Curved Lines with the Line Plotter tool. 

When plotting a line from point to point, you now have the option of selecting whether that line is Geodesic (also known as a Great Circle), Cartesian (planar), or a Rhumb Line (also known as Loxodromic). To provide a brief definition of each type:

Geodesic line: the shortest line between two points on a mathematically defined surface (as a straight line on a plane or an arc of a great circle on a sphere or ellipsoid like the Earth’s surface). On a geodesic line, the bearing to the destination point does not remain constant. This would be the type of line you would want to use when determining a flight path between two cities, for example. 

Rhumb line: this is a path with constant bearing as measured relative to true or magnetic north and is rarely the shortest line between two points. A rhumb line on a Mercator projection is a straight line which made the projection incredibly useful to navigators from as early as the 16th century.

 

Rhum Line Mercator - MAPublisher 10.6

Rhumb Lines on a Mercator Projection

Cartesian line: can simply be defined as a straight line connecting points.

To view this feature in action, we are going to be using curved geodesic lines to create an Airline Route Map. The reason why we are using geodesic lines for this type of map is because they provide the most economical route in terms of distance. Following the rhumb line would waste time and fuel for all but the most brief routes. 

I began by importing some data that provided my backdrop for the routes I am planning to map. My flights will span the entire globe so I required world coverage. You can also test out this feature and use the World.mif file or the WorldEast.shp and WorldWest.shp files provided in the MAPublisher tutorial data. 

I decided to use the Equal Earth Projected coordinate system.

Adding Locations

The next step was to establish the hubs from which our aircraft would fly and the destinations that we would offer as an airline company. For this, I needed points and coordinates. Instead of searching for and importing a hefty list of airports and then trying to filter down to ones of interest to me with selections, I opted to use the MAP Locations tool. 

MAP locations - MAPublisher 10.6

By utilizing the “Add Map Locations from web” feature highlighted at the bottom of the MAP Locations panel, adding each destination and its corresponding coordinates was as easy as typing in the city’s name. It can take a while to establish all of your locations but the best thing is that you only need to do this process once as the MAP Locations can easily be brought to other documents using the Copy MAP Objects From feature.

Copy MAP Objects - MAPublisher 10.6

Plotting Points

Now that I had all of my locations of interest and their coordinates, I could plot these onto my map as points. For this I used the MAP Point Plotter. 

Plotting Points - MAPublisher 10.6

By accessing the panel options menu in the top right-hand corner, you can select Plot MAP Locations. In the dialog that opens, select all of the city MAP Locations. In my example, I selected all and then de-selected Abu Dhabi and Toronto as these will be my main hubs and will be plotted with a different custom symbol to other destinations.

Plot MAP Locations - MAPublisher 10.6

I chose to plot them to a new Point layer that I named “Cities” and I included WGS84 values as attributes. I created a custom red main hub symbol using Adobe Illustrator tools to use for my destinations. You may need to play with the scaling of the symbol to get your desired look. 

Location Symbol on Avenza Maps

To create a custom symbol in Adobe Illustrator, draw out your design like the main hub symbol above, highlight the art, and drag the art to the Symbol window that can be accessed by going to Window > Symbols. You can then give it a name and select the static symbol option. 

Plotting the Routes

With the cities and main hubs now plotted, it was time to add the routes. 

plotting the routes - MAPublisher 10.6

Line Plotter - MAPublisher 10.6

I targeted a new Line layer called “Routes” and set my start point using the MAP Locations selector. I was sure to change the Method to Geodesic. 

Line Plotter - MAPublisher 10.6
I started adding cities using the “Add Point from MAP Location” control shown here. Once you select your point, a preview will be drawn onto the artboard if your “Show line preview” option is checked.

Line Plotter - MAPublisher 10.6

The route above is from Abu Dhabi to Mexico City. You can select multiple destinations to account for layovers. You can also change the order of the points once they are in the list using the arrows highlighted below. 

Line Plotter - MAPublisher 10.6

Once all of the routes have been plotted, the points were labelled with MAP Label Pro and a customized graticule was added. Here’s the final map in two projection styles to show how a map projection can change the look of the routes and the overall look of the map.

Airline Route Map - Avenza Systems

Projected Coordinate System: Equal Earth

Geodetic Route Map - Avenza Systems

Geodetic Coordinate System: WGS84

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By Olly Normanton, QA Specialist