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UC Spotlight: Tailoring Elevation Data for Maps with Small Footprints

As an avid disc golfer, Richard Rasch has been mapping disc golf courses since 2000, and with the help of MAPublisher since 2001. Richard uses LIDAR elevation in the creation of these large scale maps because of its high level of detail. Its for this reason that LIDAR data is considered revolutionary for many aspects of cartography.

In his presentation, Richard demonstrates how he incorporates LIDAR data into his workflow of making disc golf course maps and tee signs. He shows us how he uses QGIS with MAPublisher to create layers to achieve the correct view for multiple small-footprint course maps. Creating these maps often involves visiting the disc golf courses in person and collecting data for the locations of each tee and hole, as well as the distance and direction/path of each fairway. These types of maps are not always oriented with north at the top so adding base layers like hillshade involves a few extra steps.

Watch the video of Richard’s full presentation at the Avenza UC 2024 and visit his website to check out many more examples of his custom disc golf course maps!

About Avenza UC

The Avenza User Conference is an opportunity to discover exciting new developments with Avenza’s GIS and cartographic solutions and to connect with peers and Avenza team members. Avenza users and staffers from around the globe meet virtually each May to learn what’s new with Avenza Maps, MAPublisher, Geographic Imager, and the Avenza Map Store, and see how they are being used to map our world.

The Avenza User Conference is an free annual event that grows each year with incredible speakers and participants. Get inspired by mapping and industry professionals by joining us for #AvenzaUC2025. Find more information here about next year’s conference taking place on May 8th, 2025.

Map Spotlight: Winter Trails of Methow Valley by Matt Dressler

In this month’s Map Spotlight we are showcasing an honourable mention of the 2021 Avenza Map Contest: Winter Trails of Methow Valley, WA by Matt Dressler. This map was created to provide visitors to the region with all the information needed to plan, explore and navigate within the Methow Valley of Washington, the largest Nordic ski trail system in North America. The map provides users with valuable trail information including difficulty, trailheads, distances for each segment, elevation, parking, restrooms, ski waxing huts, warming huts, and usage restrictions. It also features detailed inset maps of the most popular areas of the trail system, including Mazama, Winthrop, and the Sun Mountain Complex. The map maximizes legibility for users through a strong visual hierarchy, minimalist color scheme, muted basemap, and horizontal labels juxtaposed with curving line features.

The map is available throughout the valley as a double-sided, wallet-sized map card (16″ x 25″ when unfolded) and also digitally on the Avenza Maps Store.

Select the images below to see a detailed look at Matt’s map

Making the Map

Matt worked in both Geographic Imager and MAPublisher to create this map. Geographic Imager was used in Adobe Photoshop to spatially reference and refine the shaded relief basemap. From there, the basemap was imported into MAPublisher and provided the foundation to construct the remainder of the map.

Matt used MAPublisher to import his vector data as well as his basemap image. Since his map contains multiple inset maps, he used the Copy MAP Objects From tool to copy his data to another temporary workspace document and crop it to the area for each inset map. He then used the Copy MAP Objects From tool again to bring each of his cropped maps back to the main document as an inset map (check out this blog to see this process in detail). In addition to the MAP Vector Crop tool, Matt also used the Simplify Art tool to smooth ultra-detailed trail lines to be more visually appealing.

Matt also used cartographic tools in MAPublisher to improve his map’s appearance. The Create Halo tool was used to create outlines for the trail lines to make them more legible. Adding halos to elements of a map is a quick and easy way to provide contrast for readers. Matt also used the Create Knockouts tool to create spaces in vector data where text overlapped in an undesirable way.

The MAPublisher LabelPro add-on was essential in Matt’s ability to expedite feature labeling, and allowed him to control and finetune the placement of his labels. Finally, due to the nature of his map being tilted by 12 degrees from North, Matt used the Scale Bar and North Arrow features to easily ensure his finishing touches were oriented correctly.

Learn more about the Avenza Map Contest here, and check out our other Map Spotlight blogs here!

Fixed vs. Floating Licenses: Which One is Right for You?

When purchasing Avenza desktop software, MAPublisher and Geographic Imager, you are able to choose between two main license types: a fixed license or a floating license. This blog will cover the primary differences between the two and hopefully help you determine which setup will work best for you!

Fixed License

Fixed licenses allow for the software to be used on only one computer. This is usually sufficient for most single users or small companies, even with just a few licenses. A fixed license is, as the name suggests, fixed to a specific computer. Consequently, this means that it generally cannot be moved freely to another machine, although Avenza does allow you to move your license occasionally. For example, if you have purchased a new computer or if your main computer is being repaired and you need to transfer your fixed license to another computer. This is called rehosting a license. A license rehost is free as long as you have active maintenance on your license, or can be done for a fee if your maintenance is not active or expired.

Floating License

Floating licenses allow an organization to deploy a specific number of licenses that can be used and shared on any number of computers over a network. This is a great solution for any company that has multiple users of MAPublisher or Geographic Imager, especially if all users have their own machine. As such, this means that floating licenses do not need to be rehosted, however there must be a central server from which the licenses are provided to the users within the network. Hence, floating licenses can be further broken down into two categories: cloud floating licenses or local floating licenses.

Cloud Floating License

Cloud floating licenses connect users to their license through the internet. This does not require any additional setup on the organization’s side, and users can access and manage their licenses and servers through a cloud-based customer portal.

Local Floating License

Local floating licenses require a systems administrator at the organization to set up a local server on a computer which meets certain specifications. Only users connected to the local server will be able to check out these licenses on their client computers.

Floating licenses are often the chosen option when an organization would like to share a number of licenses between members. For example, if an organization’s license server holds two seats of MAPublisher licenses, when users on Computer A and Computer B have each checked out MAPublisher licenses, other users on the network are not able to check out a license until the borrowed licenses are checked back in.

An example environment of a floating license system

Floating licenses also give users the ability to borrow a roaming license with their laptops. This is a good solution for users who want to temporarily use MAPublisher and Geographic Imager when they are not connected to the floating license server.

For more information about the licensing options for Avenza desktop products, please contact Avenza sales. For any technical questions about setting up a license server or any other licensing issues, please contact Avenza support.

UC Spotlight: Importing XYZ Tiles into MAPublisher Documents

Many cartographers have faced this dilemma: your map needs an extra bit of vector information, such as a missing road, but adding it would involve finding, importing, and sifting through huge datasets. Tom Patterson joined us at Avenza UC 2023 to present an easier solution to this problem with the help of QGIS. Tom showed us a simple way to add satellite images and/or raster reference maps, available as XYZ tiles, to our documents in MAPublisher. The imported images will register with your map regardless of which projection it uses. You can then use these images to manually digitize the missing data on your map in just a few minutes. With a little back and forth between MAPublisher and QGIS, from where the XYZ tiles are exported, you can fill in the gaps in your cartographic data in no time!

Tom demonstrates in his presentation how he would use satellite data from Google or Bing to complete a portion of the coastline of southwestern Tasmania. This method is also how he makes updates to the Natural Earth datasets he maintains on his website.

Check out the video of Tom’s full presentation at the Avenza UC 2023!

About Avenza UC

The Avenza User Conference is an opportunity to discover exciting new developments with Avenza’s GIS and cartographic solutions and to connect with peers and Avenza team members. Avenza users and staffers from around the globe meet virtually each May to learn what’s new with Avenza Maps, MAPublisher, Geographic Imager, and the Avenza Map Store, and see how they are being used to map our world.

The Avenza User Conference is an free annual event that grows each year with incredible speakers and participants. Get inspired by mapping and industry professionals by joining us for #AvenzaUC2025. Find more information here about next year’s conference taking place on May 8th, 2025.

Map Spotlight: Africa’s Evolving Energy Landscape by Ginny Mason

Africa's Evolving Energy Landscape by Ginny Mason second runner-up of the Avenza Map Contest 2023

This Map Spotlight highlights the second runner-up of the 2023 Avenza Map Contest: Africa’s Evolving Energy Landscape by Ginny Mason with extra contributions from her team at S&P Global Commodity Insights including Melenie Yuen, Justin Cochrane, Roderick Bruce, Josephine Sajbel, Jennifer Tschopp, and Enrico Pedica. This infographic was shown at the African Energy Week conference, which took place in Cape Town, South Africa from October 16th to 20th in 2023. It was created with the versatility that it could function as a small handout as well as a large, wall-mounted map. The handout versions of the map also included a QR code which linked to an interactive online PDF. According to Ginny, this map is “the culmination of Commodity Insights’ midstream and upstream geospatial data, and several other products that we provide to decision makers in this field.”

Select the images below to see a detailed look at Ginny’s map

Making the Map

All map elements of Ginny’s infographic were created with the help of MAPublisher tools. After pre-processing her data using other software, she imported it into MAPublisher and then re-projected it as required. The Copy MAP Objects From tool was also used to quickly grab elements from other maps Ginny had already created.

Since there are several different map elements to this infographic showing various types of energy data, the MAP Attributes panel came in particularly handy for Ginny, allowing her to easily calculate, edit and append data to her attribute tables. Once her data was prepared, she could use the Merge Layers tool and the Split Layers tool to further organize her spatial data layers systematically according to their attributes.

Ginny used the Find Places tool to search for and plot relevant point data on her maps, such as energy plants, gas wells, and oil fields. The MAPublisher LabelPro add-on was used to easily generate labels for all of her data as required. She also used the Simplify Art tool to smooth the edges of excessively detailed lines and area data. Ginny added finishing touches to her map by adding supplemental elements such as a Scale Bar.

See the winners announcement for the 2023 Avenza Map Contest here, and check out our other Map Spotlight blogs here!

Cartographer Chronicles: Christina Shintani

In this edition of Cartographer Chronicles, we interviewed Christina Shintani, the creator behind the winning map of the 2023 Avenza Map Contest! Christina is a talented cartographer with particular experience in creating maps that highlight environmental issues. Her interest in cartography began while studying fluvial geomorphology in graduate school and has been growing ever since. Christina uses cartography to make a difference in the world and raise awareness about how climate change is affecting it, with her maps appearing in National Geographic, Rolling Stone, and the Atlas of Design. In this edition, Christina is sharing her cartographic journey with us in her own words.

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Career Journey in Cartography

My journey in cartography started with a string of lucky choices and following my interests. As a freshman at William and Mary, I signed up for an Introduction to Physical Geography class to fulfill a general science requirement. I found myself fascinated with every topic and lecture. Eventually, I realized I wanted to keep learning about geography, so I created my own major because my college didn’t offer it. After graduating, I continued on to get my master’s in geography at the University of Oregon. I started grad school with the intention of studying fluvial geomorphology, and while I did continue to study rivers, I left grad school wanting to become a cartographer. This changed when I signed up for the advanced cartography course for no reason other than liking maps, and it changed what I wanted to do in my career.

After graduating with my MS, I moved to Portland, Oregon. After a string of short-term jobs, I got a job as a cartographer and data analyst at a public transit consulting firm, where I made transit maps for cities across the country. After a few years there building my portfolio, I was offered a position at National Geographic, where I made maps for the magazine and website, covering a range of topics from conservation and animals to climate change. This is where I was first introduced to Avenza products, MAPublisher and Geographic Imager. Every map I made (while at NatGeo and since) has been made using Avenza products, and it’s hard to imagine going back.

After a few more years, I joined Woodwell Climate Research Center as a cartographer, where I still work today. I make maps to communicate climate science for research papers, communities wanting to understand how climate change currently impacts them and how it will impact them in the future, policymakers in Congress and the Senate, and the general public.

Cartographic Highlights

One important map project is the Arctic carbon monitoring network map which I won the Avenza award for. This map highlights how Woodwell’s tower network is critical to understanding how carbon feedbacks are accelerating warming in the Arctic and impacting global weather. We often use maps to communicate climate science in order to change policy. Most recently, it was brought to the Conference of the Parties (COP) and used to communicate our work to Senators Murkowski and Markey.

A large mapping project I worked on this past summer at Woodwell was in collaboration with the Center for Climate and Security. I created two story maps detailing how worsening climate change will contribute to security challenges in Iran and Türkiye. These maps were presented to politicians on Capitol Hill, where it was attended by congressional staffers across the political spectrum.

While we don’t always have the capacity to respond to current climate events, the wildfires in Canada this past summer were historic. I worked quickly to analyze, map, and chart the historically burned areas in Canada to illustrate how this summer’s wildfires were exponentially larger and occurred very early in the wildfire season in comparison to previous years.

I make maps with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop every day and therefore use MAPublisher and Geographic Imager daily. MAPublisher makes it so easy to start a map, and later completely change everything about it without starting over or going back to GIS. The features I use most often are the import tool (sometimes with spatial or layer filter), applying Map Themes, scale bar, and label features. I often have to convert a map from print to digital or vice versa, so I use the Map Views to change the scale of the map.

Advice to Aspiring Cartographers

My advice to early career folks/people wanting to get into cartography: even if your current job doesn’t include map making, build your portfolio in your free time with maps that interest you and that you feel excited about making, and create a website to showcase them.

Check out our Map Spotlight on Christina’s winning entry of the 2023 Avenza Map Contest here!

Map Spotlight: Korea Between the Wars by Nat Case

This Map Spotlight will be showcasing the runner-up of the 2023 Avenza Map Contest: Korea Between the Wars by Nat Case. This map was part of a series of five maps created by Nat to be published in the memoir Beyond the Border: A Korean’s Journey Between the North and South by Tae-hyok Kim and Nicole Kim Rogers, which follows Tae-hyok’s life in war-ridden mid-century Korea. This particular map is used to set the stage for the beginning of his story when North and South Korea were divided by the 38th parallel post-World War II. Hand-drawn map elements and handwriting-style labels are used to highlight relevant cities, provinces and other features of the Korean peninsula and surrounding regions.

Check out the other maps in the series on Nat’s website, and find Beyond the Border: A Korean’s Journey Between the North and South here.

Select the images below to see a detailed look at Nat’s map

Making the Map

Nat used both MAPublisher and Geographic Imager tools in the creation of this map. In MAPublisher, coastline and political boundaries as well as points were imported and then projected and rescaled. Transforming the projection of the data upon import allowed him to set up the map scale and projection of the document without needing to use the MAP View Editor after import. The coastline data was then exported as a TIFF to be used in the process of creating the textured shaded relief.

In Geographic Imager, a Prisma shaded relief was imported and transformed to the desired projection. It was then cropped and exported to a TIFF as well, to also be used in the process of creating the textured shaded relief.

Both TIFF files were then imported into the Illustrator map file. Nat used the grayscale of the Prisma relief as a mask in Illustrator to create the textured relief around the coastlines and land formations. The hand-drawn texture were created using textures from the Adobe Stock library.

Nat selected handwriting fonts when creating the labels using the Label tool to place them initially. He then adjusted the labels manually as desired.

See the winners announcement for the 2023 Avenza Map Contest here, and check out our other Map Spotlight blogs here!

Map Spotlight: Arctic Carbon Monitoring Network by Christina Shintani

In our first Map Spotlight of the year, we are showcasing the winner of the 2023 Avenza Map Contest: Arctic Carbon Monitoring Network by Christina Shintani, with additional contributions from Jessica Howard (text content) and Julianne Waite (illustration). This map shows eddy covariance flux tower locations in the Arctic that measure the continuous movement of carbon between soils, plants, and the atmosphere. This process is often intriguingly referred to as the Earth’s breath. These towers collect data that is crucial to establishing a comprehensive carbon monitoring network in the Arctic region, which will assist efforts in advancing plausible solutions to curbing permafrost thaw.

A warming Arctic contributes to intensifying wildfires and permafrost thaw, both of which in turn contribute to increased carbon emissions, which is a serious environmental concern. The supporting maps explore the various implications of what is at stake as the Arctic warms three to four times faster than the rest of the world: the Arctic ecosystems at risk, the extent of permafrost thaw, and the shifting of the Arctic from a carbon sink to a new source. Maps like Christina’s are helpful in allowing people to visualize and further understand the progressive impacts of climate change.

Check out more of Christina’s maps on her website, and learn more about the work of Permafrost Pathways here.

Select the images below to see a detailed look at Christina’s map

Making the Map

Christina used both MAPublisher and Geographic Imager tools in the creation of this map. Christina used the Import tool to import the data files she processed in another program, such as QGIS. Following import, she used the MAP Views panel to set up the map scale and projection of the document. Since this map required a polar map projection, the MAP View Editor was also used to reproject data layers from different coordinate systems.

Christina also employed MAP Themes in the creation of her map. Stylesheet Themes were used to symbolize the data on both the main map and supporting maps. These stylesheets could then be used to create legends for the respective maps.

In Geographic Imager, Christina opened her raster data using the Advanced Import, which contains several geoprocessing tools to adjust, crop or transform her imagery before importing it. This can be especially helpful when working with large datasets that may slow the program down if they are not cropped or downsized in some way. She also used the Transform feature to reproject images where necessary.

See the winner announcement for the 2023 Avenza Map Contest here, and check out our other Map Spotlight blogs here!

Announcing the Avenza Map Contest 2023 Winners

We are excited to announce that the 2023 Avenza Map Contest has now concluded. This year we saw cartographers from all over the world submit their best maps, with some truly impressive displays of cartographic design. Our entrants demonstrated how they utilize Avenza software to create visually appealing and meaningful cartographic products. Now that we have concluded the judging, discussing, and reviewing process, the Avenza team would like to congratulate this year’s prize winners!

Over the next few months, keep an eye out for Map Spotlight blogs detailing our winning entries and some other honourable mentions from the 2023 Avenza Map Contest. Each article will provide a closer look at the winning map entries, with insights from their creators, and an overview of tools and techniques used to develop their prize-winning maps.

Grand Prize Winner


Arctic Carbon Monitoring Network
Christina Shintani
Woodwell Climate Research Center

Check out more of Christina’s maps on her website. Additional contributors to the text content and illustration on this map are Jessica Howard and Julianne Waite, respectively.

Runner-Up Prize Winner


Korea Between the Wars
Nat Case
INCase, LLC

This map is published in the book Beyond the Border: A Korean’s Journey Between the North and South by Tae-hyok Kim and Nicole Kim Rogers. See the other maps Nat created for the book on his website.

Second Runner-Up Prize Winner


Africa’s Evolving Energy Landscape
Ginny Mason
S&P Global Commodity Insights

Several members of the team at S&P Global Commodity Insights contributed to this map: Melenie Yuen, Justin Cochrane, Roderick Bruce, Josephine Sajbel, Jennifer Tschopp, Enrico Pedica.

Congratulations again to this year’s winners!

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