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Word-Based Color Palettes for Your Vector Basemap

One of the coolest things about vector basemaps is that you can just tweak the styling rules and SNAP you have a new basemap. No re-cooking tiles, you just whisper to the robot some new rules about how to show the data.

And whispering those instructions to the robot is actually super easy and pretty fun.

Take me directly to the Vector Tile Editor, without delay!

But this blog post isn’t about the glories of the Vector Tile Editor, necessarily. It’s about a helpful little sneaky resource you can use to get the chroma flowing from your mind into a map!

Choosing and changing colors in the Vector Tile Editor is so fast and easy. But getting rolling with some colors at all can be a bit of a challenging start. I mean, what hex value is a forest or a desert or a prairie or a sea? Ah-ha…I have something that may help you! is a web app I collaborated on with Jinnan Zhang (I told you we make lots of fun unofficial map nerd stuff).

Just type a word, and get a color palette. Cool, right? Here are all the nerdy bits without taking a breath: we are hitting a library of thousands of tagged photos, returning those that match your term, smashing them into a single impressionistic blended image (which is often quite handsome), extracting the dominant colors, then smoothing them into a perceptively linear brightness gradient; just copy the color value that looks good to you and paste it where you want in the Vector Tile Editor. GASP.

Take me to PhotoChrome immediately! I cannot abide to wait a moment longer!

Grab colors for any manner of words, and try those word-colors in your basemap!

Off to PhotoChrome with me! I need to be smashing word-based palettes, and that right soon!

Here are three different vector basemaps I made using these palettes, in about five minutes total, by searching words like sea, clay, forest, emerald, moss.

Natural. Classic. Bold but sophisticated.
Oh my. What a confident and lovely dark basemap to drape bright thematic data upon.
How Etruscan. How noble. This basemap looks like fine Jasperware made cartographic. I'll take the lot!

Here’s a PhotoChrome palette from the word, “coast“…

Which looks pretty decent as a nice little muted low-contrast vector basemap for who-knows-what.

Have fun!

Happy textual color palette adventures! John

About the author

I have far too much fun looking for ways to understand and present data visually, hopefully driving product strategy and engaging users. I work in the ArcGIS Living Atlas team at Esri, pushing and pulling data in all sorts of absurd ways and then sharing the process. I also design user experiences for maps and apps. When I'm not doing those things, I'm chasing around toddlers and wrangling chickens, and generally getting into other ad-hoc adventures. Life is good. You might also like these Styles for ArcGIS Pro:


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