ArcGIS Pro

Blending a balance between imagery and cartography...cartimagery

Here is a look at the luscious World Imagery basemap. Who wouldn’t love the literal and accurate context of a basemap like this?

World Imagery basemap.

On the other hand, here is an extract of the tenderly hand-wrought cartographic terrain basemap, Natural Earth, from Tom Patterson.

Natural Earth terrain and landcover basemap.

Two outstanding choices! What’s a map maker to do? Each has its merits and limitations. If only there was a way to break free from the binary choice of one vs the other; if we could just blend th—ohhhhhhh, ok, hang on a second. Yeah. Let’s blend them.

Blended combination of imagery and cartography.

Right? With blending, it’s more like the two choices just become the ends of a gradient, and you can find a balance somewhere between the to, to best suit your map. And because we’re actually mathematically blending the pixels of these inputs, rather than applying a simple transparency, we have so much control and fun awaiting us…

0:00 Clearly this hair was cut at home.

0:07 Introducing the cast.

0:26 Embarrassingly low energy…it was first thing in the morning.

0:47 Adventures in hybridizing terms.

0:55 Simple transparency? Nah!

1:47 The Luminosity blend mode merges the textures of a layer (cartographic) with the colors below it (imagery).

2:30 Duplicating the cartography layer and trying out the Overlay blend mode. Too contrasty!

2:59 Soft Light is a gentler version of Overlay; works well here. One of the most useful of the blend modes.

3:15 Still too washed out, so time to add a darkening blend mode: Multiply.

3:56 Looks good! A gentle merging of the two original options.

So crack open blend modes and artfully balance a basemap to be the balance of imagery and cartography that best suits your map! And have fun.

Happy Blending! John


Comparing imagery inputs and their blended intersection.

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 Content team at Esri, pushing and pulling data in all sorts of absurd ways -and then talking about it. I also get to spend time with the Story Maps team, working on fun and useful user experiences. 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. Loads more how-to posts: My YouTube channel: Loads of Styles for Pro: Instagram:


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