ArcGIS Pro

Map-making, step by step

Recently I made a map of my favorite park: the Mojave National Preserve, a huge desert park in California. It’s a fantastic place that you should all visit.
Photo of cinder cones
It struck me that every time I make a map, I make the same time-consuming mistakes. These generally have to do with not preparing the project properly before I begin, resulting in messy duplicate geodatabases everywhere, annotation that was created at different scales and a general indecision about where the edge of the map should be. I thought it might be nice to have a suggested order of operations to prevent future pitfalls. And then I thought it would be nice to share it with all of you.

This tutorial uses the example of my map of the Mojave to outline a process for making one of your own, from data hunting all the way down to printing. It uses ArcGIS Pro, and does not go into detail about how to accomplish every single step, but instead gives an overview of the steps you might take. The screenshots provide hints, but ArcGIS Pro Help provides true help.

STEP ONE: PREPARE
Do not neglect this step. Trust me. Making decisions up front about scale and extent will make the rest of your map-making so much easier.

picture of the Catalog pane

picture of the coordinate system picker dialog

picture of the map frame controls

picture of the insert tab of the ribbon

map with map frame rectangle

STEP TWO: MAP
Now that you’ve got all the pieces in place, you are ready to actually make a map.

picture of the merge process

picture of tracing feature from the USA Topo Maps basemap

setting a definition query

symbolizing the map

STEP THREE: LABEL
Good labels make a good map.

label properties

convert to annotation on the ribbon

editing annotation

annotation masks

STEP FOUR: FINISH
It’s time to make a layout.

keymap of california

adding layout elements to a map


STEP FIVE: PROOF

You may think your map is finished, but a good proofreading will probably prove you wrong.

Finished map of the Mojave National Preserve

About

Heather is a cartographer and artist who mixes both practices to express and understand landscapes. She works as a product engineer at Esri, where she designs and tests mapping features in ArcGIS Pro. View more of her work at www.heathergabrielsmith.ca/maps

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