The first time I had to make a map it was for a resource guide for students in my university art department. It turned out all right, but it took me longer to create that map of 15 point locations than the rest of the 22-page guide. Unfortunately, the lesson you might take from such an experience is “Don’t make a map. It’s too much work. Your project does not need a map that badly.”
Well, that was back in the day. Back in the day we didn’t have ArcGIS Maps for Adobe Creative Cloud. Now you can access and create geographic data from within Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. You can style, label, and analyze it. You can add legends and projections. No more time-consuming hacks like tracing screenshots from Google Maps, or hand-placing hundreds of locations. The fact is there are tons of people out there mapping the world for you. And you can reap the benefits of their good work in your good design.
In this blog I’m going to walk you through making a walking tourist map for a fictional hotel in Rockland, Maine—The Oceanland Inn. I was recently in Rockland, and it was beautiful. And now that I have this handy map, I can’t wait to go back.
Set up a mapboard
1. Install the ArcGIS Maps for Adobe Creative Cloud plug-in and open Adobe Illustrator.
2. Click Window, point to Extensions, and choose ArcGIS Maps for Adobe Creative Cloud.
- If this is your first time using the product, you’ll be prompted to sign in with one of three account types. For this workflow, you’ll need either a Plus account or an ArcGIS Online (Creator) account. The Plus account is ideal for designers who want access to more mapping data and features, including map projections, legends, and analysis tools
Tip: For a list of which features are supported by each license type, you can check out the functionality matrix.
- If it’s not your first time using the extension, click Account in the upper left corner and make sure you are signed in with either Plus or ArcGIS Online.
3. On the Mapboards window, search for Rockland, Maine.
4. Click Draw.
5. Drag a box around the coast of Rockland Harbor. Don’t worry about getting it perfect; you can adjust it later.
The Mapboard Options window appears.
6. For Name, type Rockland.
You can specify either a size or a scale for your map. The owner of the Oceanland Inn wants to print the map as a postcard-size handout that she can give to guests. So for this project, you’re going to start with a size.
7. For Width, type 4 in.
8. For Height, type 6 in.
Tip: If your units are in millimeters or another unit, you can still type measurements followed by in to specify that they are in inches. The values will automatically recalculate to convert them to millimeters.
The scale of the map is calculated based on how much land is currently covered by your 4- by 6-inch mapboard.
9. Click OK.
10. Hover over the mapboard. Three buttons appear. Use them to move and resize the mapboard until it is positioned nicely over Rockland’s downtown.
You can also resize by dragging the corners of the mapboard.
11. When you’re ready, click Preview and add content.
The Compilation window appears. This is where you will add layers for your map.
Find the location of the Oceanland Inn
The first thing you need to add to your map is the location of the hotel.
1. Click Add Content at the top and choose Add Places.
2. Under Enter Place Name or Location, type Beech and Lincoln and press Enter.
3. Click the Add button next to Beech St & Lincoln St, Rockland, Maine, 04841.
4. Click Close.
A blue dot appears on your map, and a new layer, named Beech and Lincoln, appears in your Contents list.
Visualize travel times
The hotel owner wants the map to show guests how long it will take them to walk to nearby places. Next, you can analyze the hotel location to define walk-time areas surrounding it.
1. Point to the options button next to Beech and Lincoln and choose Visualize Travel Times.
The list of layers is replaced by the Visualize Travel Times pane.
2. Change Measure to Walking Time.
3. Replace 5 with 5 10 15 and make sure the time unit is set to Minutes.
Separating the numbers with spaces will generate a travel time area for each one, like concentric circles.
4. For Result layer name, type Walking Time.
5. Click Apply.
It may take a few minutes for the process to complete, but when it’s done, three purple polygons appear on the map.
6. Click OK to commit this change to your map.
Add locations from a file
Next, you want to show your guests what attractions exist within easy walking distance. Rockland is full of art galleries, parks, museums, and marinas. Fortunately, the hotel owner has already provided you with a list of the places she wants to see featured on the map.
1. Download RocklandPlaces.csv. This file contains three columns: Name, Address, and Type.
2. Click Add Content and choose Add Layer from file.
3. Browse to and select RocklandPlaces.csv and click Open.
A collection of points draw on the map in a random color.
Tip: If some of the places are cut off by the extent of your map, you can move and resize the mapboard in the Mapboards window. The map in the Compilation window will follow.
4. In the Contents list, next to RocklandPlaces, point to the options button and choose Manage Labels.
5. Change the font size to 10. For Alignment, choose the middle option. Check the Show overlapping labels box.
6. Click OK.
The labels are all in a jumble. That’s okay. You’ll rearrange them later.
Symbolize your map data
Next, you’ll symbolize these points based on their type.
1. Next to RocklandPlaces, point to the options button and choose Change Style.
2. Under Choose an attribute to show, choose Type.
3. For Select a drawing style, make sure Types (Unique symbols) is selected.
4. Click Options.
5. A different color has been assigned to each location type. You can change these default colors later using the Illustrator tools you’re used to. But if you want to change the default symbols now, click them one at a time.
For the example map, I went with a monochromatic scheme using shades of #002C3D. All of my symbols are dark blue with white outlines. And instead of using four categories, I narrowed it down to two. I made indoor things (museums and public services) circles, while outdoor things (parks and marinas) are diamonds.
6. When you are happy with your symbology changes, click OK to commit them to your map.
Change the DPI
At the top of the Compilation window, you can see that the DPI is set to 96. That’s fine for the web, but these maps are going to be printed.
1. Change DPI to 300.
Now the detail on your basemap has changed. That’s okay, because you’re not going to keep it.
2. In the Contents list, next to Topographic, point to the options button and choose Delete.
Add map data
Next, you’ll add some more layers to replace the basemap.
1. Click Add Content and choose Add Layers.
2. In the Search bar, type USA hydrography and press Enter. In the results, click the Add button on USA National Hydrography Dataset Plus Version 2.1 – Seamless.
3. Click Close.
Six layers were added to your map, and this is more than you need.
4. Delete all layers except for the second one—the Watershed Boundary. This layer provides you with a detailed coastline, which you can later use to color in the ocean.
5. Reopen the Add Layers window.
6. Under Browse from ArcGIS location, choose Living Atlas of the World and search for USA roads.
7. Add the layer USA Roads and click Close.
This time three layers were added to the map. Two of them are not drawing because they are not compatible with your current scale.
8. Delete the grayed-out road layers.
You now have all the data that you need to design a tourist walking map for the Oceanland Inn.
Just as you did for the RocklandPlaces layer, you can resymbolize the other layers using the Change Style option before syncing your map. However, this is not necessary; you can also make symbology changes later, using the Illustrator tools you’re used to.
Sync your map
You are now ready to sync your map into an Illustrator document. Don’t worry if you’ve forgotten something; you can always come back and resync it later.
1. In the Contents list, make sure that all of the layers that you want in your map have arrow symbols next to them.
Any layers without this icon will not be synced.
2. At the top of the Compilation window, click Sync, and in the Sync Map window, click OK.
3. Wait for your map to finish constructing.
If you get a warning about missing fonts, click Close to dismiss it. You’re going to be replacing the default font anyway.
Style the map in Illustrator
This part is all up to you. As previously mentioned, I chose to make a monochromatic map, as is all the rage these days. You may have a different color scheme in mind.
Your new map document has a layer list already broken up into groups to represent all the parts of your map. Partially collapsed, that list looks like this:
1. Turn off the Rockland_Element group layer. This group contains the Esri logo and data copyright information, which in this map consists only of “U.S. Census.” You can work that into some credit text later.
2. Select the Labels group layer and in the Properties pane, change the font. I recommend Candara Bold 11 pt.
3. Move the Other group layer to the bottom and give it a fill color. I used the blueish-gray #99ABB1.
Note: The Other layer is a rectangle that represents the boundary of your map. If you want to sound like a cartographer, you can call it a ‘neatline’.
4. Select the Other path and the coastline path. Use the Pathfinder Divide tool to split the rectangle into two parts—one for land and one for water.
5. In the Layers list, expand the hydrography layer to find the shapes you just made.
6. Name the two new Paths Ocean and Land and delete the original compound paths.
7. Give the ocean polygon a dark blue color—perhaps the same #002c3d as the point symbols—and remove the strokes from both polygons.
8. In the Layers list, delete, rename, regroup, and rearrange the layers to match your desired drawing order. My list looks like this:
9. Save your project.
Now that you have everything in order, it’s time to make the map shine. These design decisions I leave to your own good judgement. Below are a few suggestions:
Lettering your map is often the most time-consuming cartographic task, and the easiest way to make or break a map.
- In this particular map, it may seem difficult to fit in all those labels. Don’t be afraid to add leader lines and halos:
- I also chose to differentiate my labels subtly, which can help with legibility on crowded maps. In this case, labels for outdoor things are in italics.
- Don’t forget to add a map title, a label for the hotel, and text that explains the walk-time polygons.
I felt that I did not need a legend on this map, since everything was explained through labels. But if you want to add one, reopen the Compilation window.
1. Open the Processes window.
2. Check the Add Legend box and click Run.
A new group layer will be added to your Illustrator document with a ready-made legend.
Your map is complete! You didn’t have to trace the coastline or roads from an aerial photo or another map. You were able to add locations using a simple text file, and you didn’t need to time yourself walking from the hotel to the Lighthouse Museum. And now guests at the Oceanland Inn don’t need to call an Uber. It’s a win-win.