ArcGIS Blog

Favorite tools and resources for cartographers

This post is a compilation of some of the most popular tools and sources of information about maps and cartographic design. These links were originally posted on the Esri Mapping Center site several years ago, but are updated below.

Blogs & Forums 

Axis Maps

Big Map Blog
Kelso’s Corner
Making Maps
Map Practical
Strange Maps


 is a web tool for selecting color schemes for thematic maps, usually for choropleth maps. ColorBrewer includes 35 basic schemes with different numbers of classes for over 250 possible versions. Each scheme has CMYK, RGB, Hex, Lab, and AV3 (HSV) specs for the colors. The software is designed simply to list color specs for a scheme you find useful so you are able to create these colors in the mapping software you are using.

Color Oracle is a free color blindness simulator for Window, Mac and Linux. It shows in real time what people with common color vision impairments will see. Color Oracle applies a full screen color filter, independent of the software in use.

ColorPic is a color picker with a magnifier attached. It grabs palettes of up to 16 colors at once and uses four advanced color mixers to select a spectrum of possibilities.

eyePilot is an application you can purchase that’s designed as a floating window, which you can easily drag over a web page, document, or computer application, that allows you to quickly and more accurately view color-coded information.

Kuler is a free web-hosted application to explore, create, and share color themes.

ScaleMaster is a structured diagram for organizing multiscale mapping using multiple databases and design, selection, and generalization decisions. In its rudimentary form, ScaleMaster is a do-it-yourself Excel file available for download.

TypeBrewer is a free help tool that gives nonspecialist mapmakers a chance to explore typography in a semistructured environment. Instead of providing the functionality of a graphic design program or GIS, TypeBrewer offers a quick and easy way to explore typographic alternatives and see the impact that various elements of type have on the overall look and feel of a map.

Vischeck is an application that shows you what things look like to someone who is color-blind. It works online on your own image files or runs on a web page. You can also download programs to let you run it on your own computer.

Visolve is a software application (free for personal use) that transforms the colors of the computer display into discriminable colors for various people including people with color vision deficiency, commonly called color blindness.

Course materials

Geographer’s Craft
Cartographic Communication
Coordinate Systems Overview
Geodetic Datum Overview
Map Projection Overview

Map collections

David Rumsey Map Collection
Historical Map & Chart Project
National Library of Australian Digitised Maps Collection

Map projections

Carlos A. Furuti’s Map Projection Pages
Gallery of Map Projections

Terrain representation

Relief Shading is a site that gives cartographers, map enthusiasts, and students in-depth information about shaded relief.
Shaded Relief is a site to assist practicing cartographers with the presentation of shaded relief and related raster art on maps.


Maps and Cartography
A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods
Hawth’s Analysis Tools for ArcGIS
Travel the World: Cartography

Professional Organizations

International Cartographic Association (ICA)
Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS)
Canadian Cartographic Association (CCA)
British Cartographic Society (BCS)
North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS)
Association of American Geographers Cartography Specialty Group (AAG-CSG)
American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM)
American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS)


University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS)Academic and Scientific Journals
Cartography and Geographic Information Science, the journal of CaGIS; one of the three journals of ICA
Cartographica, the journal of CCA; one of the three journals of ICA
The Cartographic Journal, the journal of BCS; one of the three journals of ICA
Cartographic Perspectives, the journal of NACIS
The Journal of Maps, an online journal of maps 


Campbell, John. 2001. Map Use and Analysis, Fourth Edition. Boston: McGraw Hill, 372 pages, ISBN: 0-073-03748-6.
Clarke, Keith C. 1995. Analytical and Computer Cartography, Second Edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 334 pages, ISBN: 0-133-41900-2.
Dent, Borden D., Jeffrey S. Torguson, and Thomas H. Hodler. 2009.Cartography: Thematic Map Design, Sixth Edition. Boston, MA: WCB-McGraw Hill, 336 pages, ISBN-10: 0-072-94382-3, ISBN-13: 978-0-072-94382-5.
Kimerling, A. Jon, Aileen R. Buckley, Phillip C. Muehrcke, and Juliana O. Muehrcke. 2011. Map Use: Reading, Analysis, Interpretation, Seventh Edition. Redlands, CA: Esri Press, 581 pages, ISBN: 978-1-58948-279-1.
Kraak, M. J., and F. J. Omerling. 1996. Cartography: Visualization of Spatial Data. Essex, England: Addison Wesley Longman Ltd., 222 pages, ISBN: 0-582-25953-3.
Krygier, John, and Denis Wood. 2005. Making Maps: A Visual Guide to Map Design for GIS. New York: The Guilford Press, 303 pages, ISBN: 1-593-85200-2.
Peterson, Michael P. 1995. Interactive and Animated Cartography. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 257 pages, ISBN: 0-130-79104-0.
Robinson, Arthur H., Joel L. Morrison, Phillip C. Muehrcke, A. Jon Kimerling, and Stephen C. Guptill. 1995. Elements of Cartography, Fifth Edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 674 pages, ISBN: 0-471-55579-7.
Slocum, Terry, Robert B. McMaster, Fritz C. Kessler, and Hugh H. Howard. 2009. Thematic Cartography and Geographic Visualization, Third Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 561 pages, ISBN-10: 0-132-29834-1, ISBN-13: 978-0-13-22984-6.
Wood, Clifford H., and C. Peter Keller, ed. 1996. Cartographic Design: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 322 pages, ISBN-10: 0-471-96587-1, ISBN-13: 978-0-471-96587-9.

Other Books

Bertin, Jacques. 2010. Semiology of Graphics: Diagrams, Networks, Maps. Redlands, CA: Esri Press, 124 pages, ISBN: 978-1-589-48261-6.
Brewer, Cynthia A. 2008. Designed Maps: A Sourcebook for GIS Users. Redlands, CA: Esri Press, 170 pages, ISBN: 978-1-589-48160-2.
Brewer, Cynthia A. 2005. Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users. Redlands, CA: Esri Press, 202 pages, ISBN-10: 1-589-48089-9, ISBN-13: 978-1-589-48089-6.
British Cartographic Society. 2009. Cartography: An Introduction. London, England: British Cartographic Society, 64 pages, ISBN: 978-0-904-48223-2.
Flacke, Werner, and Birgit Kraus. 2005. Working with Projections and Datum Transformations in ArcGIS. Points Verlag Norden Halmstad, 360 pages, ISBN-10: 3-980-84635-0, ISBN-13: 978-3-980-84635-6.
Imhof, Eduard. 2007 (English translation first published in 1982).Cartographic Relief Presentation (from the original German,Kartographische Gelandedarstellung, published in 1965). Redlands, CA: Esri Press, 399 pages, ISBN-10: 1-589-48026-0, ISBN-13: 978-1-589-48026-1.Also available as an e-book.
MacEachren, Alan M. 2004. How Maps Work. New York: The Guilford Press, 513 pages, ISBN: 978-0-89862-589-0.
Maher, Margaret. 2010. Lining Up Data in ArcGIS: A Guide to Map Projections. Redlands, CA: Esri Press, 200 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1-589-48249-4.
Monmonier, Mark, and H. J. De Blij. 1996. How to Lie with Maps, Second Edition. Chicago, IL: University Of Chicago Press, 207 pages, ISBN-10: 0-226-53421-9, ISBN-13: 978-0-226-53421-3. Also available as an e-book.
Robinson, Arthur H. 2010. The Look of Maps: An Examination of Cartographic Design. Redlands, CA: Esri Press, 124 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1-58948-262-3.Also available as an e-book.
Robinson, Arthur Howard. 1976. The Nature of Maps: Essays Toward Understanding Maps and Mapping. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 138 pages, ISBN-10: 0-226-72281-3, ISBN-13: 978-0-226-72281-8.
Snyder, John P. 1989. An Album of Map Projections. US Geological Survey, 249 pages, USGS Report Number 1453.
Snyder, John P. 1997. Flattening the Earth: Two Thousand Years of Map Projections. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 384 pages, ISBN-10: 0-226-76747-7, ISBN-13: 978-0-226-76747-5.
Snyder, John P. 1987. Map Projections: A Working Manual. US Geological Survey, 385 pages, USGS Report Number 1395.
Tufte, Edward R. 2006. Beautiful Evidence. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, 213 pages, ISBN-10: 0-961-39217-7, ISBN-13: 978-0-961-39217-8.
Tufte, Edward R. 1990. Envisioning Information. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, 126 pages, ISBN-10: 0-961-39211-8, ISBN-13: 978-0-961-39211-6.
Tufte, Edward R. 1997. Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, 156 pages, ISBN-10: 0-961-39212-6, ISBN-13: 978-0-961-39212-3.
Tufte, Edward R. 1983. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, 197 pages, ISBN-10: 0-961-39214-2, ISBN-13: 978-0-961-39214-7.

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