Best way to create custom printed map?
May 13, 2014 9:31 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for the best way to create a custom printed map with about 100 locations (in 2 or 3 categories) noted, and a legend to explain them. I don't know the first thing about GIS.

I've done some preliminary searching for these, but most things I've found seem a) geared towards a web presentation, and we'd like to print this nicely and frame it for a departing employee, or b) requiring some GIS skillz that we really don't have on staff. TileMill, for instance, seems to do what we want, but there's code and GIS involved, and I don't have time to learn how to use it.

So: what's the best way to create a custom map for printing, with no GIS background, and hopefully for not too much money (free would be even better)?
posted by hwickline to Technology (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
How big / how intense are you looking to do? Is this a one-off thing? Do you have familiarity with other Adobe/CAD tools, etc?

Tilemill is great if you're looking to do this for the web.

You can play around with Google Maps here via their styling wizard, and looks like there are third-party styling tools also.

For print, I'd say that you should get a vector-based eps or pdf file of the area you want, and place the markers with notes by hand in Illustrator. That way, you'll get high-res output.
posted by suedehead at 9:51 AM on May 13, 2014

This shouldn't be too hard, depending on a few things.

1. What size map do you want?

2. What sorts of place markers, labels, etc. do you want? For something with 100 locations, I'm guessing you'll want to go with a poster-sized map? The larger the map, the more you'll be able to play with labeling and fonts, etc., for readability.

You could also check out ESRI's ArcGIS Online. They're basically the Microsoft of the map software world, and it looks like you can do a 30-day free trial.

I'm a currently-unemployed GIS geek with a lot of free time, so if you would like some help with this, hit me up via MeMail. I'd be glad to help you out! :)
posted by cardinality at 9:56 AM on May 13, 2014

What if they only have a list of Lat & Long coordinates?
posted by wenestvedt at 10:34 AM on May 13, 2014


Click validate/set options > advanced options. There's a place to specify a lat and a long field.
posted by cardinality at 11:10 AM on May 13, 2014

Anyone in your office know how to use Illustrator? That's what I'd do for a one-off print piece. This really doesn't require GIS or code. This is plain old cartography. I don't think any web-based mapping services (Google Maps) etc are going to print off cleanly at poster size.
posted by desjardins at 12:28 PM on May 13, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks very much, everyone. There's definitely some good leads in here, though I think that desjardins has it, and we should just give it to a graphic designer to do, since it's a one-off.
posted by hwickline at 1:28 PM on May 13, 2014

Nthing the illustrator idea. I do this a lot for my job and publications.

Is this in the US? You can download a free topo map from the USGS here. There are also lots of other kinds of maps they provide. They also provide different sizes.

Then use illustrator, photoshop, or a web based program such as pixlr (although I'm not sure about the size requirements for Pixlr.) If you don't have Illustrator, you can download a trial version for free for up to 1 month. Place an icon on each of the places and label it individually or in the legend. Even though it's 100, once you get going it'll be relatively simple.
posted by barchan at 1:29 PM on May 13, 2014

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