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Cartography Start-Up - GIS -> Adobe

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#1
MappyB

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Good morning,
I am new to CartoTalk and I am loving this site! What a great resource!!!

I'm in the slow process of starting up my own small mapping biz and I have a quick question for you all:

How hard of a transition is it moving from being a proficient GIS user to using Illustrator? I have worked with GIS for the past 6 years and am looking to purchase Illustrator to begin the transition in to more cartography-based mapping versus GIS.

I am just curious your thoughts on this. I have friends that are graphic designers and a ton of friends that are GIS-users, but none that have experience with both.

Also, are there any good books that cover this topic? I will search this site more thoroughly later today when I get a chance in case resources have already been posted.

Thanks in advance!
"It's risky to travel into the unknown; you don't know what you'll find.
But it's equally risky to dream, and not dive in." Robert Perkins [Limpopo River Documentary]

#2
Hans van der Maarel

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How hard of a transition is it moving from being a proficient GIS user to using Illustrator? I have worked with GIS for the past 6 years and am looking to purchase Illustrator to begin the transition in to more cartography-based mapping versus GIS.


Hard to say really, as I'm personally coming in from the Illustrator side. However, there's some fundamental differences between the two approaches that might make it a difficult transition.

The best advice I can give you right now is: practice! Get to know Illustrator reasonably well before jumping headlong into a project. Also, feel free to ask whatever questions you have here on Cartotalk.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
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#3
merft

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I think you will find that many of us are either graphic designers or scientific illustrators who have used graphic design packages (Illustrator/Freehand) primarily. The use of GIS products generally revolved around exporting data from GIS back into illustration software. I know I still have my ArcView 2.0a for Macintosh diskettes sitting in some box in my basement.

As for moving from GIS to an illustration package, I would say the fundamental concept is a change in utility. GIS packages are designed primarily for analysis. Illustration software and cartography (at least cartography as it is redefining itself) are about communication. That is the primary reason for the difference in software choice. That is not to say that you can't do cartographic in GIS packages, and vice versa, but it is a matter of choosing the right tool for the job. I can pound a nail into a wall using a monkey wrench, but it would be a lot easier with a hammer.

For learning Illustrator, I would recommend some for the video training series for a general overview. Either Total Training (http://www.totaltraining.com/) or Lynda.com. I am sure that there are also some good books, but being a visual person, I have a hard time with books that take more than a couple hours to read (probably a case of ADD).

-Tom

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mike

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Also, are there any good books that cover this topic? I will search this site more thoroughly later today when I get a chance in case resources have already been posted.
Thanks in advance!


Hi MappyB,

This forum has quite a few Illustrator users. I think asking questions here and doing some searches will provide you with a lot of information.

Also, I'm working on a series of entries on the ESRI Mapping Center about moving from ArcMap to Illustrator. I've just finished a blog entry on controlling color before exporting to AI. http://mappingcenter.esri.com/

Welcome to the site!

#5
Adam Wilbert

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I'll second the recommendation to check out Mordy Golding's video tutorials on Lynda.com. They're fantastic and will give you a strong grounding in what Illustrator is. From my experience, people who are technically skilled enough to "get" GIS packages can easily "get" working with illustrator. But there is a bit of left-brain/right-brain differences that can make or break your projects. So in addition to learning the tool (illustrator) i'd recommend some general gounding in the theory of graphic design as well, even if it isn't specific to cartography, the same lessons generally apply.

one more thing: welcome to cartotalk!

-Adam

Adam Wilbert
CartoGaia.com & AdamWilbert.com
Lynda.com author of "Up and Running with ArcGIS"


#6
ELeFevre

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Hey MappyB,
Many of the back-bone core features of Illustrator are found in ArcMap. For example, if you're familiar with ArcMap then you already understand the concept of layers. And understanding the concept of layers is monumental (and difficult) for new Illustrator users. Illustrator provides more object control at the layer level, but the framework and concept is the same. Same goes for selection tools, drawing tools and editing tools. All are found in both applications.

The best way to learn Illustrator IMO is to find examples of maps and graphics that you're inspired by and deconstruct/replicate the design in Illustrator. Between the forum, Illustrator Help files and Google, you seriously don't need to spend any money on a book for some time.



#7
David T

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That is not to say that you can't do cartographic in GIS packages, and vice versa, but it is a matter of choosing the right tool for the job.


Quoting this for truth.

I come from the Freehand world, and had five years of experience using Freehand (and a tiny bit of Illustrator) in my map production. When I arrived at the Marine Corps, the only tool I was given was ArcGIS. For a number of reasons, this is the only tool GIS Analysts in the Marine Corps have available for map construction.

Beautiful, award-winning maps can be constructed in ArcGIS. But, it will take time and effort to recreate things that are much more easily accomplished in Illustrator. So, as merft said, choose the right tool for the job. Balance the time it will take to learn a new software package (as well as the cost of acquiring said package). But use the tool that you feel good in, that will help you maximize your time and efforts.
David Toney, GISP
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#8
Sky Schemer

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Between the forum, Illustrator Help files and Google, you seriously don't need to spend any money on a book for some time.


I'm going to disagree with you here. To really use Illustrator to its fullest, you need to understand the tools and menus, and frankly, many of the tools, filters and effects in Illustrator are far from intuitive. I've found the Classroom in a Book series that Adobe publishes to be very helpful in this regard. The lessons in these books step you through almost every major feature in the application. I'm all for learning as you go, but without a solid foundation in the basics, it's a slow and frustrating process.

#9
pfyfield

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I learned GIS and graphics software roughly simultaneously, starting with CorelDraw and ArcView 3. I use Illustrator CS3 and ArcMap 9.2 both daily.

ArcMap's recent developments in cartography use Illustrator as a model, right down to the look of the tools. Familiarity with ArcMap should be a big help in learning Illustrator. Once you get in and start digging around, it'll come. Illustrator has many features that you'll probably never use in making maps. The features you need to use aren't buried too deeply.

One difference: In ArcMap, only data is on layers. In Illustrator, everything is on a layer. Illustrator recognizes no difference between a roads layer that is GIS data and purely graphic elements (unless you have MAPublisher). This is, I think, one of the biggest pains when building a map in ArcMap.

The other fundamental difference is that an ArcMap mxd file links to data while in Illustrator all the data are contained within the ai file. Not a big difference when working on the map, but a difference nonetheless. Editing data to suit the needs of a particular map will affect all other mxd files that link to the same data- not so in Illustrator.

If you've been able to make decent maps in GIS, I think you'll find that once you learn Illustrator you'll spend a lot less time figuring out how to make things work. It's well worth the initial effort.
Paul Fyfield
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#10
ELeFevre

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Between the forum, Illustrator Help files and Google, you seriously don't need to spend any money on a book for some time.


I'm going to disagree with you here. To really use Illustrator to its fullest, you need to understand the tools and menus, and frankly, many of the tools, filters and effects in Illustrator are far from intuitive. I've found the Classroom in a Book series that Adobe publishes to be very helpful in this regard. The lessons in these books step you through almost every major feature in the application. I'm all for learning as you go, but without a solid foundation in the basics, it's a slow and frustrating process.



That's a good point... although I'm not sure if new users really need to know where the outer-glow or drop-shadow effects are for at least a year. If anything, those tools will do more harm than good. But, yes, I completely agree that having a solid understanding of the environment (2-D vector program) and available core tools and underlying concepts is necessary. I too recommend Adobe's Classroom in a Book along with Mordy Golding's Real World Illustrator.



#11
ELeFevre

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ArcMap's recent developments in cartography use Illustrator as a model, right down to the look of the tools. Familiarity with ArcMap should be a big help in learning Illustrator. Once you get in and start digging around, it'll come. Illustrator has many features that you'll probably never use in making maps. The features you need to use aren't buried too deeply....

The other fundamental difference is that an ArcMap mxd file links to data while in Illustrator all the data are contained within the ai file. Not a big difference when working on the map, but a difference nonetheless. Editing data to suit the needs of a particular map will affect all other mxd files that link to the same data- not so in Illustrator.

If you've been able to make decent maps in GIS, I think you'll find that once you learn Illustrator you'll spend a lot less time figuring out how to make things work. It's well worth the initial effort.


Exactly. Illustrator and ArcMap share many of the same tools. And more and more ArcMap is adopting the graphical features and functionality found in most vector programs.

Actually, when you place a file in Illustrator you can choose whether or not you want to "Link" to the file or "Embed" the file in the document. There's also an associated palette under the Windows menu called "Links" where you can manage these files.



#12
MappyB

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Thank you all for the responses, I really appreciate it! I'm going to check out many of the resources mentioned; online training and the starter books sound good to me. I'm surprised at some of the similarities you all have mentioned b/t GIS and AI, that's good to know. I tend to pick up new software quickly too, so I am hoping that is the case. I've only played around with Photoshop, as far as Adobe products go, and that was completely not-intuitive to me, so the training tutorials will be helpful I'm sure.

And about the 'outer-glow and drop-shadow' options....I'm intrigued now, maybe I do want to know.... :)

Thank you all again for your comments - I'm impressed, I've never been to a site this helpful before!

Have a good weekend!
"It's risky to travel into the unknown; you don't know what you'll find.
But it's equally risky to dream, and not dive in." Robert Perkins [Limpopo River Documentary]

#13
Hans van der Maarel

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And about the 'outer-glow and drop-shadow' options....I'm intrigued now, maybe I do want to know.... :)


Ah, drop shadow (Effect -> Stylize -> Drop Shadow). It's amazing how much such a simple effect can do to the visual appeal of a map. I've often used it for legend boxes and such, but recently I've experimented a bit with using it on road overpasses. I'll see if I can get some samples up somewhere next week.

Thank you all again for your comments - I'm impressed, I've never been to a site this helpful before!


Well, thanks! That's something we always like to hear ;)
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
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#14
Unit Seven

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Ah, drop shadow (Effect -> Stylize -> Drop Shadow). It's amazing how much such a simple effect can do to the visual appeal of a map. I've often used it for legend boxes and such, but recently I've experimented a bit with using it on road overpasses.


Def interested to see the overpass ones you have tried Hans.
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#15
Hans van der Maarel

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Def interested to see the overpass ones you have tried Hans.


See here
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