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Colors For Maps


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#16
oedipusRex_09

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It is fascinating to see how much color really influences the perception of cartography. Though it is obvious I am an amateur in this field, I was wondering about the evolution of color in cartography. Obviously it was a rich man's pursuit at one point to color a map but is there any homage still paid to the old styles?
"Dream of galleries and resort to flyer printing; want vs. need."

#17
Adam Wilbert

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Even the vast majority of GIS maps are printed on CMYK plotters, are they not?

To suggest that it's sufficient to let Illustrator or similar software "just convert" from RGB to CMYK shows a real misunderstanding of the significant differences between the possible gamuts:

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Not to complicate the issue, but I think we also need to be making the distinction between offset printing and ink-jet printing here. 4 color offset and old ink-jet printers/plotters definitely require a CMYK colorspace. But most newer plotters and ink-jet printers have extended color gamuts. They're not just CMYK, they're often CMYK + light cyan, light magenta, a couple of grays, orange and green etc. Depending on the device drivers, it might actually want to be fed an RGB file and do the conversion internally so you don't unnecessarily clip colors that the printer can actually output. Just because it's going to print, doesn't automatically necessitate a CMYK colorspace anymore. It's all about knowing your intended output device.

Even Cynthia Brewer's book mentions that her guide uses corresponding colors "converted in Adobe Illustrator" (Designing Better Maps, p 184). It's not real clear though if that means CMYK was converted to RGB or RGB to CMYK. So what's the difference if the book features "converted colors" using the same software that I would eventually use anyway?

As an aside for any one with the skill to pull it off, more than another CMYK guide, I'd love for someone to put together a 2 color pantone guide that outlines "cartographically friendly" formulas for obtaining four or five even steps on a two color press.

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


#18
Dennis McClendon

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Twenty years ago I did a fair amount of two-color work, but the plunging cost of CMYK reproduction means I hardly ever even think about one-color cartography any more, except for academic books. Where are you using two-color combinations?

Back in those days, we relied on the Pantone Two-Color Selector to make informed guesses. To get any real accuracy, you have to have your printer run a sample chart for you. If memory serves, Nat Case did exactly that with a deep blue and dark red in the early 90s, to see if he could reproduce some of the effects found in General Drafting Co. maps.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
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#19
Adam Wilbert

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One of my favorite local printers runs a two-color shop, and I'm always looking for excuses to work with them. I think it's exactly because 4color work has gotten so cheap that I seem to be drawn towards alternative printing methods. I cringe at every 4/1, gang run offset (or worse, gang run "digital" offset, ie photocopy) direct mail piece of trash that comes through my mailbox. Its unfortunate that everyone is bombarded with so much bad color printing and in such quantity as to completely cheapen the experience of print. So I like to experiment with alternatives and sometimes it works out that I get a client here and there that feels the same way. That's the ideal anyway.

There is something really exquisite about a nicely executed 2 color piece. The Whidbey Camano Land Trust newsletter was done this way for a long time and it was what really got me thinking about printing and color a few years ago. It's more tactile, engaging, romantic, nostalgic... where CMYK, to me at least, feels normal, boring, cheap and easy in comparison. Okay, so I'm being a little facetious there. But I think that delivery of a map's message goes way beyond the design of the graphic elements and that printing isn't just this thing that happens at the end of the process. There is a relationship between the message of a printed piece (map or otherwise) and the method of delivery.

So... to answer your question: I don't do nearly as much as I would like to. :)

P.S. I'm currently working on a map and other graphics for my own wedding invitations which will be 2 color letterpressed.
P.P.S. maybe this should be split off into another thread as I seem to have gotten off topic. (sorry Gretchen!) :)

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





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