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Where do I start?

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I am interested in learning to design maps to share with friends. We are into back country fishing, hiking and motorcycle riding. I've fooled around with OSM a little and managed to scan and georeference printed maps but am quickly in over my head. Is there a Cartography for dummies book or other recommended reading out there so I'm not completely lost. I am a Mac user and looking for a good program to use, any recommendations?




Dennis McClendon

Dennis McClendon

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There are several approaches you might take.


The most basic is to scan or take a screen capture of the Canadian topo sheets (online at http://www.mappingsu...com/p/gmap4.php —select Canada Topo in the upper right corner). You can then add annotations to the maps in your favorite draw, paint, illustration, or page layout program.  The Canadian topo maps are under Crown copyright, so you wouldn't want to sell or widely distribute the maps.


You can trace from the topo maps and aerial imagery using Illustrator or Inkscape, adding notes from your own knowledge.  This involves a lot of work, but creates the highest-quality finished work for printing on paper.


You can help with the ongoing digitization of water and similar features in OpenStreetMap.  This helps add to the world's knowledge, but isn't really the place to put touring notes for friends such as "really good hole" and "last place to buy beer."  There are ways to add such notes on top of OSM or even GoogleMaps for online display, but that may not be how the friends want to take maps with them into the wild.


You can acquire existing GIS datasets from the local or provincial government, which you use to construct maps in a GIS program, which may then be brought into Illustrator for finishing work or into TileMill or the like for web display.  


Maps made from GIS data or extracted from OSM have the advantage of being "geographically aware," so that you can create GeoPDF representations that can be carried on phone or tablet devices with GPS.  Thus the viewer can see his position directly on the map.


Let us know more about what kinds of maps you want to make and we can be more specific.  There are basic concepts of cartography that don't change, and then there are very specific things about workflow and software.

Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics

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