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in need of tips for large format cartography

- - - - - typography hillshade image resolution DEM

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#1
chris henrick

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Hello CartoTalk,

 

I'm currently working on creating a personalized map of a friend's journey on the Pacific Crest Trail; the area being covered is the Western U.S. from Mexico to Canada. I'd like to design the map to be printed at a large format; somewhere around 18" x 27". This will be the first time I've created a map at a poster size, previously my work has been fairly limited to smaller formats in publishing. Some questions that immediately come to mind given that the map will likely be read at a distance of a few feet vs. up close are:

 

  • what typographic point size range should I use for labeling? (ie is 7pt too small to start with?)
     
  • what resolution and DEM sampling should I use for creating a shaded relief? (The map scale is ~1:2,800,000 using a LCC projection. Natural Earth's 1:10m hypso tints looks too pixelated at the mentioned size)
     
  • how large should symbols be so that they can be read accurately but not look obtrusive?
     
  • is there anything else I should keep in mind when working on a large format map design?

I ask these questions in advance as I foresee printing proofs at this size being rather costly, thus I'd like to have a good starting point beforehand. Any suggestions or links to online resources would be very much appreciated.

 


-Chris

#2
Daniel Huffman

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I admittedly don't have any useful rules of thumb here (I've made a number of large prints, but they were meant for close reading, so I didn't do much differently than if I made a small map). But, if I were in this situation, I'd probably start doing a little math, measuring what percentage of a reader's field of vision something takes up when it's up close vs. a few feet away, so I could develop a conversion factor. Then I could just scale everything up proportionally from the sizes I'm used to using, which seems to be what most of your questions boil down to.

 

A table of conversions would be handy to have, so if you figure this out, please share your results here!

 

Also, to save on proofs, you could print off small sections of the map on letter paper and put them on the wall, to test legibility at the distance you're looking for.


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#3
Hans van der Maarel

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  • what typographic point size range should I use for labeling? (ie is 7pt too small to start with?) - Depends on the viewing distance. On street maps I go down to 5 pt but they're meant for up-close viewing. On your map the most important features should be labelled in a way that they'll be readble from 2-3 feet away, but for less important and smaller features you can go down a few points. Gretchen Peterson has included some information on this in one of her books. Other than that, I'd pretty much agree with Daniel: try it out.
  • what resolution and DEM sampling should I use for creating a shaded relief? - Off the top of my head: at a scale of 2.8M one inch on the map equals about 44 miles (or 233000 feet). Assuming 300 dpi you want a DEM with a resolution of 776 feet (236 meters). That's almost exactly the resolution of the GMTED 7.5" dataset. Rough calculation though, not accounting for extreme projections.
     
  • how large should symbols be so that they can be read accurately but not look obtrusive? - They should be in synch with your text sizes. This is one of those fuzzy things. Also, try it out ;)
     
  • is there anything else I should keep in mind when working on a large format map design? - Show us your work-in-progress :P

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#4
MapMedia

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It all depends on how complex the map is. If it is highlighting a zig-zagging trail along the spine of a mtn range, with some call outs: campsites, points of interest, etc., then you could likely keep the font size large 10-12pt, and if need be down to 4pt for clean font faces (i.e, Helvetica).

 

Icons should be prominent since they are helping tell the story, but should also be within range of the label size (i.e, a 16pt icon for 12pt font is within range). I would opt for clean icons, whether vector or raster.

 

For DEM, you can use 10 meter. Once you get it all together as a singal layer, you can run a few passes of smoothening (focal median), then produce a hillshade at desired settings. Will require some testing with unless you have a default setting for western mtns.with deep canyons and snowy peaks.

 

You can fire off page size prints to your desktop printer by printing an 11"x8.5" patch of the map. For small batches, I uses online printers: Vivyx or Mimeo.

As you know, since it is a map representing someone's foot travels, don't forget to include a handsome scale! XD

 

Chris


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#5
chris henrick

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Thanks everyone for your comments. Here is a first attempt, I'm wondering if the relief is slightly too detailed / textured? I'm using NSD pro with Photoshop. Link to a JPG here.

-Chris

#6
MountainMapper

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These aren't really pertinent to your original questions, but since you offered a JPG, here are my thoughts:

 

I like the shaded relief high detail, it shows the terrain complexities that your friend had to navigate. The color of the trail is good too; it pops but fits in well. 

 

The one thing I find distracting is the water layer. It looks like you're missing higher stream orders, like the Columbia River, which make the rest of your streams appear fragmented. I would also change the coast outline symbology. I really like the ocean blue fading to white near the coast (how did you do that?), but using the same thick blue line as the rest of the rivers is confusing.

 

You could also try turning the state/province/country labels into white and transparent, maybe increase the font size and letter spacing, they're not super visible at the moment. 

 

I'm interested to see what your final plan is. Are you highlighting specific points along the trail related to major events?


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#7
chris henrick

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Thanks for picking up on the missing rivers MM. I may remove the coastline style altogether but toning it down is definitely a good suggestion. The faded effect on the ocean is achieved through an "inner glow"; in illustrator select a polygon with an area fill and then go to Menu > Effect > Stylize > Inner Glow (also available in the appearance panel in the fx menu). In the options pop-up box you can select the color to fade to and adjust the width of the fade as well. 

 

I plan on refining the labels more, for now I'm focusing on getting the shaded relief to look right. The map will be calling out specific events and highlights of my friend's trip as well as points marking location dates.


-Chris

#8
chris w

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First of all, it is a lovely base map. The glow in the water will look less pronounced when it is printed. Maybe you have more overlay information to supplement/compliment the route, e.g. photos, larger-scale insets, and so on? This might help give the map more subject.



#9
razornole

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The shaded relief doesn't bother me, as far as being too detailed.  For some reason, and it may just be the scale, but the Sierra/Cascade/Coastal Mtns don't stand out.

 

Are the smaller towns serving a purpose? I can understand large cities and capitals for geographic integrity, but Albany OR.

 

kru


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#10
MapMedia

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solid basemap. as for content, have you considered showing the national forest and BLM lands and labeling the ones that the trail passes through. So two shades of green: nationl forest and nation park



#11
chris henrick

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thanks all,

 

@chris w: yes I intend to add some photos from his trip. Not sure if I'll have time for large scale insets, but may do at least one for the Mt. Whitney side trip. 

 

@razornole: I just threw on some natural earth populated places to see how cultural features and labels would look over the basemap. Going to give it another pass to see if I can get the higher mountains to stand out more. I'm using NSD Pro 6, any recommendations? I'm still learning about making shaded reliefs, there are so many techniques and options!

 

@mapmedia: thanks, I do intend to add other protected lands. Do you happen to have links for state park data for OR and WA? Believe I have USFS / BLM land data already but need to double check. Good suggestion.

 

I'll be adding specific POI's to his trip as well as points showing dates (at weekly intervals) with total miles traveled. The last part I'm still figuring out with postGIS but shouldn't be too complicated.


-Chris

#12
chris henrick

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Hi All, I just posted a draft of the map in the Map Gallery forum: http://www.cartotalk...?showtopic=9244

 

Any comments would be appreciated, thanks!


-Chris





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