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Using Adobe Illustrator as a map production tool

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#1
robertdbuckley

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As of 2014 I have licenses for Adobe Illustrator and photoshop which will be part of my map production workflow tool list. I am pretty new to these products and am finding the amount of effects, plugins and settings quite overwhelming. Are there any seasoned cartographers here that have been using illustrator / Photoshop for a while who could either give me some links for some good tutorials that have helped them along the way, and also what would be very interesting is a list of tools/effects/plugins which are considered "essential" for cartography.  I have done basic training and numerous tutorials on the web, but am sure that there are certain topics that are more important than others for cartographic work.

 

Thanks for any help,

 

Rob



#2
Hans van der Maarel

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I think you'll find a lot of people here use Adobe Illustrator for map production, and that a lot of them prefer to use MAPublisher along with it to aid the map production process. MAPublisher introduces GIS functionality to Illustrator which makes life a lot easier for a cartographer (note: I am the Dutch reseller for MAPublisher, so not exactly objective...)

 

If you're not using MAPublisher, I'd say one of the most important things to focus on is your scale and georeference. Always make sure you have a way to add additional data layers without having to manually position them.


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#3
David Medeiros

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Hi Rob,

 

I use AI, PS and MAPub on a regular basis for map production. You're right there is a lot of functionality to the Adobe products, but in reality you can do a lot of work with a relatively small set of them.

 

In AI, aside from understanding how to use the basic drawing tools, you'll want to know how to create Masks, Compound Paths, and use the Pathfinder tools. I use the transparency tools a lot, usually in Multiply mode. And working with the gradient tool to create custom gradients or gradients that expose underlying images is good to know.

 

I make a lot of maps with shaded relief background placed in the AI map as an image. I use PS a lot for processing those images before placing them in AI. It's worth knowing that placed images in AI can be edited at the same time in PS and the updates checked in AI on the fly to see how that changes look. The main PS functions I use are the levels window for adjusting how dark or light an image, the Hue & Saturation settings for adjusting color tone, the median filter for reducing detail in the terrain images, and the surface and/or gaussian blur tools for reducing detail or softening the image. 

 

If I think of others I'll post an update. I know other around here make much more sophisticated use of the software, especially PS, then I do, but you can do a lot with relatively little.


GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

www.mapbliss.com

 


#4
Dennis McClendon

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Robert, can you give us some idea of the kind of work you expect to do in Illustrator?  Are you starting with GIS data or digitizing from scratch?  Output to plotter for display or to PDF for books?

 

Although MAPublisher can be very handy for moving back and forth between geodata and Illustrator's "dumb lines," I don't seem to need it very often.  Like many folks, I work out the basics of the map (projection, area, what's to be included) in ArcView from whatever data is available, often Natural Earth Vector or street centerlines from the local governments.  But after a half hour in Arc, I export to Illustrator and do the rest of my work there (including drawing additional things from aerial photos, or tracing the GIS linework and discarding it).  If I need to add or change a geodata layer, I just add it to the same MXD and export that layer only.  The rectangular frame from Arc is generally good enough to be able to register it perfectly with the work I've already done in Illustrator.

 

On the Illustrator side, first thing to do is to Select All, then Release Clipping Masks.  Now use Illustrator's Select Same Fill Color to choose objects of various types and move them to new layers set up the way you want.  At the same time, you can apply graphic styles or paragraph styles.  As for Illustrator filters and addons, the only one I have installed is one that converts area text to point text.  

 

I would encourage you to feel free to ask your questions here.  I was a FreeHand user, so new to Illustrator myself, and would also benefit from the discussion.  And I think we need more chatter on CartoTalk about tips and tricks and how mapmakers make maps.


Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com

#5
Adam Wilbert

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Hi Rob,

 

Like others, I do most of my work in AI and PS after exporting the raw data from ArcMap. One suggestion that I have if you're moving from a GIS is to make sure everything is styled there with an eye towards separating them easily into the layers that Dennis was talking about. My ArcMap projects are completely garish, but it makes the "Select > Same > Fill/Stroke" procedure much more efficient when it comes time to group everything into layers in Illustrator if everything is VERY distinctly styled. 

 

I've been doing a bad job of creating new content lately, but I've posted some workflow videos to Vimeo. You might find something there of interest. 


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


#6
robertdbuckley

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Thanks for all your valuable comments regarding cartographic production with Adobe products. 

Some of you asked about the what types of work will I be doing and about the specific problems I wish to solve. I basically would like to completely remodel the cartographic workflow on my Government office with the primary aim of improving the quality of cartographic output. Up until now the office has been using ArcGIS for output. As a result the maps are standard boring examples of geometries styled with ArcGIS. My main concerns are the poor use of colour, terrible choices regarding symbology, little consideration of legibility and absolutely no use of techniques to simply make the maps enjoyable to look at. 

 

All these points are due to a basic lack of training, cartographic awareness and motivation to create beautiful maps. I took over this position 1 year ago and want to change this!

Having had few opportunities to use illustrator in cartography now is my chance. I would like to improve the use of basic cartographic principles including intelligent use of colour palettes, hierarchy of colours and symbols, the use of self-made topographic maps for transport routes and land features instead of the topography provided by the surveying office, more use of stylised relief images from DEMs, intelligent use of contours, incorporation of high quality Infographics into thematic map production and really to make our cartographic output something to be proud of.

 

My personal shortfalls are the methods of creating beautiful but accurate hill-shades and relief backgrounds from DEMs, point and line symbol design methods which also allow for continued update of GIS data - I don´t want to end up with one-off maps which can´t be updated once the content changes. The use of fonts and styling of text and diagrams is also another area which required work.

 

If anyone has workflows which help me create such things as Swiss Hill-shades, beautiful contours, border effects (drop shadows, shading, glows etc) I would be very grateful,

 

Thanks for any comments,

 

Rob 



#7
l.jegou

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To add to my colleagues advices, i use AI with scripts. Kelso Cartography is a great ressource for scripts :

 

http://kelsocartography.com/scripts/

 

I also use some Wundes scripts :

 

http://www.wundes.com/JS4AI/

 

And i sometimes wrote my own (a % transform for line width, for example).



#8
mike

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Hi Robert,

 

Using Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop is a great choice for improving on your cartographic workflow. I assume at this point you're wondering whether you want to isolate your workflow to just Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop or to combine your current use of ArcMap with Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop? Well, it will depend entirely on what you plan to create and how detailed your end product will be. I used to use an ArcMap to Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop workflow consistently because majority of my maps came to me as ArcMap files (followed by the data). This is still very popular with many users since ArcMap has many handy geoprocessing tools. However from what you've described, it sounds like you could do well with just Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop using MAPublisher and Geographic Imager plug-ins.

 

 

My personal shortfalls are the methods of creating beautiful but accurate hill-shades and relief backgrounds from DEMs, point and line symbol design methods which also allow for continued update of GIS data - I don´t want to end up with one-off maps which can´t be updated once the content changes. The use of fonts and styling of text and diagrams is also another area which required work.

 

There are a lot of available workflow examples online, so take a look through some blogs and tutorials to get an idea of what is capable with specific software: Avenza Resources blog, Esri Mapping blogthematicmapping blog, Thematic Maps blog (just to name a few). Hopefully that will help you narrow down on what specific tools you need to get the products looking the way you want.

 

Also kudos to you for trying to make improvements (sometimes it's tough to change a workflow that's been in place for a long time).



#9
Dennis McClendon

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I don't know how many sheets your agency produces annually, but it might be more productive to focus on better design for the work done in Arc: designing or choosing better symbols, using more sophisticated color palettes, choosing different typefaces.  There are workarounds, but shifting a project from Arc to Illustrator is generally a one-way street.  Nothing done after the transition makes it back into the database for next time.

 

I'd welcome others' thoughts on this, but to me there are only three intrinsic advantages to Illustrator over Arc: it handles true curved lines comfortably, it works well in and outputs CMYK natively, and you can directly manipulate labels and elements rather than having to set rules.  The latest versions of Arc have cartographic and representation tools that can be used to overcome most of these advantages without breaking the geodatabase workflow needed for a large government mapping agency.

 

I'm surprising even myself with this opinion, because I still get so frustrated trying to use Arc to make good-looking maps.  But if your staff is expected to produce more than a sheet per person per week, I'd think long and hard about the costs and benefits of moving to production in Illustrator for anything other than finishing touches.  


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Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
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#10
David Medeiros

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...I still get so frustrated trying to use Arc to make good-looking maps.

 

I'd say that sums up the advantages of AI over Arc for map production quite well for me... it's not that you can't make good looking maps in Arc, it's just much harder. The controls are pretty limited, or buried deep in a hierarchy of symbol option menus. AI brings a bit more then just bezier curves, color management, and label placement but I think that's probably enough to warrant its use for most publication quality work.

 

Cartographic Representations in Arc is their answer to a lot of the issues involved in making a cartographic product out of GIS data, but oh boy does it take some set up. Stuff that I do very quickly manually in AI is a complicated process in Cartographic Representations by comparison and usually not worth the effort to set up.

 

But your point is well taken. A little extra effort can make a big difference in GIS output quality. Still, I think if its managed right an Arc to Ai workflow is viable and the benefits to quality can be great. Not to mention the reduction in stress!


GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

www.mapbliss.com

 


#11
koen onestopmap

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I'm relatively new to GIS, but have drawn thousands of maps by hand in coreldraw and for more than 10 years in illustrator. Hans introduced me to Mapublisher for Illustrator, and I instantly knew that was the way to go. Illustrator is a dedicated vector program that has lots of options specifically aimed to produce beautiful graphics. I never used Arcmap or anything else, but thinking logically (in my opinion), it's obvious that esri-software is not as capable as illustrator in vector-drawing. Mapublisher gives you the possiblity to integrate GIS and at the same have all the options of illustrator. With mapublisher you have all the GIS-data available right in your illustrator project. Fiddle around with the appereance palette, use effects like stylize/inner glow, play with transparency, use graphic styles and make your maps look great with less effort.


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www.onestopmap.com


#12
Langdon

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To add to my colleagues advices, i use AI with scripts. Kelso Cartography is a great ressource for scripts :

 

http://kelsocartography.com/scripts/

 

I also use some Wundes scripts :

 

http://www.wundes.com/JS4AI/

 

And i sometimes wrote my own (a % transform for line width, for example).

Thanks for the link, I found the article on color blindness by Kelso & Jenny quite interesting : http://colororacle.o...esign_lores.pdf



#13
natcase

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I pretty much only use Illustrator with MaPublisher, but had a job in the last few years where the client insisted on keeping most of the production in Arc, because they wanted to be able to quickly and easily produce new versions. There were effects essential to the look of the map that required Illustrator to work properly, and so we ended up with a workflow where most of the map production and styling was done in Arc, and then there was a specific list of processes (they mostly could have been scripted actually) to be done to the exported Illustrator file.

 

A couple of the things that needed doing: making sure the text was all set to 100%K and overprinting, creating clean and consistent line dashes, transparencies (which we built by layer so you could just set opacity for the whole layer)... I think that was most of it. It was kind of klugey, but I imagine it made later updates a lot easier.

 

The one thing that consistently frustrated me was color control in Arc... I'd specify a color like 10/20/50/5, and it would come back 11.33/18.14/48.555/6. And the 100% black kept randomly coming out as rich black.

 

I think one simple way to make an Arc-AI workflow work is to use Arc to export simple lines and polygons with no outline, but with all the data and labeling intact, and then add the specialized line and fill effects (from a saved style sheet) in Illustrator. Text labels, especially labels set to a curve, can be tricky, but it's worth noting that the text controls in AI are much better, so if you can find ways even to take the "legacy" type the Arc often gives you, and convert those to updated AI type, you'll end up with nicer labels.


Nat Case
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#14
hasecbinusr

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On the Illustrator side, first thing to do is to Select All, then Release Clipping Masks.


Alternatively, you can go to Select > Objects > Clipping Mask and then press Delete. Quite expedient at removing ArcMap's junk.

 

When bringing additional geospatial data into Illustrator, use Outline View (Ctrl+Y or Cmd+Y). It turns off all strokes, fills, and effects so you can see raw vectors. It makes it handy to perfectly line up features. I usually bring over the new layers with the country boundaries as my reference marker, but I like the idea of using the neat line. However, if you're going to use the neat line, make sure you bookmark your extent in ArcMap before exporting so you always export at the same view extent.


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