Create a Dashing Stroke Style

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create the perfect dashed stroke style for your next map.

Draw a Line To Preview Your New Style As It Is Built


Draw a line on the Ortelius drawing canvas so you can preview your style changes as you build a new style. Open the Style Inspector and navigate to the “Expert” pane. Keep your line selected for the next step.

Create New Style


From the Action Menu (looks like a gear), choose “New Style” from the drop-down list. A new ad-hoc style will be created ready for your use. Alternatively, choose “Clone Style” to create an new ad-hoc style based on the current one.

Edit Style Components


For this example, delete the Fill style component by selecting it from the list and clicking the “–” delete button.

Next, select the Stroke style component and change the line width. Note: you may see drawing units or real world units instead of points – display units are changed by choosing View > Display Units from the main menu.

Optionally, click onto the color well to edit the color of your stroke, in this example we’ll use an Ortelius blue.

Add a Dashed Stroke


Add a second stroke by clicking “+” add button and choosing “Stroke” style component from the drop-down menu. The new stroke will lay on top of your original stroke. Make it 1.0pt wide and change the color to white.

Choose a dash pattern from the “Dash” drop-down menu or choose “other” to customize your dash pattern.


To make adjustments to your dash pattern, choose “Other” from the drop-down menu. The length of individual dashes and spaces can be finely adjusted. Your dash pattern can contain pairs, for example a dash-dot-dash pattern.

By checking “Scale to path’s stroke weight” the dash pattern will automatically adjust if the stroke weight is changed.

Alternatively, dashes can be adjusted by grabbing and dragging the dash handles in the style-well.

HINT: To create a dotted line pattern, adjust the stroke width and dash length to be the same and choose round-ended end-caps for the stroke cap style.

Name and Save


Notice the style does not yet have a name. This will be an ad-hoc style until you name it and add it to the Library. If you are creating the style for one-time use, you do not need to save it to the Library.

When you are satisfied with your new style, return to the “Style” header in the style component list and name it. Click “Add Style To Library” and add it to an appropriate category. Your style is now in the Library and ready for repeated use. Choose a drawing tool and select your new style from the Symbols Palette.

Make a Dot Screen Pattern Map Style

Ortelius is loaded with styles and symbols. You can also create your own. Here we show how to create a dot screen pattern.

Start With a Basic Shape


Draw a basic shape, such as a rectangle, using a basic fill style. Open the Style Inspector – Expert pane and use the action menu (looks like a gear) to Clone Style.

Add a “Hatch” Fill Style Component


Note that in this example the units of measurement are shown in millimeters. The units of measurement are set in the Drawing Setup, and displayed based on your settings in View > Display Units (points, drawing units, or map units) in the main menu.

Change Hatch Settings for Repeating Dot Pattern


Adjusting the “Density” setting will automatically generate a dot pattern. Changing “Line width” with a dot pattern will adjust the dot diameter. Changing the “Angle” will adjust the orientation of the pattern.

The density of the pattern is controlled by the “Density” setting. Alternatively, this can be fine-tuned by changing the “Spacing” setting to adjust the pattern spacing in one direction along a line. Then adjust the other direction by changing the “Dash” settings. Choose “Other” from the Dash setting and adjust the spacing of the dash pattern.

Name and Save Your Pattern to the Symbol Library


If you would like to save your new style for future use, name your new style and add it to the Library. When you click “Add Style To Library” you will be presented with the option to assign it to an appropriate category(s), such as “My Styles & Symbols.”

How To Draw Complex Road Networks, Automatic Junctions

Lay out your next road map using Ortelius’ special cartography tools. Create a complex road network with smoothly joining intersections following these three simple steps:

  • Draw roads using Ortelius’ Cartography tools
  • Optionally, name your roads in the Object Inspector
  • Use the Cut Path tool to form automatic junctions at desired intersections (new with v.1.0.3)

Establish the Road Network

media_1253127460051The first step in establishing your road network is to lay out your roads. Sometimes roads cross over or under each other and you’ll want to maintain that visual relationship. More often, roads will intersect and you’ll want your map to show nice clean, connected junctions. When using Ortelius’ Track tools, end points of tracks will form automatic junctions. As seen in this example, crossing lines will overlap each other. That’s what you want in the first step, we’ll finish off these intersections in step #3.

Use the Ortelius Track tools to draw road features. Select an appropriate road style from the Symbols Palette and draw or trace your roads.

Name Your Road Features


If you’ll be labeling your road map, this is a good time to add road names. Adding road names now will assure that the names carry over to tracks even after they are split in step #3.

Add names to your road features in the Object Inspector. Open the Object Inspector and choose the Attributes pane. When you select a road segment its attribute information will be visible in this pane. Click the “+” button in the bottom left corner of this pane and add a text “string.” The identifier “Name” will be added to the table and you can type in the feature name. Click onto the next road feature and repeat.

Note that in this step the road name labels are not added directly to your map. Using the Object Inspector is a quick way to this build information behind your map. With your feature information in place, adding labels to roads will become a joy rather than a burden, as it offers maximum versatility for label placement, style, and editing.

Related topic: Intelligent Labels (this video tutorial shows how to add attribute information to point features – use the same method for linear and shape features).

Click Intersections to Finish Automatic Junctions


Choose the Cut Path tool and click once onto the top track at each road crossing where you’d like connected intersections. The road’s path will be split and junctions will be created fully, automatically.

HINT: If you are creating a map for an area that you will want to re-use later, you can save your drawing file as a map template. Choose File > Save As and choose “Save as a Template” in the main menu.

Editing Roads in a Network


As you continue to work, an interconnected network of roads and junctions is created. When a single road is moved, its connector (child) roads move with it. To prevent roads from getting tangled, if you need to move a road with many connectors, use the Object Inspector to disconnect all junctions before moving it.

Search and Select By Attributes Using Find and Advanced Find

Use Ortelius’ Find and Advanced Find toolbar to find and select features by their attribute information.

Find Objects

The Search Bar on the toolbar is used to find objects. Type in a search term and Ortelius will find and select any matching objects on the currently active layer. Objects are searched by default based on: 1. visible text, such as text boxes or labels, and 2. the “searchable text” of objects, which may include their attribute values.


For example, a simple search for “china” (note, not case-sensitive) quickly finds and selects the country from the active layer.



Operators available from a drop-down list are used to define the search.

Advanced Find


The drop-down menu on the Search Bar is used to open the Advanced Find window. Advanced Find presents a drop-down list of the fields that are available for searching. These include object and style properties, such as style name and any available attribute identifiers.

By default, the active layer is searched. As needed, check the option to search all layers. A search can be saved as a Smart Search for later use.


Hint: The “sounds similar to” operator finds text that sounds similar when pronounced in English – for example searching for “Fosfer” will find “Phosphor.” All other searches find an exact (but case-insensitive) match based on the actual characters.

Use Ortelius to Show a Buffer Around Map Features

Buffers are new polygons that represent an area of specified distance around another object. Buffers can help map readers visualize what other features are near or far from another feature. For example, you can create a 1-mile buffer around a road, or a 20-kilometer buffer around a river.

In Ortelius, Buffers can be quickly created around paths or tracks. Buffers can also be created around point symbol features, yielding a circular path of the buffer radius. Select the feature to be buffered. Choose Edit > Buffer from the main menu. A dialog appears. Enter the distance for the buffer (note that buffer distance is related to the scale of the drawing) and click OK. Buffer distance units will be displayed based on the View > Display Units setting in the main menu (points, page units, or map units). A new buffer polygon is created as a new map feature added to the currently active layer.

Buffers Can Be Styled Like Other Objects


To change a buffer polygon’s appearance, select it and choose a new fill style from the Symbols Palette. Alternatively, use the Colors Palette to drag-and-drop a color onto the buffer area. Semi-transparent fill styles without outline strokes work best for stylizing buffers. You can also create and layer multiple buffers by selecting the path or track again and entering a new buffer distance.

These Labels Are Smart!

Drawing Coastlines

To create a coastal area map, the land area needs to be a filled-in shape (or polygon). Set up a “Source Map” layer and a “Land Area” layer to hold your drawing. You need a starting point, so copy and paste a source map onto the map area in preparation for tracing.

Trace the Coastline

Choose the Freehand Path tool and a basic line style from the Symbols Palette. Start by tracing the coastline. Don’t worry too much about getting your tracing perfect – you can come back later and adjust the points and curves as necessary.

Sticky Tools

HINT: For repeated use, tools can be made “sticky.” Click a tool once to “turn it on” and use it once. Afterward, you’ll default back to the direct Select tool. To use a tool repeatedly, for instance to place multiple symbols, ?double click the tool to make it “sticky.” All tools will be in the “sticky state” until you double-click again on any tool to release them.

Join Sections

If you’ve drawn the coastline in sections, select the paths to join them. Choose Edit > Paths & Tracks > Join from the main menu.

Complete the Land Polygon

After the coastline is traced, finish off the land area by completing the polygon.

Make the land area extend just a bit outside your map area so you can clip it later for a nice clean edge. First, go to the main menu and disable Layers > Clip objects to map area. Now objects that extend outside the map area are visible on the active layer.

Choose the Irregular Polygon tool and your basic line style from the Symbols palette. Draw the outside edge of the land area, extended just outside the map area.

Make sure end points are close together. Now join the line to complete the polygon.

Change Fill Styles

You now have a completed land area and can change fill styles. Select the land area polygon and choose a fill style from the Symbols Palette.

Return to the main menu and enable Layers > Clip objects to map area. The land area will now be visually “clipped” to the map area.

Add Background Water

Next, add a background-border element that represents the water. To do this, fill the entire map area with a water fill style. Click to make the Index Grid layer active and open the Symbols Library.

Choose the “Water” category and select a water fill style. Add the water fill be dragging the style from the style-well onto the map area. Make sure the Index Grid layer is “under” your Land Area layer in your layer stacking order.

Alternatively, add a new layer called “Water” and draw a rectangle that fills the map area using a water fill. Make sure the Water layer is under your Land Area in your layer stacking order.

Your land area is complete and ready for adding other map features such as roads and landmarks.

Drawing Map Features Overlapping the Map Margins

By default, Ortelius map layers draw within the map area margins and are visually “clipped” to its border. Map features, text, and other drawing objects can be drawn outside of the map area by changing the Layer settings.


For the active layer, deactivate (uncheck) Layers > Clip Objects to Map Area from the main menu.


Drawing Roads

Use Cartography Tools to Draw Roads


We’ve set up our drawing file with a source map to trace over, so let’s add a layer to hold our roads.

Choose the Freehand Track tool from the Drawing Tools and a road style from the Symbols Palette. Ortelius comes packed with road styles or you can create your own. We’ll use a yellow-cased road style.

Sticky Tools


HINT: For repeated use, tools can be made “sticky.” Click a tool once to “turn it on” and use it once. Afterward, you’ll default back to the direct Select tool. To use a tool repeatedly, for instance to place multiple symbols, ?double click the tool to make it “sticky.” All tools will be in the “sticky state” until you double-click again on any tool to release them.


For the minor road, we’ll use the Curved Track tool and a narrower line style. If you aren’t used to drawing with Bezier curves it may take a bit of practice. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll enjoy the smooth appearance and control these curves offer.

As we add roads to our network, the power of Ortelius’ cartography tools really shines. Notice how clean junctions are made, fully automatically. To change a style, just select the features and choose a new road style from the Symbols Palette.

If you don’t get your lines perfect the first time you can edit points and curve handles later as necessary.

Add Road Name


We’re almost done. First lets add some road names and a few highway shields. Using the Object Inspector, you can add multiple attributes as information behind your map features. This may be a new concept for some designers as attributes aren’t used in traditional graphics programs. Ortelius is smart about labels – if the feature has a NAME it will find it and use it for the label. We’ll also add a route number for this same road.


Now, lets highlight the road with the Linear Select tool and right-click to choose “New Label.” Notice how the road name pops right in, a great time-saving feature when adding lots of labels.

Free-text Road Name


An alternative way to add labels is with free-text. Highlight the road and choose “New Label.” No attribute information exists so it just reads “Label.” Double-click to edit the text. Just ignore the “Name” tag and start typing. Like tunnels, you can use the label handles for perfect positioning every time. When you move it, it will follow the path of the road.

Finished Road Network


Your road network is complete and ready to add points of interest and other finishing touches.