Setting Up a New Map

Ortelius offers you the flexibility to set your drawing canvas dimensions, drawing units, map scale, and more, including the ability to save settings as your personal default for new drawings.

To Open the Drawing Setup Dialog:

  1. Open the Drawing Setup dialog by choosing File > Map Size & Units… from the main menu.

Related Topics:
Index Grid Layer
Graph Paper Layer

To Change Drawing Units:

  1. Choose File > Map Size & Units… from the main menu.
  2. Under the ‘Map Size’ section, choose your preferred drawing unit from the drop-down menu (millimeters, centimeters, meters, inches, feet, yards, points).

To Edit the Map Canvas Size:

  1. Choose File > Map Size & Units… from the main menu.
  2. Under ‘Map Size’, enter the width (w) and height (h) of your desired canvas size in the current drawing units.

To Add (or Remove) a Color Background:

The background of the drawing canvas can be set to be either a solid color or image.

  1. Choose File > Map Size & Units… from the main menu.
  2. Under the ‘Map size’ settings, click the ‘Background:’ drop-down list and do one of the following:
  • Click a preset background image fill.
  • Click ‘Color’ to open the Colors panel and choose a background color.
  • Click ‘None’ to remove a background color or image fill.

HINT: Rather than adding a colored background for the entire drawing canvas, you can add one or more Border Layer(s) containing any fill or stroke style that is applied to the map area. See Adding a Border Layer for a Frame (Neatline) or Background for more information.

To Subtract Printer Paper Margins:

When creating a drawing for the printed page, your drawing area may be slightly smaller than your paper size due to paper printer margins around the edges. Optionally, Ortelius will subtract your printer page margins from the entered drawing canvas width and height. Paper margins are based on your current printer settings.

  1. Choose File > Map Size & Units… from the main menu.
  2. Under the ‘Map Size’ section, check ‘Subtract paper margins’.

To Access the System Page Setup Dialog:

For printed works, Ortelius provides easy access to the Apple system Page Setup dialog. Use this menu to change printer paper size and orientation.

  1. Choose File > Map Size & Units… from the main menu.
  2. Under the ‘Map size’ settings, click the ‘Page Setup…’ button.

To Set Map Area Margins:


The ‘Map Margins’ define a sub-area within your canvas within which you will draw your map and graphics. This is also the area to which graph paper and index grid will be applied if you use them. For example, 0 (zero) map area margin will size the map area the same as the drawing canvas (no margin). If you will be using an index grid or have elements such as scale or map title outside of the map area, be sure to set map margins appropriately.

  1. Choose File > Map Size & Units… from the main menu.
  2. Under the ‘Map Margins’ section, click into the the boxes and enter the top, bottom, left, and right Map Margins (margins are displayed in the current drawing units).

To Set Units of Measure:


Ortelius drawings use “real-world” units of measure.

  1. Do one of the following:
  • Choose File > Map Size & Units… from the main menu.
  • Choose File > Scale… from the main menu.
  • With a ruler placed on the canvas using the Ruler tool, double-click the ruler to open the scale dialog.

2. Under the ‘Map Scale and Units’ section, choose the type of units that you want to use for measuring on-the-ground distances from the drop-down list.

HINT: Imperial units, such as feet and miles, are common in the United States, metric units, such as meters and kilometers, are common internationally.

To Set Map Scale:


Whether it’s your backyard or an entire continent, when you create a map you are representing features on the earth. Clearly, in order to represent the features on a map, they must be reduced – or scaled – from their true size to fit on the map canvas.

Map scale is often defined as the ratio of a single unit of distance on the map to the corresponding distance on the ground (for example, one inch on the map may represent one mile on the ground).

  1. Do one of the following:
  • Choose File > Map Size & Units… from the main menu.
  • Choose File > Scale… from the main menu.
  • With a ruler placed on the canvas using the Ruler tool, double-click the ruler to open the scale dialog.

2. Then do one of the following:

  • Under the ‘Map Scale and Units’ section, choose a common map scale from the drop-down list.
  • Enter the numbers manually to represent map scale.
  • Define a custom map scale by calibrating distances of known objects that are being drawn (for example, when tracing an aerial photograph or existing map). Choose the Ruler tool. Press and drag the ruler onto the map canvas along a feature with a known distance (for example, a scale bar on a reference map or side of a building on a reference image). Double-click the ruler to open the scale dialog and enter the corresponding ground distance for the ratio. See the related topic: Using the Ruler Tool.

HINT: When drawing features using map units, Ortelius automatically expresses distance in largest whole units in the ruler. For example, a distance over 5280-feet is expressed as miles. To express distance only in the set units, uncheck ‘Always express distance in largest whole units’ in the map scale dialog.

To Pre-scale Symbols and Styles:

Drawing Setup allows a “pre-scale” to be set which is applied to styles and symbols when they are placed on your map The default value is 100% and typically does not need to be changed.

The value is a property of the document, and is used to work with certain mapping specifications where symbols and styles are scaled up in certain situations. For example, some mapping standards have specifications for symbol sizes depicted at a certain scale (such as 100% symbol size with 1:15,000 scale maps), and larger sizes when the scale is enlarged (such as 150% symbol size with 1:10,000 scale maps). In this instance, the pre-scale setting can be changed to 150% and will apply to the entire document.

To Use Your Custom Map Settings as the Default:

  1. Choose File > Map Size & Units… from the main menu.
  2. Customize the drawing settings.
  3. Under the ‘Map size’ settings, click the ‘Set As Default’ button.

To View Different Display Units While Drawing:

A document’s measurement display units can be viewed as points, drawing units, and map units. The setting is persistent, is saved with the document, and affects display of all user interface-related to distances, as well as the display of dimensions.

  1. Choose View > Display Units from the main menu.
  2. Choose the document’s display units from the list (Points, Drawing Units, and Map Units).

Oh, The Places You’ve Been! Working With Ortelius Map Templates

Ortelius delivers with dozens of world, region, and country outline templates. Using styles, symbols, and labels, these maps are easily customized. We’ll create a map from start-to-finish that shows the states we’ve visited. Find out how to modify any template map to make it your own.

Tutorial Details

Program : Ortelius 1.9+ for Mac OS X
Difficulty: Beginner
Topics Covered: Customizing Map Templates
Estimated Completion Time: about 45 minutes

Step 1

When first launching Ortelius, you are presented with the Template Browser. You can access templates at any time by choosing File > New From Template… in the main menu. In the “Countries” folder, choose the “United States 2” template and click “New.”

Prefer doing things hands-on? Give it a try…


Step 2

When the template file first opens, you’ll notice it is organized by layers of information. Layers are used to keep your map organized and are discrete – you can only select drawing objects that are in the active layer. Click onto  the “States / Provinces”  layer in the Layers list to make it active. Note, the white arrow indicated the layer is active. A small white dot next to a layer name  indicates a layer is not active, but has some objects still selected within the layer (not shown). Layers can be dragged to re-order.

Step 3

The first thing we’ll do is add labels to the states. Unlike a standard vector drawing program, Ortelius drawing objects can have attribute information stored “behind” the objects. In templates, names are stored and can be used as labels.

With the Select tool, click onto the drawing canvas to make it the focus. Choose Edit > Select All from the main menu (or CMND-A keyboard shortcut). Since “States” is the active layer, all objects within that layer are selected.

Choose Edit > Labels & Text > New Label to automatically add labels for all the selected states. Labels are automatically generated and placed in the weighted center of each drawing object. Note, Ortelius can use any attribute information that is stored for an object as its label. By default, Ortelius uses the attribute “Name” if it exists.

Step 4

Next, we’ll color the states that we’ve visited. First, open the Styles & Symbols palette by clicking its icon on the toolbar. Use the Library drop-down button in the palette to choose the “Color Regions / Territories” category in the built-in collection. This category is filled with styles based on ColorBrewer map color schemes that are specifically designed for quantitative and qualitative maps.

Now, with the “States / Provinces” layer still active, use the Select tool while holding the SHIFT-key to select multiple states. Try to avoid clicking the labels – you can do a few states at a time, and zoom-in as needed. With your desired states selected, double-click onto a style in the Styles & Symbols palette to apply it to your selection. We are using the “Diverging Purple-Orange 2” style.

Step 5

Now let’s color the states we have not visited purple. We could use the Select tool like we did in Step 4, but let’s learn how to use Advanced Find... to quickly make our selection. On the Ortelius toolbar you will see the Find Objects search bar. The little triangle in the search bar opens a drop-down menu. Choose Advanced Find… to open the dialog.

Use this dialog to choose “Style Name” from the first drop-down field. We are searching for objects that contain the word “orange” in the style name. Type “orange” and click “Find.” This will search and select matching objects on the currently active layer.

Step 6

So we’ve quickly selected all the states we’ve already colored orange, now let’s invert the selection. Choose Edit > Select Others from the main menu to switch the selection. Double-click the “Diverging Purple-Orange 6” style to apply a purple style to your selected objects.

Step 7

Let’s make the background of the map a light purple to go with our color scheme. Ortelius has a special “Border Layer” layer that can be quickly filled with any style. Click onto “Border Layer” in the layers list to make it active. Now drag a style from the Styles & Symbols palette and drop it directly onto your drawing canvas (we’re using the “Diverging Purple-Orange 5” style). Ta-da! The border layer is now purple. You can apply fill styles to the border layer like we did here, or line styles to create more of a neat-line frame around your map.

HINT: In addition to double-clicking to apply a style to existing objects, you can drag styles from the palette onto any drawing object.

Step 8

When you add labels in Ortelius, they are placed automatically in the weighted center of the drawing object. Sometimes you’ll want to make adjustments to a label’s placement. With the Select tool, click onto a label to select it and move it around into one of nine standard click positions. Hold the SHIFT-key while moving a label to free-move it into any position. Right-click a label to open its context menu revealing more option, such as “Show Leader Line.”

Here, we’ve made some minor adjustment to the state label positions, and added a leader line for the District of Columbia.

Step 9

Now let’s add a map key (or legend). Click onto the “Title and Text” layer in the layers list to make it active, since that is the layer on which we want to place the legend. In the Styles & Symbols palette, use the Library drop-down button to go to “Map Elements > Legends & Inset Maps” in the built-in collection. Drag the first item “Legend 1” from the palette onto your drawing canvas. This is a special symbol that has already been detached from its master to make it easy to edit.

Now let’s edit the legend. Since this is a complex graphic made from a group of objects, it must be un-grouped for editing. With the Select tool, click onto the legend and choose Graphic > Ungroup from the main menu (or from the right-click contextual menu). This legend had three items, so we’ve deleted one. Double-click onto the text to edit it. We renamed the legend “Places I’ve Been” and the items “Visited” and “Not Visited.” Lastly, we return to “Color Regions” in the Styles & Symbols palette and drag-and-drop the orange and purple styles onto the legend key boxes.

Step 10

A map’s title should be brief and descriptive. With the Select tool, double-click the title to edit the text.

To change fonts, select the title text and open the Fonts palette. Choose your desired font and size. Here we’ve used a fun little font called “2Peas Flea Market” to add a bit of whimsy to our map (font size 72-pts). Drag the text box object handles to adjust its size as needed.

Step 11

Finally, we want to polish off our map by modifying the map scale color scheme. Use the Zoom-in tool to get a closer view as desired. With the Select tool, click onto the scale bar (we are still on the “Title and Text” layer). Click the Object Inspector icon on the toolbar and open the Object Inspector – Features pane. The Object Inspector is context-sensitive – it knows what type of object you have selected and presents available options. To edit the scale bar’s alternating colors, click onto the color-well at the lower-right of the Object Inspector window. The Colors palette will open. To select the color, click the little magnifying-glass icon in the Colors palette and click onto your drawing over the color you want. The Colors palette color-well will adopt your selected color for a perfect match.

To quickly zoom-out to your entire map view, double-click the Pan tool.

Step 12

Your finished map can be saved, exported to a variety of file format options, and printed.

We are printing our map. Adjust your page settings for paper size and orientation as needed by choosing File > Page Setup… in the main menu. To print, choose File > Print… from the main menu. Often the maps you create may be bigger than the paper size in your printer. Ortelius can poster-tile larger maps over multiple printed sheets to be fitted together after printing. To print your entire map to a single page, be sure to check “Fit to Single Page” in the Ortelius print dialog.

Final Image

Congratulations! You’ve completed a custom map from template – and it looks like I’ve got some more places to visit! There is a lot you can do with templates – more or less than what we’ve presented here. We hope you’ve also learned a few tricks for applying styles, editing text, using advanced find, and more. What other topics can you use with map templates? We’d love to see what you come up with!

Simple Symbol Scaling with Ortelius

Ortelius is packed with hundreds of styles and symbols. Now it’s easier than ever to make fine adjustments to symbol sizes on your map. Here’s how…

Manually Scale Symbol


Individual symbols can be resized, or scaled, directly by grabbing the lower-right sizing handle on the symbol and dragging inward or outward.

Note, symbols in the Library are “master symbols.” When you place a symbol on your map with the Symbol Stamp tool, you place a copy, or instance, of the master on your map. When you make changes to that instance, such as changing the scale of a symbol, the master symbol is unaffected by the change.

Set Scale Factor Using the Object Inspector


Select one or more symbol and adjust the scale factor from the Object Inspector – Features pane. Scale can be adjusted via the slider bar or by entering a percent scale factor. As of Ortelius release 1.0.6, multiple symbols can be scale at one time. It’s that easy!

Pre-scale Map Symbols


On occasion, mappers may work with a symbol set that is based on exacting symbol specifications. For example, symbols for the International Specification for Orienteering Maps are sized according to exact specifications for viewing at a particular scale (1:15,000). Their specification allows symbols to be rendered at 150% for viewing on 1:10,000 maps. Ortelius makes it easy to pre-scale all map symbols to before they are even placed on your map. Choose File > Drawing Setup in the main menu to set the pre-scale factor. Note, under most circumstances this setting should remain at the default 100%.