New Book: Principles of Map Design

In her recently released cartography textbook, Principles of Map Design (2010), Dr. Judith A Tyner provides a balanced discussion of the considerations regarding cartography software selection. Given that the needs of every user are unique, this is a valuable contribution for those considering which tools to use. As relatively new cartography software, we’re also thrilled to see Ortelius included in the review. Here is an excerpt from the book:

Choosing the Right Cartography Tool: How Will It Be Produced?

“The principles of design apply whether the map is drawn with pen and ink or a sophisticated computer, but one should have an idea of how the map will be made at the beginning.

Software for computer-produced maps is of four types: GIS, illustration/presentation, CADD (computer-assisted design and drafting), mapping, or some combination of these. GIS software is a powerful analytical tool with map presentation capabilities. With GIS, data can be linked to places and calculations can be made. As of this writing there are some design limitations and some types of symbol that are difficult or impossible to create using GIS. These problems will be solved at some point. By the same token, some symbols that are easy to produce with GIS cannot easily be created manually or with presentation software. Presentation or illustration software, such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw, is used by graphic artists and allows for highly creative products. However, such software does not allow analysis, calculation, or linking data to locations automatically. If these capabilities are not needed, a presentation program can be a good choice. Like illustration programs, CADD doesn’t allow for analysis. There are some mapping programs, such as Microsoft MapPoint, that have limited GIS capability and allow some simple analysis and creation of maps, but do not allow much flexibility in map design and composition. Some recent mapping programs, such as Ortelius and MapPublisher, combine GIS and design (Figure 2.9). If one is using a dedicated GIS, combining it with a presentation program usually allows for the best analysis and presentation product” (p.26, emphasis added).

Principles of Map Design offers an authoritative, reader-friendly introduction of the core principles of good map design that apply regardless of the production methods or technical approach. The book addresses the crucial questions that arise at each step of map making: Who is the audience? What is the purpose of the map? Where and how will it be used?

Available through Amazon and Guilford Press.

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%.

Ortelius Earns “Excellent” Rating from ATPM

About This Particular Macintosh awards Ortelius map illustration software a rating of “Excellent” in their recent review. About This Particular Macintosh (ATPM) is a monthly Internet magazine created to celebrate the personal computing experience on the Apple Macintosh. The ATPM review included testing a wide assortment of Ortelius features, particularly the versatility of pre-packaged map templates. Ortelius receives the highest rating based on the overall usage, purpose, and documentation of the vector-based cartography software for Mac OS X.

Their conclusion? “Mapdiva has a winner on its hand. For now, Ortelius has found a niche market to fill. There are some Mac map-making programs out there, but none in the price range or that possess the features found in Ortelius. With the specific map tools found in Ortelius, it is easy to make maps, whether from templates or imported bitmaps, or even if you have to start with a blank page. You can take mapping even further by importing shapefiles, many of which are freely available on the Web. If you have a mapping need, Ortelius makes an excellent choice.” In his evaluation of Ortelius, reviewer Linus Ly continues, “there is much potential in using Ortelius as an educational tool.”

Ortelius Earns 4-Stars from Softpedia

Softpedia awards Ortelius map illustration software 4-stars, with its highest ratings for user interface and features. Softpedia reviewers thoroughly test software products following a series of characteristics and parameters, starting from the installation of the product and to the help system, with ratings based on aspects such as how well organized and intuitive is the products user interface and how useful and well implemented is the product’s feature set.

Softpedia’ Mac Editor, Alexandru Tanase, notes, “There are a lot of fine things about Ortelius. Fi[r]st of all, Ortelius comes with a lot of templates that can be used at any time. Also, Ortelius is very easy to use, has a simple interface, and most of the tools you need are available in the main screen. The graphics are good, the maps look great, and really challenge you to use the program and give it your best in order to create a work of art.”

Their conclusion? “If you like drawing maps, or you do this at the office on a regular basis, be sure to use or just give Ortelius a try. You may find that even the most difficult maps can be created in a record time with no headaches. So, if you are a young cartographer, I truly recommend this program. Give it a try and you won’t be disappointed.”

Create Square, Diamond, Hex Repeating Grid Patterns

Create interesting repeating grid patterns with the Hatch Fill and Pattern Fill components in the Ortelius Style Inspector. A wide variety of repeating patterns, including square and hexagonal grids, are available in the default style set. Here’s how to get creative with your own.


Using the Hatch Fill Component

Simple grid patterns are made super easy with Hatch Fill. First draw a largish shape on your drawing canvas. With this shape selected your new style will be applied so you can view your pattern as you create it.

  1. Open the Style Inspector and choose “New Style” from the drop-down Action Menu (looks like a gear).
  2. To create any regular grid, you’ll overlay two sets of lines at 90-degree angles from each other. Do this by adding “+” a Hatch Fill component and setting your line style. You can adjust color, width, spacing, and even make rough wobbly lines.
  3. Next, under the Action Menu, choose “Duplicate Style Component” to add an exact copy. In this second Hatch Fill component, change the angle of the style so it is 90-degrees from the first (for demonstration we’ve also changed the color).
  4. You’ve just created your first grid! Name the style and add it to the Library if you want to keep it for future use.

Grid Using Hatch Fill

Try a diamond pattern by setting the first Hatch Fill angle to 45-degrees and the second Hatch Fill to 135-degrees. Voila, a diamond grid!

Using the Pattern Fill Component

For more complex grids use the Pattern Fill component. In the Style Inspector, choose “New Style” from the drop-down Action Menu. To create your custom fill pattern, we need to create the smallest possible element that can be repeated in a pattern. The following shows a hexagonal pattern, and the red rectangle shows where the pattern repeats:Repeating Pattern in Hex Grid

  1. First create the drawing element(s) that will be the building block for your pattern (see the hint below for hex patterns). In your drawing area, use the drawing tools to draw the repeating portion of your pattern. On most grid patterns, the key is to have equidistant lines for a regular grid.
  2. After you’ve completed your drawing element, copy it and work with the copy (that way you’ll have the original if you want to tweek it a bit more). Working with the copy, select your drawing objects and use the Graphics > Combine > Append function from the main menu. (This is mostly done for efficiency – to make the shape smaller and simpler. You could just as easily group them together, but Ortelius likes Append since it creates a single shape. It’s smaller on disk and probably adds slightly to performance since there’s less data to read.)
  3. Then, simply copy and paste the graphic into the pattern-well in the Style Inspector to create the repeating pattern. Adjust your pattern settings (size, spacing, etc).
  4. Some patterns will use more than one instance of the Pattern Fill component. For instance, a hexagonal grid requires two Pattern Fill components – one for the left side of the pattern and one for the right.
  5. Name the style and add it to the Library if you want to keep it for future use.
Left and right side of hex pattern elements, with orange spacers

Left and right side of hex pattern elements, with orange spacers

HINT: With a hexagonal grid, we need two pattern elements (the left and right sides of the pattern) and spacers need inserted to achieve the desired results. Make the color of your spacers fully transparent so they don’t show on your end result (here we’ve colored them orange). Create one side of the element first, then group, copy/paste, and flip it to create the other element. Look at an existing hex pattern from the Style Inspector to get ideas on the settings. Finally, if you will be layering the grid pattern on top of your map, make sure there is no solid fill as part of your pattern.