Using Ortelius Map Symbols

Symbols represent points and other features on your map.

A symbol is a special object that is named and stored in a Library. Symbols help you streamline the creation and update of repetitive features across your maps. When a symbol is originally created, it is assigned as a “master” symbol which can be placed unlimited times on your map.

Key Concept – Master Symbols:

Symbols are created from graphic objects, groups of objects, text, and/or images. When a symbol is originally created it is assigned the status of “master” and stored in the Library Manager. Each time you place a symbol on your map with the Symbol Stamp tool, an “instance” of its master is placed. The master supplies all the common properties, such as what it looks like, to all the instances of the symbol. If a master is changed, all the instances of that master (across all documents) will change as well.

HINT: Symbols (and styles) in the Mapdiva built-in collection are locked and cannot be changed directly. To create an editable version of a built-in symbol, copy the symbol to a collection in “My Library.”

To Place a Symbol on a Map:

  1. Open the Styles & Symbols palette.
  2. Do one of the following:
  • Choose the Symbol Stamp [y] tool; click onto the map area with the Symbol Stamp tool to place the symbol.
  • Choose the Select [s] tool; press and drag a symbol from the palette directly onto your drawing canvas.

HINT: Symbols are shown as available in the palette when the Symbol Stamp tool is active – line and area styles will be unavailable.

To Replace One Or More Symbols :

  1. Use the Select [s] tool and select the point (symbol) feature(s) to be replaced.
  2. Double-click a new symbol in the Styles & Symbols palette.

To Manually Scale a Symbol:

  1. Choose the Select [s] tool
  2. Grab the lower-right sizing handle on the symbol and dragging inward or outward.

HINT: 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.

To Rotate Symbol and Set Scale Factor in the Object Inspector:

  1. Select one or more symbol.
  2. 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.
  3. Rotate a symbol by adjusting the angle setting in the Object Inspector Geometry pane.

HINT: Multiple symbols can be scaled or rotated at one time.

To 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.

  1. Choose File > Map Size and Units… in the main menu.
  2. Set the ‘Pre-scale symbols and styles’ factor by the desired percentage.

HINT: Under most circumstances this setting should remain at the default 100%.

To Pick Up and Place Symbols:

To make a symbol that is already part of your drawing the active symbol for use with the Symbol Stamp tool, use the Pick Up command.

  1. Choose the Select [s] tool and click onto a symbol to select it.
  2. Do one of the following:
  • Right-click the symbol and choose ‘Pick Up’ from its contextual menu. The symbol will be picked up (removed from the drawing), the Symbol Stamp tool activated, and the picked-up symbol becomes the active symbol.
  • To pick up a symbol without removing the original from your drawing, hold the Option-key, right-click the symbol and choose ‘Pick Up’ from its contextual menu. The Symbol Stamp tool is activated and the picked-up symbol becomes the active symbol without affecting the object that was picked-up (the symbol is not removed from the drawing).

3. Click onto your drawing with the Symbol Stamp [y] tool to place the symbol.

Add a Map Legend (Map Key)

Legends, also called map a “key,” define the meaning of symbols and styles used on a map. The choice to include a legend depends on your map’s purpose and your audience. Maps do not need legends if the symbology is so common or simple as to be easily understood by the reader. However, it must be clear what the symbols represent.

Legends are created by laying out symbols, styles and text. When creating a legend, use guidelines to keep your layout tidy.

To Add a Pre-designed Legend from the Styles & Symbols Palette:

  1. Select the layer that will hold the map legend.
  2. Open the Styles & Symbols palette and type “legend” in the search bar to find a pre-defined legend.
  3. Use the Symbol Stamp [y] tool, or drag the symbol from the palette onto your map.
  4. The legend is a special symbol that is detached from its master automatically when placed.
  5. Ungroup the legend.
  6. Edit the symbols and text as appropriate.

Artboard 2 collection pictographs

Pictographs Clip Art Included with Artboard 2

The Pictographs clip art include a large variety of graphics representing symbols from sources such as the US Forest Service, the Ordinance Survey of Great Britain, and more. These styles & clip art are among the wide assortment of editable vector clip art and custom styles included in the built-in Artboard Library. Note, some clip art are made from multiple objects and should be ungrouped before editing.

Terms of Use

Creative Commons License Media (e.g., templates, clip art, styles and symbols) provided by Mapdiva LLC are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License unless otherwise noted. This allows licensees of Mapdiva software to reuse those media for integration within their own work, both personal and commercial; however, Mapdiva reserves fully and unconditionally all trademark, branding and redistribution rights associated with the original media. Attribution to is requested, however not required.