Symbolizing Cities and Towns on Small- to Medium-Scale Maps

There is a difference in the use of symbols, depending on the scale and style of the map. On small-scale maps, cities are usually shown by circles and dots; on large-scale maps by their streets. Medium-scale maps can fall somewhere in between and offer an opportunity to express the map’s unique style.

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Quick Tip: Multi-Colored Styled Text Box

This video shows how to “tear-off” the Color Picker to apply color to individually selected text in a single text box.

letterpress effect drawing tutorial with Artboard

Create Letterpress Vector Style

Use the Style Editor, along with Artboard’s transform group settings, to create a popular letterpress graphic style treatment. It’s super easy to save the style and apply to other shapes.

Tutorial Details

Program: Artboard 2.0+ graphic design app for Mac OS X
Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced
Topics Covered: Style Inspector– Groups
Estimated Completion Time: 20 minutes

Step 1


Open a new drawing and choose File > Drawing Size & Units from the main menu and set ‘points’ as the units of measure. Use the Rectangle [r] tool to draw a rectangle the size of your drawing canvas and fill it with a light color (use a light, medium, and dark of any color). Having a background color from the beginning will make it easier to see the changes we will be making to the text.

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


Step 2


Add a new layer by clicking the “+” at the lower left corner of the Layers panel. Drawing on a new layer keeps your drawing objects separate from the background will help prevent accidentally selecting the background. With the Text Box [t] tool, drag out a large text box; type to edit the text, clicking the Esc-key to end editing. With the text selected, use the Font panel to choose a font family, typeface, and adjust the size. Our example uses a bold font at 144pt for big header text, but you can adjust the text to fit your needs. After you get it just how you want it, choose Graphic > Convert To > Shape from the main menu (or right click, Convert To > Shape) to convert the text to a shape (once you do that the text will no longer be editable).

Step 3


Open the Style Inspector. Click onto “Color Fill” in the components list and click the color-well to choose your medium color (for example, medium purple).

Step 4


With the text shape still selected, from the Style Inspector click the “+” button to add a new “Transform” group from the style components drop-down list. Because Transform is a “group” property, you won’t see anything under the group until you add it, so click the “+” and choose Color Fill. Click the little arrow icon in front of “Transform” in the list to expand the transform group and click onto the color-well in the fill to choose a dark color (e.g., dark purple). In the transform dialog, change the Y Offset to -1.5pt and ‘Number of additional copies’  to 1. Drag the transform component to the top of the components list (so it is visually below the first fill).

Step 5


Repeat Step 4 to add another transform group from the style components drop-down list. Add a color fill to the transform group and choose white from the Colors panel. In the transform dialog, change the Y Offset to 1.5pt and ‘Number of additional copies’  to 1. Drag the transform component to the top of the components list (so it is visually below the first fill).

Step 6


With the text still selected, from the Style Inspector click the “+” button to add a new “Core Image Filter” from the style components drop-down list. Click the little arrow icon in front of “Core Image Filter” in the list to expand the image filter group. Similar to Transform groups, you won’t see anything under the effect group until you add it, so click the “+” and add a Color Fill. Click onto the color-well in the fill and pick the light color matching your background color. Now, click again on “Core Image Filter” in the style component list. Choose “Gaussian Blur” from the Filters drop-down list, use the settings ‘Inside clipping path’ and 10-radius. That’s it!

Step 7

You’ve created a great ad-hoc style with popular letterpress treatment. Optionally, you can save the style to easily apply to other vector objects in this and other drawings. Simply click onto “Style” in the components list to return to the main window. Add a name for your new style and press enter. Click “Add To ‘Collection’…” to add it to an available My Library user collection. Pretty cool!

Final Image


At this point you can make the treatment better by jazzing up the background with some texture, different colors, and simple offsets to other text.

Create Hauntingly Beautiful Art Text in Artboard

Any text in Artboard can be converted into a shape and custom styled to great effect. We show you how to use Artboard’s Core Image Filters applied to a style to create this hauntingly beautiful art text effect.

Tutorial Details

Program : Artboard 1.7+ for Mac OS X
Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced
Topics Covered: Style Inspector; Core Image Filters; Converting Text to Shape Group
Estimated Completion Time: ~20 minutes

Step 1

Open a new drawing.

Draw a large text box with the Text Box[t] tool. Return to the Select[s] tool, double-click the text box and type “ARTBOARD”. This is a good place to mention that in Artboard you can automatically change the case of your text. For example, select the text box and choose Text > Change Case > To Lower from the main menu. Note how your text changes instantaneously to all lower-case. We are using “Moltors” font that is only upper-case so it doesn’t matter in our example, but now you know how to do it!

Speaking of fonts, with the text box still selected, open the Font panel and choose a nice fat font (e.g., Moltors) and adjust the size. Our example uses 96pt for a large text block, but you can adjust the text to fit your purpose. As needed, use the Select[s] tool to grab the text box sizing handles and adjust its size. Close the Font panel.

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


Step 2

In the next step we convert our text to a shape so we can style it. We could simply convert the text to a single shape (once you do that the text will no longer be editable) using Graphic > Convert To > Shape from the main menu (or right click and choose Convert To > Shape). However, I want to flip the “R” to make our graphic text extra fancy, so each letter needs to be a separate shape. To do so, choose Graphic > Convert To > Shape Group from the main menu (or right click and choose Convert To > Shape Group). Then, ungroup the shape.

Step 3

With the Select[s] tool, select the first “R” and choose Graphic > Flip > Horizontally from the main menu. You may want to adjust the letter’s position after flipping to maintain nice spacing between letters. Now, select all the letters and choose Graphic > Combine > Append from the main menu, or click the “Append” icon if you’ve added it to your toolbar. Appending the shapes together allows us to apply a style across the shape as a whole.

Step 4

Use the Select[s] tool to select the text shape and open the Style Inspector. With the text shape still selected, click “Reset” to create a new style from scratch. Click onto “Fill” in the components list then click the “-” button to remove the component. Repeat to remove the “Stroke” style component. Next, click the “+” button and add “Core Image Filter” style component. The core image filter is a group, so we’ll need to add one or more components under the group (we’re adding an image). Click the “+” and add “Image” to add an image adornment. You may need to click the little triangle next to “Core Image Filter Group” in the components list to expand it and see what’s inside the group.

Click onto the “Image Adornment” to open its properties. Click the “Image File…” button to choose an image that will be used as the fill. You can use any image here – experiment to see what works best for your needs. In this example, we’re using a lovely floral pattern we downloaded from

Step 5

Let’s turn our attention back to the Core Image Filter Group. Click on it in the style components list. From the drop-down, choose the “Gloom” filter. Keep the standard settings – with “Clipping” set to “Inside path”. The effect will automatically be applied to the image in the filter group. If the image is smaller (or undesirably bigger) than the text shape, you can return to the Image Adornment and adjust the scale of the image.

Step 6

Finally, let’s add a background object to our final image. Use the Rectangle[r] tool with the “Licorice – fill” style from the Basic Strokes & Fills category in the built-in collection. Draw a large rectangle. With the rectangle selected, choose Graphic > Send To Back from the main menu (or right click and choose Arrange > Send To Back). That’s it!

Final Image

From here, you may want to copy your shape to try different background photos. With the copy selected, click “Clone” in the Style Inspector. Now you can simply go to the Image Adornment style component and choose a new image file. To save any of your styles to the User Library, click “Style” at the top of the Style Components list and name and save the style to your collections. Here is our final image, along with a variation using an old family photo for the image adornment. Do you think it would look good over a patterned background?

Tips for Static Text in Map Symbols

Sometimes static text (as opposed to dynamic text like route numbers) is an integral part of a symbol. These symbols may be re-scaled and shared for different purposes, such as placement in a legend and reuse at a different size within a brochure or book. For maximum scalability and consistency with complex symbols, convert text objects to shapes when creating a symbol. Your symbols will always look right, even when shared with people who don’t have the same fonts loaded on their system. Here’s how…

Complex Symbol Objects


Map symbols in Ortelius can be composed of any combination of shapes, paths, graphics, and text. However, problems can occur when text objects within a group or symbol are re-scaled, or when a symbol is shared with a user who doesn’t have the same font loaded on their system. The solution is to convert the text to a shape after you are satisfied with the color, font, size, and style. In this way, the text will not change unexpectedly when scaled or if the symbol is used on another system or other vector editing program (such as Illustrator) without the proper font.

We’ll examine a fairly detailed symbol of a First Armored Division patch created by one of our customers. Color and grey-scale versions, and the original patch this symbol is modeled after, are shown.

Convert To Shape


Select the text and choose Graphic > Convert To Shape in the main menu or from the right-click context menu. When the shape is grouped with the other objects and turned into a symbol it will scale properly. Shapes cannot be converted back to text objects. In this example, the text “Old Ironsides” and “1” would be converted to shape before creating the symbol.

Note that some symbols, such as road shields and sequence markers, are designed with dynamic labels that read the feature’s attribute information. This dynamic text should not be converted to shape.

Create Symbol


To complete the symbol process, group the objects and choose Edit > Create Symbol from the main menu. Name your symbol and assign it to an appropriate category, then click the Create button. It will be added to your Library as a symbol master.


A special thanks to Mr. Richard Brummett for allowing us to use his his work in this tutorial. These and several other crests, patches, and maps were created exclusively with Ortelius by Richard to accompany the upcoming book “Search and Destroy” by Keith W. Nolan and published by Zenith Press of Minneapolis (anticipated July 2010). Keith died last February at age 44 and this will be his twelfth and final book on the Viet Nam War.

Making Fun Map Title Text in Ortelius

Whether formal or informal, your choice of fonts will set the mood and help to weave the story being told by your map. Map text doesn’t need to be dry and stodgy. Introduce a creative element in you next map graphic through the use of text shapes with custom fill styles.
The key to success with this approach is moderation – for example, get creative with the title and choose a complimentary font throughout the rest of your map that is simple and unassuming. Your goal is to express a bit of whimsy while maintaining legibility and overall balance.

Tutorial Details

Program : Ortelius 1.0+ for Mac OSX
Difficulty: Beginner
Topics Covered: Converting Text to Shape; Styles
Estimated Completion Time: 10-15 minutes

Step 1. Add Text To Your Map Canvas


Use the Text Box or Text On Path tool to add a title to your map.

Step 2. Choose a Font

Choose_a_FontWith your text selected, open the Font palette. Choose a wide or heavy font that matches the style you’re after and will look good as an outline. The font you choose will be the basis for the text shapes. In this example we use Geodesic. Adjust the point size as necessary.

HINT: After switching fonts and sizes, you may need to grab the handles of the text box to enlarge it to expose the larger text. Alternatively, right-click the text box and choose Fit To Text from the context menu.

Step3. Convert to Shape and Break Apart


Select the text and choose Graphic > Convert To > Shape from the main menu. Alternatively, right-click the text and choose Convert To > Shape from the context menu.

Next, choose Graphic > Combine > Break Apart from the main menu. This step will convert each letter into an individual shape object.

Note, text can also be converted to individual objects with paths to further modify the shape of individual letters. Choose Graphic > Convert To > Path from the main menu. Convert back to shape after modification as this will keep your drawing more efficient.

Step 4. Add Style to Letter Shapes


Open the Symbols palette. To change the style of a letter, select a letter shape and then choose a style from the Symbols palette. In this example, we’ve chosen various styles from the Patterns & Textures category.

Note that after converting your text to individual shapes, the negative space inside letters such as “o” and “d” (the “counters”) have also been converted to separate shapes. These can be colored or styled individually. If you prefer an empty space, select the counters and letter shape and choose Graphic > Combine > Difference to subtract the inside piece from the main letter shape. In this example we’ve chosen to leave the counters black.

Step 5. Re-Group

When you’re all done making your text fancy, select all the letter shapes and choose Graphic > Group (or use the Command-G keyboard shortcut) to group and keep letter shapes together. Have fun making interesting and unique title text for your maps!