Taking a Corner

Illustrator CC continues Adobe’s trend of making tools and effects “live.” Corners of rectangles made with the Rectangle tool are live, with icons that let you round, invert, or angle (chamfer) corners after you’ve drawn the rectangle.

For cartographers, complex symbols can be made more quickly with Live Corners.

custom toll road symbol
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Parks and Rec — The Map

I’m a fan of the NBC television show “Parks and Recreation.” I’m also a fan of park maps because they try to graphically synthesize fun stuff, like playgrounds and softball fields.

Park maps are a microcosm of illustrative techniques. They can push Adobe Illustrator and a computer’s CPU and GPU to the redline.

In this map of a sports complex, we used gradient mesh, transparency, and a patterned fill to soften the hard edges and uniform color fills of Illustrator shapes. Our goal was to precisely map features like soccer fields, portray them in recognizable forms, and keep the illustration visually alive and interesting.

custom map of a park complex
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Take a Vector from Google

In the life of a busy cartographer, Google Earth is as handy as the pipe wrench my plumber brings to our frequent get-togethers.

Google Earth is an effective environment to map points-of-interest or to fine-tune the positions of points you export from Adobe Illustrator via Avenza MAPublisher.

But here’s a surprise: when importing a Google Earth .kml/.kmz file into Illustrator, Google’s playful icons enter your map file as editable icons. Here’s what you can do to them.

custom map with Google Earth icons

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Graphic Graph Paper

With its vector and raster tools, Adobe Illustrator is the graphic designer’s Swiss Army knife.

Recently, I created an image showcasing some of my logos for my homepage slideshow. Because the slide was sitting on a white page, I wanted to give it some color to make it stand out from the surrounding page. While a solid, pastel background would have worked, I wanted something a little more dynamic and a lot more organic. To convey the idea of designing logos, I thought about a sheet of graph paper as a background to the logos.

blog_graph_0
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A Touch of Type

Illustrator CC’s June 2013 edition brings several enhancements to the software that can make your maps more creative. The new Touch Type tool lets you turn a plain map title into a stylistically unique image.

The Touch Type tool lets you edit the size, position, and angle of individual letters in a word while keeping the type editable. An update to the The Adobe Illustrator CS6 WOW! Book includes a detailed a step-by-step tutorial about using the Touch Type tool. But while you’re here, here’s a quick teaser.

custom map title using Illustrator CC's Touch Type tool
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The Well-Dressed Map Marker

Everyone knows the iconic Google map marker. Looking like a hot air balloon in flight, this marker has landed squarely in the middle of our visual culture.

Many maps use similar-looking markers. While you can find lots of alternative marker shapes and designs online, why not be a little different and let Adobe Illustrator transform your markers into eye-popping icons? Placing your icons under the creative control of the Appearance panel gives you a myriad of visually sophisticated options.

custom map marker illustration
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Painting a Personal Cartography

Simonetta Moro (simonettamoro.com), an Italian-born artist now living in New York City, explores the meaning of places she loves and lives through cartography. Approaching maps not as a reader but as a maker, Moro layers the signs and symbols of city nuances in pencil, paint, ink, and pastels.

From the vocabulary of soft pastels and hard-edged colored pencils, Moro traces an autobiographical journey through an intimate geography of the places that hold significance in her life.

detail from Simonetta Moro's Map of my Life painting

Map of My Life (detail)

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The Map that Flu

Often a map’s last word is spoken at its printing. For artist Sam Hundley (http://samhundley.com), printing is just the beginning.

Hundley, a Virginia artist, enjoys working with mixed media. Starting with this 1996 edition of a National Geographic landform map, Hundley mixed ink and colored pencil to turn a staid map into a capricious editorial illustration.

mixed media U.S. map

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Call Out Your Custom Map Type

To call attention to type labels on your map, consider placing them in a box. Not just any box will do; place labels in boxes painted with Adobe Illustrator’s visual effects to help them stand out, or above, other details on the map.

For this economic development map, we created a call-out box graphic style that automatically sized itself to the height and width of each text label.

custom map type for economic development

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Antiquing Type on a Custom Map

If you want a hand-rendered or antique look for a custom map title, you can search for one of the many fonts available with a distressed appearance. Or, you can distress regular fonts using Adobe Illustrator’s Appearance panel, Effects, and Opacity Mask. It’s fun and the experiments you create might move your creation in an unexpected—but delightful—direction.

Mapmaker Steve Gordon applied the Roughen and Scribble effects, and the Opacity Mask, to chip away at the edges of letters for this title graphic.

antiquing type
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