A simple location map may have a job to perform that’s anything but simple.
It has to attract readers and convey important information clearly. It also has to play nice with the style of the publication in which it appears.
Styling a map is where Adobe Illustrator’s Appearance panel and visual effects excel. For this location map of Manhattan Beach, California, we employed a soft touch–or, in graphic terms, pastels, vignettes, and shadows.
Showing the transition from land to water can be challenging when you’re using a pastel color scheme throughout the map. One way to achieve this is through the contrast of light, pastel land colors with dark water colors. Another way is using a soft vignette.
To start, we created the coastline from GIS data. (The GIS data for the cities extended the city areas out into the ocean so we created the ocean area on a layer above the city areas.) We turned the coastline into an ocean area object by adding path segments for north, south, and west edges. Then we filled the object with a medium blue (100% cyan, 50% magenta).
There are several tools and techniques you can use to create a shoreline vignette. For this map we selected the ocean object, opened the Appearance panel, and selected the Fill attribute. Then we clicked the fx button at the bottom of the panel and chose Stylize > Inner Glow. In the Inner Glow dialog, we set the Mode to Normal and Opacity to 100%. We set the Blur to 18 px, chose white from the dialog’s color swatch menu, and specified the origin of the glow as Edge (so the glow would move inward toward the center of the object).
When you create the inner glow, you may find that one or more edges of the area object are too close to the map area and that the glow of non-shoreline edges becomes visible. If this happens, choose the Direct Selection tool (hollow arrow located at the top of the tools panel), click an edge of the object, and move it away from the map area until the glow cannot be seen inside the map.
To highlight the location of Manhattan Beach within the Los Angeles area, we added an inset box. Just drawing a plain rectangle with a dark-colored stroke would demarcate the inset area. But using the Appearance panel, we added a multi-stroke to the rectangle and changed the blending mode of its fill to better accentuate the inset and harmonize its style to visually fit the other graphic elements in the map.
We began by drawing the box with the Rectangle tool. In the Appearance panel, we selected Add New Stroke from the panel menu. For the top stroke in the panel, we specified 0.25 pt width and gave it a black color. For the stroke underneath it, we made its width 0.75 pt and gave it a white color. The result was a multi-stroked path that helps mark the edges of the inset.
If you want to accentuate the inset more, give it a fill color that contrasts with surrounding objects. However, instead of simply assigning an opaque fill to the rectangle, try changing its transparency or blending mode so that objects underlying the inset remain visible.
We filled the inset with the same blue as the ocean object. In the Appearance panel, we selected the Fill attribute, then changed its Opacity to 20%. You can also add an Effect as we did by clicking the fx button and choosing Stylize > Outer Glow. In the Outer Glow dialog box, we chose Multiply as the blending mode and black for the color swatch. We set the Opacity set at 100% and the Blur to 5 px.
To the inset styling, we changed the blending mode of the rectangle object from Normal to Hard Light. This brightened the color effect of the inset so that it no longer dulled the colors of objects it covered.
To add soft drop shadows to the point-of-interest symbols, we targeted their layer in the Layers panel. Targeting a layer means that any effects you create are applied to all objects on that layer. For the map symbol layer, we clicked the layer’s target icon (a circle to the right of the layer name). We clicked the fx button and selected Stylize > Drop Shadow.
For more about creating vignettes and other visual effects with Adobe Illustrator, see Improve Map Appearances.
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