Google Earth as the Crow Flies

Google Earth can make creating radius rings on a map quick and easy. The trick is using the Show Ruler tool. When you’ve finished, you can import the rings into Adobe Illustrator or into Google Maps where you can share them on a map with others.

With Google Earth Pro as a free download, mapmakers now have additional tools at hand. One tool is Google Earth Pro’s Show Ruler tool. With it you can draw radius rings and save them as .kmz files you can then import into Adobe Illustrator using Avenza’s MAPublisher plug-ins.

Google Earth's Ruler dialog box
Google Earth’s Ruler dialog box


To start, click the Show Ruler icon. In the pop-up dialog box, click to select the Circle tab. Next, choose the units of measure for the Radius field. With the Radius set, click the Google Earth Pro cursor on the imagery and release the mouse button. Now move the cursor away from the point you just clicked. Watch the Radius field read-out of radius length as you move. Simply click again when you’ve reached a desired radius interval. In the Ruler dialog box, click Save to save the radius ring.

When you save your radius ring, the New Path dialog box pops up. You can ignore naming the radius ring, or instead give it a name that will later serve as the label for that ring (if you choose to label the rings).

Google Earth's New Path dialog box
Google Earth’s New Path dialog box


When you’re done, right-click on the name of the ring you just created in the Places list on the left. Choose Save Place As and save the .kmz file to a location on your computer.


In Adobe Illustrator, import the .kmz file using MAPublisher’s Import command. Make sure to drag the resulting layer in the MAP View dialog box into the MAP View of your choice. That will integrate the radius ring with the rest of your map.

Radius ring on map in Google Earth
Radius ring on map in Google Earth

You can now select the radius ring and label it using MAPublisher’s Label Features command. Choose the KmlName attribute (which you populated when you gave the ring a name back in Google Earth Pro).

The Adobe Illustrator Wow! Book has galleries and step-by-step articles on mapping using Adobe’s popular vector software.

If Illustrator isn’t your thing, you can also import the .kml file into Google Maps. Use them on a custom My Maps and then share them with others.