Making An Illustrated Map On Illustrator

Making a map, it sounds simple, yeah? If you know what you’re doing, then it definitely is. But if not?

A good way to get started on Illustrated Maps, is to take a glance at why we’re doing it in the first place. The key thing to remember about an illustrated map is that it gives what its depicting personality. There’s flair in an illustrated map.

But it is, still, a map. So it’s an amalgamation of form and function. A good illustrated map is one that strikes the balance, and functions as both an artistic and utility piece.

So here’s some tips on how to make that illustrated map on Illustrator. This won’t cover everything, but it should get you started.

  • Find your target.
    • When making an illustrated map, take note of what you’re making an illustrated map of. If a client asked you to focus on an area, then do so. Decide on what’s going to be in your map, what the view looks like, and make sure that it’s still usable as a map. A comfortable view to start with is a map pointing upwards. Everyone knows the look, it’s familiar. Get the image of your target, it’s important for the next step.
  • Start from the image.
    • Remember that image of your target? Yeah, now place it in Illustrator. My advice, make the canvas size big, you might end up working with a lot of details. Just downsize to the size you need later. Layer that image, and dim it a bit, so you can see what you’re doing.
  • Getting started.
    • Pick any area in your target. Whatever you’re comfortable with. There are elements in an illustrated map, and whichever you want to start, you’re going do them all anyway. Elements should have their own layers, otherwise things get messy. A key thing with Illustrated Maps, is that they’re maps; they need to be informative and clear. Design elements should be creative, but simple. Don’t use too much. For example, when doing the streets, use only a limited number of stroke weights, like 12pts for minor roads, 18pts for major one, and back streets with 8.
  • Land, ho!!
    • For making land, get to work on a new layer. Then, draw the basic outline for the land. Make sure the land runs parallel with the streets, make them easy on the eyes. For example, if a street has some land scraps with the layer, go and copy that street, then use the path tool, or outline the street. Once that’s done, go to the Effect tab, select Path, and then select Offset Path and enter whatever value you want, something reasonably size. Then using the Direct Selection Tool and Pathfinder’s Add to Shape tool, do some cleanup. The result will that all streets will have land running parallel to it.