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How to Make a Map in Illustrator
Every time I start thinking of a tutorial to write, I try to show techniques that I use in my job as a designer. For example, today I will be showing you how to make a nice little map. I was called to make a map for the university which was tedious but still fun. This can also be a neat little add-on to a party invitation or the like.First and most importantly turn on some music! Some Armin van Buuren thumping in the background helps the creative process.
Secondly Make sure your computer is on. Really. Enough small talk, let’s get started.
Same old setup as in my other Illustrator tutorials. Choose New Web Document, and just hit OK until your canvas is set up.
First off, you are going to need a map to use as a reference, unless you have some sort of crazy photographic memory. Google Maps is your friend on this one. For this example I pulled a screen-grab of my apartment complex. Go ahead and drop your Map into Illustrator.
Building Map Legend
Before we even start, it is a good idea to plan the different sizes of roads and terrains that you will be working with. If you decide that a four lane road has the largest shape and you run into a highway, what now? Here is what I came up with:
I am going to go pretty simple for this example, but it can be as complex or simple as you want.
The road graphics are very easy to make, just choose the Line Segment Tool [\] and draw a line with different strokes/colors. For the yellow one I placed a large yellow stroke on top of the two small orange strokes.
Making the Brushes
With the road graphic selected, open the Brush window. Click on the options button which is the small icon with the three lines in the top right corner. This will open up the Brush Options, choose New Brush.
You will be presented with the following dialog box. Choose New Art Brush and hit OK.
A new window will come up that will allow you to customize your new brush. In this case it is set up perfectly for what we need. All we need to do is give the brush a name. Choose something appropriate for the different sized roads. I do encourage you to poke around all the neat settings you can use with this tool.
Repeat this process until you have a brush for each road you made.
Drawing the Roads
Using the Pen Tool [P] draw over one of the existing roads in you map, taking note of how big your graphic will be. Now simply click on the brush in the window that you want to apply to the road.
Repeat this process for all main roads.
This is what I came up with:
As you may have noticed, the lines will sometimes not line up right at intersections, which is easily fixable.
In some cases it is just a matter of changing the layer order. Using Ctrl+[ to send the shape backwards, and Ctrl+] to send it forward try to adjust the roads to where they line up right.
In some cases you will need to draw the intersections. Draw some shapes with the pen tool that imitate the turn lanes at the intersection. Use the satellite picture as reference. Here are a few examples of how I achieved this.
Make sure to add some strokes too.
The quick fix is to just throw a dot over the intersection that matches the style.
Making Houses and Backgrounds
Using the pen tool draw out some houses using the graphic style you decided on. Here is an example of what I campe up with:
Using the Pen Tool still draw some terrain changes and send them back behind all of the other shapes. This is what I came up with:
Map making is very time consuming and requires a good deal of patience. More than likely if you become a graphic designer, someone will eventually ask you to make a map. It is the basic skills I illustrated in this tutorial that can lead you to make much more complex and interesting maps. Here is an example of a map I have made for a university:
Keep practicing and have fun!