Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration


August 9th, 2011

I just finished writing an article for (I’ll post it here soon) defining various new geo-terms including the term “geoglitter.” While I think that this particular term is somewhat indefinable, I attempted to illustrate it for the article in my own way.

The aim was to use an illustration that was a literal interpretation of the term GEOGLITTER. How hard could that be? As it turns out, it was a lot harder, and messier than expected. First, I purchased seven colors of glitter from the craft store, then I designed a world-map in black and white where the water is black and the land is white. That was the easy part, of course, being that I do make maps for a living.

The map was printed on card stock on the laser printer and “caught” immediately as it was spit out of the machine so the black wouldn’t smudge. Here came the hard part. I wanted to use the seven colors to denote the seven continents. However, the divisions between continents are very difficult to get just right using glue and glitter! We’re talking MAJOR generalization of line-work here. :) The line separating Europe from Asia was particularly difficult.

Thankfully, though, I was able to produce at least an approximation of where those divisions are. The only real disaster turned out to be in allowing some of the green glitter to slide down into the white (Antarctica) glitter, which was thereby irretrievable.

THE OUTCOME I believe the major outcome for me with this project has been that creating map art is an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding learning opportunity. To be honest, I had not realized exactly where some of these divisions were prior to this project.

TEACHING IDEA It follows that this would be an excellent way to teach children about the continents. They should be given a blank map and glitter (or just markers, but glitter is much more fun) and be required to figure out where the divisions are themselves, either by looking it up on the web (older students) or by giving them a separate map showing the divisions (k-2nd grade). This type of hands-on learning should allow for more memory retention than rote memorization.


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Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration