Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration

Making and Using the Colors For Maps Booklet

November 4th, 2010

It took about 2.5 months to create the Colors For Maps booklet. I had the idea a while before I actually started working on it though, because I wanted to wrap up two of my GIS projects before embarking on the map booklet project. It turned out to be a good idea because what started as a simple idea rapidly became a lot of work. (Isn’t that always the way?) I’ve long been into using inspiration pieces to find colors for map projects but I do know that even that short-cut can sometimes take a while. I also am into keeping a “shop book” once you have some colors that work out well. However, even though I recommend keeping track of the colors, I wasn’t taking my own advice. If I wasn’t even taking my own advice I figured other people probably weren’t either! So I made this booklet, thinking that at the very least, it would become my shop book. And beyond that I hoped it could help others as well.

Coming up with color schemes that worked became pretty easy for me after the first few. I often had to tweak the scheme (a color here and there) once I put it into the map but beyond that it was not very hard work. One problem was that I could only come up with one or two of them a day. Once you’ve spent 2 hours working on two color schemes, you just get burned out on colors. When I started dreaming about color palettes and the mechanics of putting them into the booklet template I figured I was pretty well steeped in the process. :)

One of the buyers sent me a few direct messages on twitter yesterday. Here’s the conversation:

Buyer: and thank you for the hard work in putting this together. Question: are any of the palettes recommended for colour blindness?

Me: I didn’t make specific recommendations but there are deuteranope simulations of the sample map on each palette page.

Buyer: Oh, yeah. I wasn’t familiar with the specific term and missed the feature while flicking through. Really impressive work!

Buyer: Have you thought of letting people downld 1 sample palette pg free? I’m sure you’ll get many more purchases subsequently.

Since I thought the idea of showing one of the sample pages (shown above) was a good one I thought I’d show it here on the blog. The sample page above is from page 9, which happens to be the first page in the Coordinated Palettes section. Below is a map I used in an example at a recent talk I gave at Colorado State University in which I used the colors from the palette page shown above.



  • Rick Rupp says on: November 5, 2010 at 3:53 pm


    Hi Gretchen,
    I’m headed over to buy a copy of this, but I noticed your link above for “Colors for Maps” is broken. Looks like you left out an “n”.

  • Gretchen says on: November 5, 2010 at 4:53 pm


    @Rick Fixed! Thanks.

Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration