Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration

Do Cartography With This One Weird Tool

June 26th, 2017

It’s about time I wrote another post. This one is sure to excite.
Today I’ve been musing about the strange tools we GIS people use during the course of our daily work. For example, I’ve been using Google Drawings* to paste screenshots, crop them to 200 x 133 pixels, and add them to AGOL as thumbnails. My client’s public facing layers and webmaps weren’t looking too good in searches because the thumbnails were the basic defaults. Here’s some of the results:
Google Drawings is super easy for this basic task for various reasons including the fact that snapping to page edges is built-in. Using a product like Inkscape gives you a lot more functionality, but each thing needs to be set ahead of time, such as the proper snapping, so more basic tasks are done more quickly using simpler software like this. I suppose the danger there is using the wrong tool solely because other software is harder to use. In the beginning of my career I was certainly guilty of using Power Point for quick image manipulation, which in retrospect was not really the best choice. (Understatement.)
Speaking of thumbnail images, it seems that making them look good is one of those newer type of things that GIS people need to have in their designer toolkit. We didn’t really need to create thumbnails 5 or 10 years ago but now, with most of our layers and maps online, it makes sense to use them as clickable entryways into our content. Not to mention we might use thumbnails for social media posts as well. I did find a short tutorial on thumbnail making from Esri for those seeking a little more help in this area.
Another designer-y skill that is new and goes along these lines is gif making. A lot of the most shared maps on social media are animated gifs of change over time such as:

By the way, who hasn’t made a map of U.S. territorial expansion? Here’s one I made for a U.S. history textbook years ago. It’s not an animated gif. :(
Without a doubt I need to get on the animated map gif bandwagon but I haven’t yet. What are the tools that you use for this? Tips appreciated via twitter/comments, thanks!
Related twitter poll:


*Not to be confused with the amazing new Quick, Draw! thing that @geospacedman pointed out this morning (warning, addictive).



  • viet Anh Hoang says on: June 29, 2017 at 6:52 am


    How do you resize image in Google Drawing to an exact size (200*133).

  • G.P. says on: June 29, 2017 at 2:38 pm


    File>Page Setup, then drag the image handles until they snap with the edge of the page. Or crop to the edge.

Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration