Creating and using Custom ArcGIS Pro Symbology – Part 1: Stuff I use to help me.

Creating and using Custom ArcGIS Pro Symbology – Part 1: Stuff I use to help me.

You’ll have seen on social media I’ve been ‘playing’ with techniques to create custom mapping styles.   This is a direct result of me attending EsriUK’s Perth conference and getting all inspired by John Nelson.

Firstly if you haven’t read or seen John Nelson’s blog, go look at it now (I’ll wait): adventuresinmapping.com There’s more obviously around but I’ve been using ArcGISPro for all our 3D GIS and Esri CityEngine content.  However I’ve wanted to do something more artistic, more in-depth and one that pushes my comfort zone a little.   John Nelson’s cartography using ArcGIS Pro are a master class in the art of what’s possible.

So this is the first blog post in a few and maybe even a video (yes I do that occasionally) on the lessons I’ve learnt from using ArcGIS Pro to make some unique maps that look hand drawn (and sort of are).   Can you do this in a product like QGIS?  Yes I think you probably can, can you apply some of what I write here to QGIS, I hope so!

Equipment and preparation

I’m aiming to make this repeatable and consistent, therefore I’ve done some preparation which I will share with you here.  You don’t have to purchase anything of course! I just wanted to record what I had done here.

The glorious Staedtler triplus® fineliner 334

Pens. While we will be using ArcGIS Pro we will also need to do our own drawing, and no I don’t believe you have to be very good at drawing just consistent and willing to try new things.  I’ve settled on the Staedtler triplus fineLiner 334-9 a nice pen with a good line quality. Unsure?  Go to a good pen shop and try some out, for me we’re doing symbology of lines and symbols so it needs to be crisp and good for scanning.

Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketcher’s Pocket Box set of 12… is nice to have and small!

Paints.  Well I like watercolours and I also wanted to replicate some what John Nelson has done, so I’ve chosen a simple set we got my eldest child from Winsor & Newton.

Paper. Honestly 80gsm everyday paper for simple pen work it has a nice crisp white perfect for scanning.  If I was to improve it so you didn’t see anything on the back or to stop it curling, 90gsm is better.  For watercolour work obviously you need watercolour paper (190gsm to 300gsm) just ensure any scanner can handle it, if you intend to use a scanner!

The grid. I wanted to inject some consistency in to the process and left to my own devices just sketching on a piece of paper will get messy pretty quickly so I created a series of A4 grids for the different symbols.  I’ve made this a PDF which you can download below (see resources heading below).

Scanner or Camera. I’m using an iPhone 7 camera and the dropbox app to quickly upload to my PC (you could equally use a cable or other app).  For the most part I would recommend to use a scanner this allows for clear distortion free scans/images of your drawing.   If you use a camera I find without amazing light quality when taking it you will end up doing additional processes to clean and brighten your image.  The scanner i’m using at home is an Epson Stylus Office BX610FW, I can scan directly to a memory card or via wifi straight to my PC using their Windows program.

Sedbergh-on-sea created with hand drawn elements placed using ArcGIS Pro

Software. Well I’ve been using Adobe Photoshop Elements, but you can also use GIMP (which is fantastic!).  Oh yes and ArcGIS Pro….  

I like it.

Books and inspiration. Well John Nelson and his blog I’ve already talked about but I’ve been looking at a wide variety of books and maps to see what works.  I don’t 100% want to copy (especially if newer material!) but also you don’t have to re-invent the wheel..  From my perspective I really like “Great City Maps”, but then I’m a sucker for urban mapping, I recommend finding a style your’re passionate about and trying to replicate elements of it.

Other publications are available (this is not an endorsement)

Conclusion. So that’s what I’ve been using, I haven’t finished everything yet but Part 2 of this series will look at a workflow for the various elements of a map in ArcGIS Pro you may want to replicate.  I haven’t decided whether to do one giant post about all types of symbology creation or do individual posts for points, lines, polygons etc…

RESOURCES:

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