CREATING AND USING CUSTOM ARCGIS PRO SYMBOLOGY – PART 2: Image Preparation and Processing

CREATING AND USING CUSTOM ARCGIS PRO SYMBOLOGY – PART 2: Image Preparation and Processing

This is the second part in a series of posts on my journey to create custom symbology in ArcGIS Pro. Inspired by John Nelson this post is primarily a reminder to myself about how I did it.  Actually this whole blog is my personal notes made public (so yes you can do this differently and achieve the same results), I’ve done on more than one occasion a Google Search for a solution only to find a post I did about it ages back…. doh.

So you have the kit because you read my previous post, so now what?  Well we need to do some drawing and painting!   Then we will process those drawings by scanning them modifying them in a image editor (like GIMP or Adobe Photoshop Elements) and saving them in a nice and organised way.

The next part of this blog series will deal specifically with each symbol type (lines and points) and I will also cover watercolour swatches I’ve created.  This post will get your drawings and sketches to an image editor ready for use in ArcGIS Pro.

Inspiration doesn’t have to come from specific texts or Cartography books (but it helps)

There’s two steps to my process (you can of course do it differently!), first read some books and get some inspiration.  The I have a scrap page which I start doing test runs on symbology and lines a bit like the image below…

doodles can turn into something more digital later…

Once I’m happy with something I will add it to my grid paper I’ve created which you can download here (below).

Don’t be afraid to experiment, don’t think it’s not good enough!  Lots of people say they can’t draw, what I think they mean is they’re not confident enough to draw for other people.  Besides which some mistakes or badly drawn things might look just right in the correct context.

Some look okay, some I’m embarrassed about to be honest, I’m trying to learn not to care too deeply about what others think!

So we have a paper grid of hand drawn symbols (no you don’t need to till them up).  Notice I’ve used white paper for this the whiter and cleaner the paper the better I can edit them later.

Now I would scan them or take a photo, just be warned that take a photo you need really good light, no shadows and try and make sure them are photo’d flat so you don’t have distortions to fix later.   I recommend scanning them if you can as this will keep things nice and consistent.  As a rule I scan at 200dpi or more as a minimum, I do scan as colour even if black and white scans just so I can choose later what’s done with the image also not all pens are black!

I scan the whole A4 page (sorry people from USA we’re metric around here!), and it will look like this in Adobe Photoshop Elements.

Ready to process!

Step 1: Duplicate the layer 

Step 2: Delete the background layer

Step 3: Use the crop tool and choose your symbology

Step 4: Use the Magic Wand selection Tool (uncheck contiguous and adjust the tolerance to adjust) to select all the white space on the image.

Step 5: Go to Edit menu and select ‘Cut’ or use the keyboard shortcut ‘Ctrl-X’, now you have a small image with a transparent background! Use the crop tool again to adjust the image size to your requirements (I tend to crop just to the image, but some like to make it precisely square)

filename “draft_v1_v2_final_final_v0.png”

Step 6: Save in a folder with a nice file name but save as a PNG file which supports transparent backgrounds.

So that’s it! The next blog post in this series (coming soon) will take you through symbology a types (lines or points) and show you how we get it working in ArcGIS Pro.  I will also do a separate blog in the series for coloured scans of my watercolours swatches…

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