Importance of project notes – NEPA Trails Map terrain

Documenting your mapping process is really helpful. These days, I have a 6×9″ book layout in Affinity Publisher. It acts like a hard copy cookbook for map making. In this, I note the programs, files, processes, and thoughts.  This post is referenced in my notes about setting up the NEPA Trails Map.  Basically, I’m explaining to myself what I did.

Why is documenting processes important?

There are many ways to create a terrain.  Depending on the aesthetic, I’ll use different approaches. And documentation helps to maintain consistency when I go to update the map years later.

Many aspects of a map are maintained in terms of style sheets, symbols, color swatches, etc.  And in this case, I like to write notes to remind myself of hex codes I used for color or where I stored style sheets.

About this specific video

When I made the previous version of the NEPA Trails Map in 2015, all of the polygon layers were maintained in Illustrator. I used transparencies over the shaded relief.

Between the 2015 and the 2022 versions of the map, I had been working with watercolor effects applied to terrain that looked like this:

I’m often experimenting with a new approach.  And it helps me to just turn on a screen capture. I may make another post about this specific map, but here’s a link to the video relating to the locator. And here’s the process I went through to originally make the map design. This video is about two hours long.

So, I began to try a similar watercolor approach for the NEPA Trails map. It didn’t actually give me the result I hoped for.

Ultimately, I went with a simple process that would be more easy to update while still looking good.

Process for preparing the base layer:

  • Manage layers in QGIS
  • Export to PA State Plane North
  • 200 dpi, no anti-aliasing, create world file
  • Open in Affinity Photo and denoise, where the luminance detail is 30% and all other settings are 100%
  • Export as jpg
  • import into Illustrator

To reiterate

There are many ways to do something. Keeping track of the process is essential for consistency from map to map.