Let’s imagine you are organising an event. Keen to get people coming along to the event, you create some beautiful flyers. Now imagine you want to put a map on the back of the flyer so that people can find your venue. And suddenly your beautiful quality printed flyer falls apart with a crash. The problem is that the way that most people get a map for their printed material is by loading the correct street map on Google Maps, taking a screenshot and then importing the screenshot as an image. The trouble is – this produces a low quality image. Because Google Maps are designed to be viewed on the computer, they only show at ~72dpi. Print quality normally runs at around ~300dpi. The result is pixellated, grainy maps that ruin the look of the rest of your design. Four hours, two nervous breakdowns, 3 computers and a cereal bar later. I found a fix for this issue. My solution gives you fully vector street maps which you can scale to any size you like, leaving you with crisp files ready for printing. The process is a bit long and involved, but is worth it for the quality it gives you at the end. Hopefully by sharing it here, it means that I spare someone else the frustration further down the road. Although the original purpose of this technique is to get high quality vector maps for print purposes, the vector maps can be useful for other things – comps, PDFs, nice simple SVG for embedding into websites. The first thing you need to do is to get your map. Instead of using Google Maps, we will be getting our map from the OpenStreetMap. This is a free (as in beer and speech) map service that works in a similar way to Google Maps. Details of how to credit OpenStreetMap is available on their website. When you’ve loaded the map correctly to the right zoom level, you need to export the data. Click “Export” on the far left hand menu. Then Export again on the window that slides into view. This gives you a file called Map.osm, which we will need in a minute. Note: for logged in users, OpenStreetMap gives the option to export a vector .svg file. However, the file it produces doesn’t place nicely with Illustrator/InDesign, which makes it a little useless. The second step is to open the file up in a program called Maperitive. This is a desktop application which runs on-top of OpenStreetMap’s data sources. Although it’s a Windows .NET program, it’s possible to get it running on Mac OS X by using Mono and XQuartz. With Maperitive running, go to File ->, Open Map Sources. Then select the .osm file you downloaded earlier in the process. This will load your map information in Maperitive. If you try and export an SVG at this stage, it will only create a faux-SVG – the actual map data will be .png files, which will mean you’re still stuck with low resolution images. This is because the .osm file contains the minimum of data needed to display the map on screen. Doing this keeps the file size small. Therefore, we need to load some more data into Maperitive. Using the command prompt at the bottom of Maperitive, type download-osm. This will create download more supporting data from OpenStreetMap. Now you can go to Tools ->, Export SVG. There is a choice of exporting in a way that is optimised for Illustrator or for Inkscape, so choose your program of choice. It’s import to choose the right program, as they display .svg files slightly differently. Finally, you can import the file into Illustrator. From this point you can manipulate the file as you would do any other vector file: changing colours, text sizes, clipping and cropping. Each group of objects is saved as an individual layer: roads, landscape, grids, symbols, text, copyright info etc. So you can pick and choose what layers you need to show. Finally, I recommend saving the .svg as Illustrator’s native .ai format if you’re going to be working a lot on the file. This will allow you to import it easily into other Adobe products such as Photoshop or InDesign. Remember to play nicely and give OpenStreetMaps the correct accreditation when you use their data. There you have it – an easy(ish) way to use data that is freely available in order to create high resolution maps for printing. There’s a lot more you can do with the process, I’m sure. For example, Maperitive allows you to download different .osm data from the servers to show maps for hiking, topology etc. But hopefully this will get you up and running and mark out some of the key way-points. If this guide has been useful, please do drop a comment and let me know – and better yet, please share this with other people who might find it useful. Throughout the process of frustration, Jesse and I kept saying “I can’t believe we’re the only ones trying to do this” – hopefully this guide gives some reassurance and hope for people trying to accomplish the same as us! Source.


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Last Modified: April 22, 2016 @ 3:11 am