Starter Maps

Starter Maps semi-automate the design and production of National Park Service maps. Starter Maps provide all the ingredients needed to make a standard National Park Service map — labels, symbols, line styles, and area colors — on organized layers in Adobe Illustrator CS2 format.

Example of a simple area map created from a Starter Map

Download a Starter Map

How to use Starter Maps

Note: To use Starter Maps you should be familiar with Adobe Illustrator CS2 and map-making. These maps are not intended for beginners.

Basic use

When you open a Starter Map you will see a blank Adobe Illustrator document with symbols, north arrows, bar scales, and other map elements outside of the art board on either side. Each class of map elements is on its own dedicated layer in the Layers Palette. By Option-dragging (Mac) or Alt-dragging (PC) you can copy map elements to the art board to start building your map.

Copied map labels, road shields, bar scale numbers, etc. are easily edited with Type Tool. The size of callout boxes automatically adjusts as you type—even when the text is on multiple lines. Use the Scale Tool to increase or decrease the length of bar scales as needed.

Typing in a callout box

New Maps

Creating a new map from scratch with a Starter Map is accomplished in two ways.

1. Place a scan or screen shot of a base map on a new layer at the bottom of the Layers palette. Using the scan as a reference, then trace your map being careful to draw the different classes of information on the appropriately named layer. For example, all drainages should go on the drainages layer, trails on the trails layer, and so forth.

2. Import lines and polygons from a GIS and place them on the appropriate layer in the Starter Map. This more advanced method requires special software and access to GIS data.

Targeted Layers

In the Layers palette, a gray-filled dot on the right side indicates a Targeted layer with a pre-assigned graphical style. The graphical styles found in Starter Maps match National Park Service map standards. For example, a line drawn or placed on the jeep road layer will automatically appear as a double-dashed line identical to the jeep roads found on other Park Service maps. Other Targeted layers bring a standardized appearance to area fills, such as water bodies and park areas. Moving a line or polygon from one Targeted layer to another automatically changes its appearance.

Illustrator layers pallet

Tip 1: For Targeted Layers to work properly lines and polygons placed on them must have NO stroke or fill. Use the Color palette to set the stroke and fill of lines and polygons to none, if necessary.

Tip 2: Clicking the gray-filled dot on a targeted layer will select all objects on that layer. You can then use the Appearance palette to modify the assigned graphical style.

Last updated: November 15, 2023