Every now and then, folks ask me how I make my maps.
First, I use Corel Draw as my
drawing package. I started using it 20 years ago with version 5 when
it was $350 vs something like 900 bucks for Photoshop. I have
never regretted that decision based solely on price. Using Corel
Draw also worked in my favor for many years when I worked for my company,
for they too had chosen Corel Draw as their graphics package of choice,
until they upgraded to Windows 7.
Under the WYSIWYG interface,
Corel is using vector graphics to draw everything you see. Solid
objects get filled with color. Drawings wind up taking a lot less
memory space. One of my typical maps is around a 70K CDR file, but
when saved as a JPEG, can easily be a 2meg file!!! IF you decide to
add a JPEG to a Corel drawing, and save it as such, it will easily drive the
CDR file up towards the 2-3 megs size, or bigger, depending on the size of
So let's get into the process.
First thing I do is
to decide on the area I want to draw. I usually use Google maps, but
once in a while I will also use Bing Maps. Let's pick the
Triple-Crossing area of Richmond VA as an example.
BTW, I use
Techsmith's Snag-It as my screen
capture program. It's a great program, I use it every day for
something. I wouldn't be able to do my website or maps without it.
If I am doing a
full size map, I will decide whether the portrait or landscape will fit the
area better. If I am doing a small area map, the size is what it is.
So I open Corel Draw, and I import my default drawing, which contains
the many map elements you are used to seeing on my maps. I have
created them over the past 15 years of using Corel Draw to do my maps.
The default page looks like the screen capture below. Whatever I don't
use, I just delete it. There is also a default map for the landscape
format off to the right that is not shown.
Now I import the map I
just captured. Since this isn't a full size map, I delete the default
delete the unused maps symbols, and edit the map title block.
I rearrange things
around the outside of the map to make it easier on me, move the title block
and some of the other stuff onto the map.....
Now I can start adding
lines for the tracks and streets/highways. I usually use a 2 point
line width for streets and tracks. I usually do not show multiple
tracks. Unless you are doing a detailed detail map, it only clutters
up the map to draw four lines for a 4-line mainline. With detail maps
such as this one, I will often use 4 point or larger line widths for the
streets, only because the scale would be off if I didn't.
puts everything in "layers". The last thing you drew, will be in the
top layer, "on-top" of everything else you have on the drawing. There
are commands to put the object on top, on the bottom, or move it layer by
layer to position it exactly where you want. This is how we can get a
road to appear "over", or "on top of" a railroad track, or vice-versa.
On many of my maps, I
will use a hash mark and a number to tell you how many tracks there are.
Sometimes, you can't do it all, and we have to make exceptions and draw
just an itsy-bitsy section to make a road go over a track, because the track
has been on top of everything else while the road also goes over and under
other roads....... The next step in the series below would be to make
the short grey section blue to match that of the railroad line color.
progresses; the important sights are in, most of the tracks are in place as
well as the roads - still need the highways tho, and since they are above
everything else, we are saving them for last. You have to know
Richmond to get a feel for this!
As you may know, I like
to highlight a number of things on my maps: restaurants/places to eat,
banks, gas stations, KMarts, Walmarts and the like, and any other notable
feature. The symbols I use for signals are not FRA accurate, for I
just want to show where they are, and their orientation. I make them
from a circle and a rectangle, and then group the two objects. I do
this so that I can change the color using the Corel Draw color select
toolbar at the right side of the window - it is easier than clicking on the
line symbol and having to go thru the menu of options to select line
The map is nearing completion after adding highway and
track details. I've been a big fan of making maps since I was a kid.
As such, I tend to favor the traditional way of depicting details on maps,
so I usually outline elevated roads and tracks with black lines to indicate
they are on a bridge structure. It takes more time this way, but I'm
doing the maps to please myself.
One of the last things
to add is the water before we go and make sure everything is on it's proper
level/layer. When a road and a track meet at a grade crossing, I
usually give preference to placing the track "above" the road. To me,
it just makes the map look cleaner, especially since I am trying to
highlight the railroads on my maps.
We also double check
the map against an aerial view. If everything looks good, I can also
now delete the underlying map JPEG.
And the final product
looks like this. In case you're wondering why I always have a large
outer border on my maps, it is to hide the ends of the lines on the map.
It's the easiest method to do so.
For the purposes of putting the map
on my webpages, I have run the 2.2meg JPEG through a Microsoft program that
reduces the size of the file by approximately 90%: Windows Picture Manager. In the later version of
Microsoft Office, the application is hidden amongst the various aps. I
don't know if it is still included in the vary latest versions of Office tho.
Despite what many people think of Microsoft products, I have found it to be
an extremely useful and easy to use photo editing tool, along with Snag-It.
I choose the documents level of
compression. The resolution is sufficient for most applications.
I also usually try to save the file as a PDF to make it easier to print.
This drawing went from 2.22meg file to a 135K file.