How To Create A Custom Map Illustration

Illustrated maps portray a specific place in a more artistic manner as compared to the technical style. It is different from road maps, topographic maps, or atlas. Illustrated maps can be in the form of a simple picture of a map or a 3-dimensional angle design being spiced-up with colorful and attractive images of buildings, animals, people, and other landmarks.


In creating a custom map illustration, you need to choose a specific place as your subject or that given by the client. Once you have the subject in place, gather as many visual sources as possible that have significance to the subject.Your client may require the inclusion of certain features for you to focus on in your illustration. You need to consider the significance of the contents of your map illustration.

Map Image

Take an aerial photo or a screenshot (you can use Google as your source, but you need to comply with their guidelines according to the fair use policy) of your subject and put it in the Illustrator menu on an appropriately-sized artboard and give a name on the Layers panel.

Start drawing your map where you feel comfortable. It does not matter where you begin to draw your map. There are elements you need to focus on. They will be spread to the individual layers to achieve an enhanced workflow. Ensure the uniformity of the curves on the streets you draw to make the illustration relaxing to the eyes.

Land and Water

If you are already contented with the streets drawing, their density, curvature, thickness, and color, make their layer unseen and create the third layer. Label it as “Land” and start tracing its outline. You may have rivers, coastlines, and regions beneath the land layer. After drawing the outlines of the streets, land, and water, make sure that they are uniform and clear. You may add secondary elements such as districts, parks, and regions and color them differently from the rest for distinction.

Other areas to be included in the custom map illustration are main map labels, basic buildings, 2D features, 3D signs and land, and finalizing the building details.

In creating a map illustration, your creativity is essential to deliver an interesting and attractive illustration. The creation of the map does not only give an illustration but also design visual information.

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