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Getting the Best Resolution when Importing an Image from a WMS

Using a Web Map Service (WMS) is a great way to easily get up-to-date imagery for your project. An issue you may run into, however, is that a server may not allow you to download images over a certain size (in pixels). The image resolution provided on most servers is usually high enough for most projects but there may be some instances where a higher resolution is needed (e.g. a poster-sized map or a web map that covers a large area).

One possible workaround for this issue is to get several small-area, high-resolution images from a WMS and then mosaic them together to make one large-area, high-resolution image. Here, we will use the City of Toronto Web Map Service to:

  1. Get an image of downtown Toronto
  2. Tile the image to split it into four smaller images
  3. Use the extents of the four tiled images to get four high-resolution images
  4. Mosaic the images to one large high-resolution image


Download an Image from the Web Map Service

First we will get an image of downtown Toronto from the City of Toronto WMS. Click the Advanced Import button on the Geographic Imager panel. Select Web Map Service from the Format drop-down and click Browse. Click Load services from Avenza and select City of Toronto WMS from the list.


Download an Image from the Web Map Service
(Click for larger version)


Select City of Toronto Imagery from the list of layers. Click Select Area then drag a box to zoom in on an area of downtown. Click OK to return to the previous window. There is no need to change the image size because we will use this image to get the extents of a higher resolution image. Leave the other options as default and click OK to load the image, and click OK again on the Advanced Import dialog box. The selected image will now open in Adobe Photoshop.


Tile the Image

Next, let’s tile the image to split it into four separate images. Open the Tile dialog box from the Geographic Imager panel. Choose By Number of Tiles as the Tiling Schema and change Horizontal and Vertical to 2. Change the Horizontal and Vertical Overlap to 3 percent. It’s important to have overlap between the images so they will mosaic properly when the data is transformed.


Tile the Image
(Click for larger version)


Click the Keep Images Open check box to enable it. Choose a name and location to save the tiles. You can save them to a temporary location because they will not be part of the final product. The four image tiles will open in separate tabs.


Estimate a Web Map Service’s Maximum Image Size

Open the City of Toronto Imagery WMS again and select an area. In this service, as with many other services, the maximum resolution is not provided. We can, however, use trial and error to find the largest image that the service will allow us to download. A WMS has a maximum allowed width and height set for an image request. The maximum width is usually the same as the maximum height.

Set the resolution of the image by adjusting the width of the image in pixels under Output Options. First, try setting Image Size to a pixel width of 5000. Height will update automatically based on the image’s dimensions. Click OK and you will see an error that says “Parameter ‘width’ contains unacceptable value” (or height if the images higher than it is wide). OK the error to close it.


Estimate a Web Map Service’s Maximum Image Size
(Click for larger version)


To estimate the maximum width and height allowed by a web service, you can adjust the image size to see when the server returns an error. The maximum width and height for the City of Toronto WMS is about 4000 pixels.


Downloading and Mosaicking Large Images

Next we will use the geographic extents of the four tiled images to download four higher resolution images with matching extents then mosaic the images together. Import an image again from the City of Toronto WMS using Advanced Import. Select an area, click Select Area by Another Document’s Extents and choose the first tiled image from the dropdown menu. The Select Area dialog will display an area matching that image’s area. Click OK to return to the previous screen.


Downloading large images
(Click for larger version)


Enter 3000 as the Image Size. Click OK to add the image to the Advanced Import dialog box. Repeat the above steps for each of the remaining three tiled images.

Creating a mosaic of four images (two by two) makes a single image just under 6000 pixels wide because of the overlap between the tiles (the height will vary depending on the area you selected). This is larger than the maximum size allowed by the WMS. Check the box Mosaic All Files to the Destination Document and select one of the images currently loaded in the dialog window from the drop-down menu. Leave the other options unchecked and select Normal as the Layer Blending Mode. This will merge the four images into a single document.



Mosaicking large images
(Click for larger version)


Avoid Downloading Images Greater than the Maximum Image Resolution

One further consideration when getting imagery from a service is to avoid requesting an image that is higher resolution than the full resolution of the image on the service. In this case, the number of pixels in the image and, therefore, the image size will increase without any increase in the actual resolution of the image.

To see an example of this, get an image from a WMS by zooming in on a small area and downloading images of varying resolution. The pictures below show two images of the same area side by side at different resolutions. The image on the left is 1024 by 870 pixels and the one on the right is 2500 by 2124 pixels but there is no noticeable difference between them. This is because the image exceeds the resolution of the image on the server so the WMS resamples the image to a higher resolution, creating duplicate pixels.


Avoid Downloading Images Greater than the Maximum Image Resolution
(Click for larger version)


Use Geographic Imager to Import Imagery from ArcGIS Online Directly Into Adobe Photoshop

With the latest release of Geographic Imager 5.2, it’s now possible to easily import images directly from an ArcGIS Online account or an ArcGIS web service. This will allow you to use shared data within your ArcGIS Online organizational account and connect to publicly available map servers from various online sources.


ArcGIS Online is a collaborative web GIS that allows you to store and share GIS data using Esri’s secure cloud. Before, you may have had to download raster layers to your local machine and then import them into Adobe Photoshop using Geographic Imager. Now, Geographic Imager has a much-improved workflow to get ArcGIS Online image layers into Adobe Photoshop with full georeferencing.

Currently, the types of datasets allowed are Map Image Layers and Tile Layers. To load a layer, open Advanced Import and select ArcGIS Online from the Format drop-down list. Enter the credentials for your ArcGIS Online account and select an image layer from your user portal.

Images can be resized and transformed on import. To extract a specific area from the image, click Select Area. The interface is the same as the one used for WMS Import.

In addition to using your own organization’s data, you can connect to publicly available data from a wide variety of organizations by connecting to an ArcGIS Web Service. To connect to a web service, use Advanced Import and select ArcGIS Web Service from the Format drop-down menu. Click Browse and enter the URL for the service. This is a great option when searching for data from open data portals created by government agencies.

Validating Georeferencing in Geographic Imager

When georeferencing a map in Geographic Imager, there are two tools which can be used to check spatial accuracy: Validate and Show Image Extents Online. With Validate, click a point on the image and it will show the corresponding location on the web map service so that you can compare the difference between them. Show Image Extents Online will display a rectangle representing the spatial extent of the image on the web map.

The image below shows the Validate tool in action. Selecting the tool and clicking on the road intersection brings up the same intersection in the web map, displaying how accurate the georeferencing may be. It is good practice to test several known points on the image. Choose features that will be easy to identify on the web map such as road intersections, coastlines, buildings, and landmarks.

The Show Image Extents Online tool is shown in the image below. Use this tool to see the full area covered by the image. Note that the rectangle shown on the web map will include the non-map areas of the page (borders, legend, etc).


Avenza Systems Fixed and Floating License Solutions: What Are The Differences?

Avenza desktop applications, MAPublisher and Geographic Imager offer two options for the licensing system: Fixed license and Floating license.

The Fixed license option allows only one license per computer. For most users or small companies, this is generally sufficient, even with a few licenses. Since your license is fixed to a specific computer, it can’t be moved freely to another machine. However, Avenza does allow you to move your license occasionally. For example, if you purchased a new computer or when your computer is being fixed and you need to transfer your fixed license to another computer. If your subscription status for MMP (MAPublisher Maintenance Program) or GMP (Geographic Imager Maintenance Program) is up-to-date, then moving your fixed license to another computer (i.e. rehosting a license) can be done without a cost. Complete this form to do so. You will receive a notification email from Avenza when this is completed.

The Floating license option is for users who wants to share a number of licenses on the network. This is a great solution for any size company that has multiple users who share use of MAPublisher or Geographic Imager. You will need to set up a license server for which users will need check out a license from the server before using MAPublisher or Geographic Imager. In general, this option is used when sharing a number of license with colleagues. For example, the license server holds two seats of MAPublisher license. When users on Computer A and Computer B are using MAPublisher, other users can’t check out a license until the borrowed licenses are checked in.

An example environment of a floating license system

Another great advantage of the floating license the ability to borrow a roaming license with their laptop so that they can use MAPublisher and Geographic Imager outside their immediate office. This is a good solution for users who need to use the software on the go and doesn’t have a connection to the floating license server.

For more information about the licensing options for our MAPublisher and Geographic Imager, contact Avenza sales.

If you have any technical questions about setting up a license server or any other licensing issues, contact Avenza Technical Support.

Working With Avenza Floating Licenses Outside of Your Work Network

If you or your organization have a floating license for MAPublisher or Geographic Imager, this blog post is for you. Having a floating license provides you with a lot of flexibility when you want to bring your laptop computer outside your work network and use MAPublisher and Georaphic Imager at home or in the field.

Let’s say you have a laptop computer and you want to work on your mapping project outside your office network. You can do it if your organization has a floating license.

Step 1: Make sure all the software is installed

On your laptop computer, make sure that you have MAPublisher for Adobe Illustrator or Geographic Imager for Adobe Photoshop installed and that there is a valid floating license (for one or each product).

Step 2: Connect your laptop to the network and to the licensing server

If you are not sure how to connect your laptop to the network and to the server, please contact your IT administrator. It is essential that your laptop computer is connected to the license server so that you can obtain a liecnse from it.

Step 3: Follow the steps in the MAPublisher/Geographic Imager license management window

Open the License Management dialog box.

If you’re using MAPublisher, access MAPublisher by going to Help > MAPublisher Licensing > License Management.

If you’re using Geographic Imager, access License Management by going to File > Automate > Geographic Imager: License Management.

Click the Floating button to open the Floating License Setup dialog box.

Make sure that the “Allow roaming licenses” option is selected. Click OK.

Allow roaming licenses

Click the “Use roaming license” option and specify the number of days in the Duration of borrow option. This indicates how long you want to use the license outside of your network.

Specify duration of borrow

Clicking the “Checkout” button will change the status of the license. In this example, we borrowed a license from the license server for two days (December 16, 2015 starting date).

Checkout the license

Now you will be able to use your MAPublisher or Geographic license when your computer is disconnected from your work network.  You might want to test it by closing Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, disconnect your computer from the network, restart Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, and see if you can use MAPublisher or Geographic Imager.

Improve Mosaic By Resampling Images in Geographic Imager

The Mosaic function in Geographic Imager merges multiple georeferenced images together to create a single composite georeferenced image. Though the goal of the mosaic is to create a single and seamless composite image, combining images with the Mosaic tool will often result in a slight shift of the imagery due to differences in the original pixel registration grid. This means that even when images are in the same coordinate system with the same spatial resolution, error can still be introduced because of a difference in the pixel alignment. Due to this, mosaicking processes in general tend to produce results that may be very close, but not exact. With this in mind, the results of your mosaic may be improved by resampling your images beforehand to the smallest unit of the resolution.

As an example, let’s say we have an image where the pixel size is 2.00 metres. When plotting the X coordinates of every pixel in this image (using the top left corner of the pixel), the X coordinate value will be incremented by the number/distance of the pixel size. For example, if the X coordinate values were to start at 111.00, then the next pixel would be 113.00, 115.00, 117.00, and so on. It’s important to note that these coordinate values are discrete, which means that the values could not be 113.22 or 115.77 because the origin of the coordinate in this case starts at 111.00 metres.

Now, we have another image that we want to mosaic with the first image. In this instance, the first image will be “Image A” and the second image will be “Image B”. Image B has the same coordinate system as well as the same pixel size as Image A.

Take a look at the X coordinates in Image A and Image B below:

We can see that the X coordinate in the top-left corner is different between these two images, and as previously mentioned, we know that the X coordinate values are discrete. When mosaicking Image B to Image A, the X coordinate cannot be 111.75 or 113.75. The coordinates must be 111.00, 113.00, 115.00, and so on, following the pattern of the pixel grid values in Image A.

This means that Image B will need to be “shifted” or “snapped” to the closest coordinates when the mosaic is performed, see below:

As a result, the X coordinate of Image B will be shifted by 0.75 metres (less than half a pixel). The pixel with X coordinate 111.75 is now placed at 111.00 and the next pixel with X coordinate of 113.75 will now be placed at 113.00, and so on.

With this in mind, the results of your mosaic may be improved by resampling your images to the “smallest unit of the resolution”. The smallest unit of the resolution can be determined from the difference in the coordinates (spatial alignment difference) between the two images.

Looking back at our example, we can see that the smallest unit of the resolution (represented by the blue arrow) in this case is 0.75 metres – this is the value we will use to resample our images.

Once the images have been resampled to 0.75 metres, we may go ahead with our mosaic.

The above example demonstrates the possibility of a pixel shift after a mosaic for two images with a different pixel alignment. It should be noted that this example explains the problem in one-dimension (looking at only the X coordinate) when the image in reality is in two-dimension (looking at both X and Y coordinates). The basic principal of the pixel shift in 2D is the same, but it would include the direction of the shift when mosaicking images. In addition, it’s important to keep in mind that although resampling your images to the smallest unit of the resolution will improve the final mosaic, this is not always an efficient process when mosaicking with more than two images. Another thing to remember is that resampling your images will make your file size much larger. However, in cases where high precision is desired, resampling the images beforehand is a process that should be considered.

Creating a Super Overlay in Google Earth Pro

Our friends in the map library at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario have put together a very nice how-to on creating super overlays for Google Earth using Geographic Imager and Adobe Photoshop.

These instructions describe the process of georeferencing a high-resolution image, creating a geotiff file, using Google Earth Pro to make a super overlay and how to provide access to others. The full process is outlined here

The Brock University Map Library can be contacted at

Geospatial PDF in Adobe Acrobat: Examining latitude and longitude values

After creating a map with MAPublisher or Geographic Imager, you might want to export it as a geospatial PDF file. You want to ensure that the georeference information of your Geospatial PDF files are correct before bringing them into the field for use. A great way to use geospatial PDF maps (and GeoTIFFs) is to load them onto an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with PDF Maps installed.

One way to check for georeference accuracy of geospatial PDF files is to use Adobe Acrobat. Open the “Analysis” tool from View > Tools > Analyze.

Adobe Acrobat: Opening Anlysis Tool

Click the “Geospatial Location Tool” from the Analyze panel.

With the Geospatial Location Tool enabled, you can see the latitude and longitude values of the map while you move the mouse over the opened Geospatial PDF file.

Geospatial PDF viewed in Adobe Acrobat

An important tip you should keep in mind: you need to set the preference option for this tool correctly depending on the coordinate system of the map in the geospatial PDF file.

Open the Preference dialog window:

Acrobat X on Windows: Edit > Preferences > General …
Acrobat X on Mac: Acrobat > Preferences …

In the Preference dialog window, find the preference category “Measuring (Geo)” from the list of categories.

Adobe Acrobat Preference dialog window

In the “Measuring (Geo)” category, take a look at the right side. There are many options for the georeferencing tool. One of the options is “Latitude and Longitude Format”. In this section, you have a checkbox option “Always display latitude and longitude as WGS 1984”.

Adobe Acrobat Preference option for Latitude Longitude Display

This option is very important. If the coordinate system of the map is “NAD 27 / UTM Zone 16 N”, which geodetic system would you like to have to show the latitude and longitude values in Adobe Acrobat? For example, if you are checking the latitude and longitude values in the WGS 1984 geodetic system, you should keep this option selected. However, if you are checking the latitude and longitude values in NAD 1927 geodetic system, then you should de-select this option. The difference in the distance at the same spot between two different geodetic systems may be small or large. If you would like to see the correct latitude and longitude values, you should be aware of this option.

3D Terrain Model using Geographic Imager

We created a video to show that it is possible to use geospatial data and the 3D capabilities of Adobe Photoshop. It performs very well with a decent computer and video card.

In this video, a combination of Geographic Imager and Adobe Photoshop functions are used to open a DEM file using a script. The script also transforms a DEM into a 3D model and allows for an overlay of a colour model based on the data or a custom image (e.g. ortho image). Video after the jump.


How to Create a 3D Rendition of a DEM With a Draped Image

NOTE: Prior to performing these steps with your data you would want to ensure that the DEM and image have the same geographic extents.

Item 2: Coordinate system of the map

Using Geographic Imager, open your DEM file and set the desired schema type. In this case the DEM was “Auto stretched”.

Item 2: Coordinate system of the map

With the DEM now opened and rendered as a 16-bit grayscale Image we can now make use of a number of Adobe Photshop tools to render it in 3D and to drape the image.

Item 2: Coordinate system of the map

The following steps will outline the Adobe Photoshop procedures required to create the 3D rendition:

1. Create a 3D mesh: Under the 3D menu within Photoshop select “New Mesh From Grayscle->Plane”

Item 2: Coordinate system of the map

2. We then use the “3D Object Rotate Tool” located in the Photoshop toolbar to manually rotate the mesh tilting it backwards, resulting in something like this

Item 2: Coordinate system of the map

3. The resulting mesh is too exaggerated for a realistic rendering of the landscape so we will adjust the y orientation of it using the “3D Object Scale tool” setting the Y: scale to 0.10

Item 2: Coordinate system of the map

This is the image after vertically rescaling it

Item 2: Coordinate system of the map

4.Once the 3D mesh has been rescaled the image can be draped

In the Adobe Photoshop “3D Materials” panel, click the “Edit Diffuse texture” button (as denoted in the screenshot below) and select the “Load Texture” option. Now locate and select the image you wish to drape on the 3D mesh.

Item 2: Coordinate system of the map

5. Within the Layers panel turn off the visibility of the Rocky Mountain DEM (as in the screenshot below).

Item 2: Coordinate system of the map

The end result should be a 3D model such as this.

Item 2: Coordinate system of the map