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Styling Your Map in Adobe Illustrator: Objects vs Layers

One of Adobe Illustrator’s powerful yet occasionally confusing features is the ability to apply fills, strokes and Graphic Styles to art at either the Object level or the Layer level. This is extremely useful because you can effectively use Layers to set up symbology templates so that any art that is drawn on a Layer inherits its appearance from that Layer. Confusion often arises when users combine art styles at both the Layer and Object levels, and cannot figure out why their map does not look how they expect it to look. Most of the examples here are going to be based around using the Appearance panel to apply strokes and fills.

 

Selecting Objects or Selecting Layers

The first decision you have to make is how you select your art. You can either select the layer that the art is on or directly select the art itself. This determines where the changes you make get applied. In order to select the layer, click the circle to the right of a layer name in the Layers panel. You will see that the layer is selected (also known as targeted) by the addition of another circle around the first circle.

Selected Layer.

To select all the art on a layer you can either click in the space to the right of the circle, or Alt-click the layer name.

Selected Art.

If you expand the layer you can see that the art is targeted rather than the layer.

Targeted Art.

Whichever method you use, you will see the art on the canvas appear as selected.

Selected Buildings.

Of course you can select individual art using the Selection tool or clicking to the right of the circle next to the object name in the Layer panel.

 

Changing Strokes and Fills

One advantage of selecting art at the layer level over selecting art directly is the access to the strokes and fills in the Appearance panel.

Selected Layer’s Stroke and Fill are unavailable.

If you select the layer, you do not get direct access to the art’s strokes or fills, however if you select the art you do.

Selected Art’s Stroke and Fill are available.

You can add more strokes or fills in the Appearance panel, but if you want to add strokes or fills at the layer level, they are additional to the strokes or fills that are defined at the object level. We can see this if we style the fields individually with different fills, perhaps representing different crop types. We could also add a stroke to each object, or we can add the stroke to the layer. Adding strokes or fills like this is useful when you want to ensure that all art on that layer shares the same symbology.

Object level Fill and Layer level Stroke.

Directly changing the appearance of objects is reflected both in the Appearance panel and the object thumbnails in the Layers panel.

Object appearance is shown in thumbnails.

However, if you add extra strokes or fills at the layer level, these are not shown in the objects thumbnails.

Layer appearance is not shown in thumbnails.

One important consideration is that it is not possible to use the Appearance panel to adjust several pieces of art with different fills or strokes that are applied at the object level. For example, suppose we have changed the colours of several building outlines, and now want to change them back to black. If we select them all, we will see that the stroke option is not available in the Appearance panel, rather it says Mixed Appearances. The fill is still available to be changed as it is the same for all objects.

Objects with mixed appearances.

Altering appearances can have different results if applied to objects or layers. A good example is a street style that is created with two strokes. If this is applied at the object level, each object is considered separate and you end up with overlapping paths.

Overlapping stroke styles.

However, if this style is applied at the layer level, the paths are styled at the same time and appear to be merged.

Merged stroke styles.

 

Applying Graphic Styles

Graphic Styles are great to easily add combinations of strokes, fills and effects to art, and these can also act differently when applied to objects or layers. In the Graphic Styles panel we have a Graphic Style with null fill and stroke, but a drop shadow added. If we try to add this directly to the building art, the null fill and stroke will cause the buildings to disappear.

Object disappears when this style is applied.

However we can add it to the Buildings layer and the effect is successfully combined with the object level appearance.

Graphic style applied to the layer.

 

Resolving Appearance Confusion

As mentioned earlier, it is possible to combine object level and layer level appearances. This can get complicated if you have different objects on the same layer with different appearances as well as appearance modifications at the layer level. Trying to work out why you cannot adjust the style of your paths because you are getting Mixed Appearance in the Appearance panel can be frustrating.

The easiest method to fix this is to use the Clear appearance button in the Appearance panel. Keep in mind that this will totally remove any appearance formatting that you have applied to your layers or objects, so it is worth creating Graphic Styles of the appearances you want to retain. Just like changing appearances, this button works at both the object and layer levels.

The Clear appearance button is a useful way to remove appearance properties.

An example of how layer and object appearances can get confused is multiple white strokes applied to different text objects in different ways. The user has created several text objects labelling fields and added strokes to them in various different ways. However, he’d like to remove the strokes from all the text now. You can see that the different labels all have black fills and white strokes, but are subtly different.

The first thing to do is check the Layers panel. We can see that the target indicator for the Field Labels layer is raised. This indicates that an appearance has been applied to this layer.

The embossed circle (or meatball) shows an appearance has been added.

Once we click on this we can use the Appearance panel to remove it with the “Clear Appearance” button.

The Clear appearance button is a useful way to remove appearance properties.

That has removed the stroke from the layer and one of the text objects now has no stroke, but some of them still do.

The layer strokes have been removed.

If you expand the Field Labels layer in the layers panel you will see that some of the objects on the layer also have appearances applied directly to them.

Some of the text objects have modified appearances.

You can select these objects and use the Appearance panel to remove its strokes as well by clicking the Clear Appearance button.

Clicking on the clear appearance button will remove the stroke.

This leaves us with one final label down in the bottom right corner that still has a stroke, but has not had its appearance modified via the Appearance panel.

Some of the text objects have modified appearances.

The easiest way to remove the stroke from this object is just to make sure the stroke is in front of the fill at the bottom of the main toolbar and click on the “None” option. Now all our field labels have a simple style.

All of the text objects have a simple appearance.

How MAPublisher works

MAPublisher styling tools all work on an object level. This is because MAPublisher has the ability to independently style objects by attributes they possess. For example you can create a new MAP Theme for the Fields layer based on an attribute called “crop”. This will style each field differently using depending upon its crop type.

Area Stylesheet theme.

Objects will be styled using standard fills and strokes, rather than using the Appearance panel.

Applied theme.

Using MAPublisher FME Auto to Load Raster Layers into Adobe Illustrator

The MAPublisher FME Auto add-on connects the analysis and processing capabilities of Safe Software’s FME Desktop with the cartographic design and publishing environment of MAPublisherand Adobe Illustrator. Since MAPublisher 9.5, it has been possible to import georeferenced raster layers as well as vector data. This adds an extra layer of power and convenience to the FME and MAPublisher integration. The ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) power of FME can be used to pre-process raster images and load them into MAPublisher where they can be overlaid with cartographically styled vector layers.

Raster Layer in Adobe Illustrator

Several components are needed to load a raster from FME into Adobe Illustrator. This example uses a generic reader for the input features. It then gets the bounding box coordinates and sends them to a second workspace that connects to a Web Map Service (WMS) and downloads Toronto imagery. The information necessary to run the second workspace is stored as attributes that are passed to published parameters in the second workspace. This imagery is stored in an intermediate GeoTIFF, which is then read by the first workspace and sent to the MAPublisher writer along with the original data. The WMS source and working coordinate system are already set, but can be modified if the study area is in a different location.

Primary FME Workspace

Secondary FME Workspace

Several of the key parameters for executing the workspace are exposed as published parameters to make running the workspace easier. The user can set the desired pixel size and the pixel dimensions for the WMS request are automatically calculated. The bounding box can be buffered if required to provide extra imagery around the input data.

Published Parameters

MAPublisher MAP Themes are stored in an Adobe Illustrator file that the MAPublisher writer uses as a template. In this case, these MAP Themes are linked to the names of the layers stored in the input data. More flexible themes could be created that bases its symbology on geometry or attribute values.

The example FME workspaces, input data and template illustrator document are attached below in the useful resources section.

 

Useful Resources

WMS provided by the City of Toronto here
Primary FME Workspace: Download
Secondary FME Workspace: Download
Input Data: Download
Template Illustrator Document: Download
Example completed Illustrator Document: Download

Updating Multiple MAPublisher Templates with FME Auto

Drawing inspiration from this Safe software blog post we have developed an FME workflow that allows the user to update multiple MAPublisher templates with additional layers using two workspaces and a workspacerunner transformer.

The folder structure for the project follows one possible standard arrangement. A data folder contains the shapefile that is being added to the existing .ai files. An output folder gathers the intermediate .ffs files generated by FME that pass the data to MAPublisher. The templates folder contains the .ai files that will have the layer added to them. Finally the workspaces folder contains the two workspaces required for the transformation.

Folder Structure
Data Files
Output Files
Templates Files
Workspaces Files

The runner workspace uses a path reader to get the filenames and paths of the .ai files. A filter is applied to make sure only files with the extension “.ai” are read. After the path reader an attribute creator adds the path for the output .ffs files as an attribute. This is dynamically calculated based on the filenames of the input .ai files.

Runner Workspace
(Click for larger version)
Attribute Creator
(Click for larger version)

The full paths to the template files and the paths to the output ffs files are passed as published parameters to the worker workspace. Two published parameters have been created in the worker workspace and linked to parameters in the MAPublisher writer. This allows the writer to take the values passed from the runner workspace. The worker workspace is run once for every file that is in the folder of ai files, and these published parameters update dynamically for each one.

Published Parameters in the Worker Workspace
Workspacerunner Parameters
(Click for larger version)

The worker workspace has a shapefile reader that reads in the layer that is going to be added to each template. At this point multiple readers or other transformers could be added to increase the complexity of the transformation.

Worker Workspace
(Click for larger version)

When the runner workspace is launched each template is opened up, the shapefile is read and added to a new MAPView in the MAPublisher document. Equally it could be added to an existing MAPView with a matching coordinate system. These documents can be left open as shown here, or with the addition of another published parameter new output .ai files could also be specified.

Output AI Files
(Click for larger version)

Useful Resources

Example files (Adobe Illustrator CC2104 and FME Desktop 2015)

Using MAP Themes to Automatically Style CanVec+ Data on Import in MAPublisher

Creating multiple maps that share cartographic styling is a common requirement for MAPublisher users. The most effective way to accomplish this is the use of MAP Themes. MAP Themes are a collection of thematic cartography tools designed to increase productivity by automating how styles and symbols are applied. Creating a number of MAP Themes based on regularly used layers with standard attribute schemas can greatly reduce the amount of time spent styling maps.

This guide will walk through creating and setting up MAP Themes to automatically apply to the appropriate layers upon import. If done correctly, rather than seeing this:


Unstyled CanVec+ layers

 

You will see this when importing data to MAPublisher:

Styled CanVec+ layers

1. Data Source

The data used in this guide comes from the publically available CanVec+ topographic database. CanVec+ contains a comprehensive set of layers optimized for display at 1:50,000 that are perfect for topographic mapping. In fact, many of these layers are used in the construction of the CanTopo Topographic mapping series available here.

The layers you receive from the CanVec+ download service will vary depending on what features are present in the extent chosen. The Geogratis Geospatial Data Extraction tool is the most convenient method to retrieve CanVec+ data. This guide uses a selection of CanVec+ layers styled similarly to the CanTopo maps.

All vector data was downloaded in an unprojected geodetic coordinate system and projected into a UTM projection MAP View.

The map shown above contains 12 vector layers and one raster layer, but we will only discuss the styling and configuration of three layers as the process is similar for the rest. You can download the Adobe Illustrator file at the bottom of the page if you want to examine the different layers, their graphic styles and MAP Themes.

MAP Themes are the primary method for applying attribute based cartographic symbology. A powerful feature is the ability to automatically do this on layer import based on geometry type or file name. By defining one or many graphic styles and a MAP Theme for each layer the layers can be automatically styled on import.

CanVec+ themes have a consistent naming scheme that makes them especially suitable for this sort of automated styling. Because each style is always named the same, it is simple to set up the MAP Themes to automatically apply when the layers are imported. The theme names are consistent but somewhat obscure, as are some of the attribute names and values. Luckily there is a specifications document that provides a guide to the various themes, datasets and attributes that are available. A link is provided in the useful resources section below. While the style guide is helpful, it can be difficult to navigate, so it has also been translated into a more easily readable Excel spreadsheet, which also available in the useful resources.

A CanTopo symbology guide is available for download and was used to help define the styles for the different layers used in this map. A link is available in the useful resources section at the bottom. The University of Toronto also hosts an old specifications guide, but as it is almost 14 years old it should not be assumed to be accurate. If you are looking for inspiration though, it is useful.

 

2. Example A: Building point locations

Building Symbols

2a. Building Point Symbol

The Graphic style for the building symbols is a black square rotated to match the value in an orientation attribute. Using the CanTopo symbology guide a correctly sized square was created and then added to the symbol library.

Buildings Symbol

2b. MAP Theme

A new Point Stylesheet MAP Theme was created called Buildings. The appropriate layer “bs_2010009_0” was added to the Theme and a rule was created named “All” as it will apply to all the building point locations. The Rule Expression is set to apply the Theme to all artwork as we want all the building points to look the same.

Buildings Rule Expression tab

The Visual Properties tab was used to determine how the buildings would appear. The Symbol property was set to use the Building black square symbol created and added to the Symbol library earlier. The Rotation property was set to use the “orientatio” attribute. This ensures the buildings are oriented correctly.

Buildings Visual Properties tab

Finally, and most importantly for the MAP Theme automation, the Auto-assign option was set so that any layer that matches the filename of the imported shapefile would automatically be styled using this theme.

Buildings Auto-assign setting

 

3. Example B: Contours

Contours

3a. Contours Graphic Style

Two Graphic styles were created for the contours: one for the regular contours and one for the index contours at intervals of 100m. Both are grey, with the index contours slightly thicker (although it is hard to tell in the Graphic Styles panel.)

Contours Graphic Styles

3b. MAP Theme

A Line Stylesheet MAP Theme was created called Contours. The layer “fo_1030009_1” was assigned to the MAP Theme. Two rules were created, one for index contours and one for regular contours. For the index contours, the Advanced Rule Expression builder is used to select any contour where the elevation is a multiple of 100, and the converse for the regular contours.

Index Contours Rule Expression

The Modulo (MOD) function makes this simple. For the index contours, the expression built as: “MOD(elevation,100)=0”. For the regular contours, the expression is “MOD(elevation,100)!=0”. The != operator means not equal to.

Contours Rule Expression

The Modulo function will be available with a future release of MAPublisher. If you are using an earlier version of MAPublisher, the same result for index contours can be had with this expression:

(elevation/100)-ROUNDDOWN(elevation/100,0)=0

If you do try and apply this MAP Theme with an earlier version of MAPublisher without changing the equations, it will not work and you will get errors.

Each rule is assigned the appropriate graphic style applied in the Visual Properties. Creating Graphic Styles in advance is much easier than trying to remember specific stroke/colour combinations and makes them re-usable.

Index Contours Visual Properties

It is worthwhile organizing them in the Graphic Styles panel and naming the Graphic Styles appropriately so you can easily remember which is which later.

Contours Visual Properties

The layer is then set as auto-assigned so that when it is imported in the future this MAP Theme will automatically be applied.

Contours Auto-assign setting

 

4. Example C: Roads

Roads

4a. Graphic Style

The Roads layer is the most complex as there are multiple different classes of roads, that are then broken down into sealed and unsealed surfaces, and can be at grade, tunnels or bridges. Several of the road classes are assigned the same Graphic Style, so each style was named after a representative road class and assigned to several MAP Theme Rules.

Roads Graphic Styles

4b. MAP Theme

There are defined styles of roads in the CanTopo specifications, but these do not map directly to the attributes that are present in the CanVec roads dataset. There are several attributes that hold information about the composition of the road, but the ones that were used to define the MAP Theme Rules were:

  1. roadclass: a heirachy of road types
  2. structype: defines if the road is a road, a bridge or a tunnels
  3. pavstatus: contains information on the road surface, if it is paved or unpaved.
Roads Attributes (many others are hidden)

A Line Stylesheet Theme was created called Roads. The layer tr_1760009_1 was assigned to this Theme. Each road class has its own rule. The rule expression determine what class of road it is, if it is a bridge or a tunnel, and if it is paved or unpaved. An example of this is “Arterial: Paved: Bridge” with the expression:

roadclass=3 AND pavstatus=1 AND (structype =1 OR structype =2 OR structype =3 OR structype =4)

which simply says select art that is an Arterial Road (roadclass=3) is paved (pavstatus=1) and one of four different types of bridge (structype 1 through 4).

Roads Rule Expression

As in previous examples, each rule is assigned a Graphic Style in the Visual Properties tab.

Roads Visual Properties

The layer is set to auto apply on import.

Roads Auto-assign setting

Once rules are created and applied to all the imported layers the end result looks like this:

Styled Layers overlaid on hillshade

 

5. Hillshade

In addition to vector data, the GeoGratis portal has raster terrain data available for download. There are digital elevation models, digital surface models, and a variety of derived products such as slope and aspect. For this map we downloaded a hillshade and adjusted the opacity so it would blend with the map style. The forest cover layer and the built up areas layer also had their blending modes adjusted so the hillshade would show through.

The hillshade was downloaded in an unprojected geodetic coordinate system and Geographic Imager was used to transform it into the UTM projection used for this map.

 

6. Final words

In order for the defined MAP Themes to be automatically applied to any imported data, the imported layer filenames must match those defined in the MAP Theme Rules as discussed above. If you would like to try it out with your own CanVec data extract, do the following:

  1. Download the “Canvec_Data_Themes.ai” file linked below for the version of Illustrator you are using. Have a look at the data structure, layer names and MAP View properties of this document.
  2. Also download the appropriate “Canvec_Data_Themes_Empty.ai” file to use as a template.
  3. Download an extract of CanVec data as shapefiles.
  4. Use the Advanced Import functionality to import the shapefiles into the empty document. Reproject the map if desired.
  5. The imported data have the styles applied automatically. However, you will probably have a few layers that have no style. Use the methods detailed above to create new styles for those layers.

 

7. Useful resources

CanVec Demo. (Created with MAPublisher 9.5.3, AI CC2014) – File Download
CanVec Demo – No Layers. (Created with MAPublisher 9.5.3, AI CC2014) – File Download
CanVec Demo. (Created with MAPublisher 9.5.3, AI CS6) – File Download
CanVec Demo – No Layers. (Created with MAPublisher 9.5.3, AI CS6) – File Download
GeoGratis Website
GeoGratis FAQ’s
CanVec Style Guide for Adobe Illustrator – File Download
CanVec Feature Catalog
CanVec feature Catalog Spreadsheet (Unofficial, non-maintained. For information only.) – File Download
University of Toronto Topographic Cartographic Symbols Archive

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