Creating Quality Maps ArcGIS to Adobe Illustrator


This page will walk you through the basics of creating a new map from the beginning processes of preparing and exporting map components(base layers, legends, scales, outputs, etc…) to Adobe Illustrator. We do this process for creating our maps for clients and projects because of the high quality of graphics and customization that is available through Adobe Illustrator to produce maps and figures.

We also cover in the videos basic tools and tricks that are used to produce these maps in ArcGIS and Adobe Illustrator.


  1. ArcGIS
    • Background Imagery
    • Output Data
  2. Adobe Illustrator
    • Compiling Layers
    • Attaching and Creating Labels
    • Atlas Map Inputs


Compiling Background Layers

This video illustrates the methods for compiling base map imagery that is often used for important roads, imagery, watershed boundaries, and important city boundaries. Common open source databases are described and how to work with this data is also described below.

Exporting Layers

Exporting layers from ArcGIS can be a bit tricky and there are some tips that are illustrated here that will save time and possible frustration which can occur while connecting the bridge between ArcGIS and Adobe Illustrator.

Here is a video that describes and walks through a basic map and legend from ArcGIS to Adobe Illustrator using common tool functions.

Adobe Illustrator

First off Adobe illustrator is a program that can be intimidating at first but is quite easy once you get the hang of it. Below is a video that describes the basic layout, buttons, and tools used for creating these maps.

Compiling Layers

This video illustrates combining the basic components such as base imagery, hill shade (which illustrates the topography from the Digital Elevation Model(DEM) used in the BRAT model), legend, and working with a basic input for the layout of the BRAT summary products.

Attaching and Creating Labels

Labels are very effective in providing context to maps and play a critical role in the overall applicability and accessibility of the map viewer. This is where the rubber meets the road as far as good cartography begins in making a map capable of standing alone in the description. Common examples of labels include important streams, lakes and water features, highway descriptions, and watershed boundary descriptions.

Atlas Map Inputs

The atlas map is a simple group of maps that can be given to the client for review of the BRAT outputs. The goal is to tell an effective story to the user in a short amount of time. For further descriptions and interrogation of the BRAT model inputs, intermediates and outputs please refer to the BRAT Outputs pg.

Exporting Map as a PNG

After all the editing and final touch ups on your map, you will export your work as a PNG. For further detail on this process, refer to this page. Otherwise, below is a video that walks through the basic process.