Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Basics of Map making With QGIS, GIMP and Inkscape

Making a modern print ready map will require one or both of the following, namely:
1) Scientific analysis
2) Art and design

In other words, the maps you see are both products of scientific charts as well as works of art and design.

GIS software such as QGIS does the science part better, illustration software such as GIMP and Inkscape handles the art part better.

If you are making a map to accurately/precisely visualize some variables based on scale, then you probably need a scientific map done with the QGIS/ArcGIS. If on the other hand, your map is simply to illustrate some variables not accurately/precisely to scale, then an illustration software like GIMP/Adobe Photoshop for raster editing or Inkscape/Adobe Illustrator for vector editing should be enough to get the job done.

With that said, it is a common practice these days to combine both the scientific and art & design software to finish a map layout. That is you will accurately prepare your map to scale in a scientific software and then complete the aesthetic layout using illustration software. Let's take a look at how this can be done below.

QGIS can handle the majority of vector and raster operations and most of the cartographic work. However, from a cartographic perspective, Inkscape and GIMP are primarily used to finish maps created within a GIS. Inkscape handles vector maps, while GIMP is best suited for raster maps. People often use GIMP to fine-tune coloration of a map. Inkscape is often used to add, for example, custom arrows to maps or add shadows to lines and polygons.

Basic Steps for making maps with QGIS, GIMP and Inkscape:-
1) Get the data
2) Load the data into QGIS
3) Symbolise and style the map according to the information the map wants to communicate
4) Prepare and compose it for printing
5) Export it as image for further fine-tuning in GIMP or export is as SVG file for fine-tuning in Inkscape

Note: If you need to have the map in print-ready magazines, brochures, posters, newsletters or other forms of page layouts and typographic quality text and images, then you will need use a desktop publishing application such as Scribus/Microsoft Publisher/Adobe Indesign or Pagemaker.

You should always bear in mind that QGIS understand all the science of map making which includes various GIS, Geodesic and Cartographic processes. GIMP, Inkscape and Scribus are there to support you in archiving a quality print/publish ready info-graphic maps.

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