How to Draw a Map Step-by-Step

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Cartography is the study and practice of making maps. Maps are essential for many reasons, including showing political borders, the location of physical landmarks, capitals and cities or for providing a sense of scale to the viewer. Drawing maps can also help the viewer plot destinations or get directions. If you are creating a map, keep some drawing techniques in mind.

Research the area you want to map. For example, if you are creating a map of a city, you may want to review aerial photographs of the city in order to establish its borders. You will also want to use latitude and longitude to plot out geographical landmarks. If you are drawing a map from one location to another for an informal reference, you may use a GPS device to plot your route.

Determine the size for your map depending on the size of the area you want to cover. This will ensure that your scale is correct. For example, if you are creating a map of an area that is 20 miles wide by 20 miles long, you will need to create a perimeter for the map that is 10 inches tall by 10 inches wide. Each inch on the page will represent four square miles. Use a ruler to draw a grid or use graph paper to maintain accuracy. Include a scale chart in the corner of the map to give the viewer an easy-to-reference sense of proportion.

Draw the outer perimeter of the area you are mapping. You can start by creating approximate circles, ovals or squares depending on the shape, then fine-tuning the edges to make the land area shape more accurate. Erase unnecessary lines as you go along.

Add details to the map to make it as accurate as possible. Use shading to create height, such as when drawing mountains or volcanoes. You can also use shading to create depth, such as by drawing valleys and canyons.

Colour in your map to better identify the portions of the map. This will make it easier to reference. For example, blue will mean water and green or brown will mean land. This allows the viewer to quickly glance at the map and determine the larger features of the map.

Label the cities, landmarks, bodies of water and other geographical features on your map. You may want to create a legend that will make your map easy to reference. For example, a star inside a circle can indicate the capital city, circles can be the label for cities and dotted lines could mean boundary lines. Include the legend somewhere on the map for quick review.

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