Category Archives: Map Printing Tips

Williams & Heintz Map Helps You Print Smart for International Print Day16

Use #PrintSmart on social media to learn about all the great things that you can do with print in International Print Day, October, 19, 2016

Use #PrintSmart and #IPD16 on social media to learn about all the great things that you can do with print on International Print Day, October, 19, 2016

Happy International Print Day!

This year the International Print Day theme is Print Smart. #PrintSmart is all about sharing education and resources for learning about how wonderfully relevant print is in the digital age.

At Williams & Heintz Map Corporation, we would like to share some Map Printing Tips. Our map printing tips were originally published as a series of posts when we first started our blog. We answer frequently asked questions about Map Pre-Press, Map Printing, and Map Folding.

Map Printing FAQ

How do I choose the paper for my map?

How do I  decide on the size of my map?

How do I choose ink colors for my map?

What do I need to consider about Map folding and finishing?

Is it important to ask questions and communicate with my printer?








Oh, You’re a Map Printer, I’m So Sorry!

“Oh, you’re a map printer, I’m so sorry!”

That’s the kind of response I frequently hear when I tell people what I do.  They see all the GPS and cell phone map apps and think only of road maps that they don’t know how to read.

Well there are a lot of other kinds of maps out there to print, besides road maps. Here are a few, click on the tiles below to see the larger image and a little bit about them.

Williams & Heintz prints many different kinds of maps and charts

Williams & Heintz prints many different kinds of maps and charts

Here’s another thing, all those different kinds of maps were printed over 30 years ago, made by hand, with cameras and film. I scanned them off an old Williams & Heintz marketing piece; so old it doesn’t even have anything about a web site or email contact.

Just think what we can do now with computers, the internet, available data, and digital mapping tools!  (more about that in a later post)

All these new tools make cartography and map making more available, to many more people, to publish more maps.

And some of these great maps  even make it to print on paper.

When you want to see the big picture, nothing beats a big map on a big piece of paper.

It’s a great time to be a map printer!

More about map printing paper specifications

Determining the size of your map

Choosing Ink Colors

Communicating with your printer for best map design

Map finishing and folding

Big, 40” x 60” Print of the Beautiful, New USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Genuine Offset Lithography!

I have just launched a Kickstarter project to print the New USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

New USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

New USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

We think it’s a beautiful map, and can’t be fully appreciated on a screen.It deserves to be seen at full size: A big, 40 x 60 inch print of the beautiful, new  USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, printed by genuine offset lithography!

Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative projects: I have set a funding goal and deadline for my project. If you like the project, please pledge money to make it happen. I am excited by the possibilities of crowd sourced funding for creative map projects. Print and digital are both improved when used together. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing — projects must reach their funding goals to receive any money.

Backers of the project will receive the a big, 40 x 60 inch print of the beautiful, new USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, printed with genuine offset lithography.

Update: This Kickstarter project was successfully funded and printed. We have a few left. Let me know if you want one.

Maps and QR Codes – “Look! They’re putting those on girls now!”

W&H Cruising Guide QR Code

You can scan this code with your smart phone to learn about the Williams & Heintz Cruising Guides, chartbooks of the waters of Maryland and Virginia.

“Look!  They’re putting those on girls now!”  This quote is just one of the entertaining reactions we got when I made sweatshirts, with the QR Code®  (Quick Response, 2D Codes).  I made them to wear at the boat shows, where we sell our chartbooks.  The QR Code, on the back of the shirt links to the chartbook website.  The QR codes work well as a conversation starter on my daughter’s sweatshirt, and they put the link directly onto the phone of our customers.

As a printer, I see a lot of information about the QR Code, as I search for new ideas to add value to map printing. And I see so many ways to use them.   Now, I realize that most people are not specifically going out to buy a smart phone for the QR Code reader, but as a printer, this was the tipping point that gave it value to me.  QR codes are a link from print on paper to the digital world.  Scan the code to get more information.  It is easy to download the app, if your phone doesn’t have one.  My kids get new apps all the time, what’s the big deal?

I know that we printers, publishers, and marketers are jumping on this opportunity to add value to our printed piece, and sometimes are putting them all over the place where they don’t make sense, like the last few seconds of a TV commercial, or a billboard that you are speeding by.  (I want to put one on a bumper sticker that takes you to “If you can scan this, you are too close”)

But QR Codes on sweatshirts have also made me the cool and popular mom with my teenagers and their friends.

Using the QR Code, on shirts and in show displays, has worked out well because it is still new to many consumers.  People stopped to ask about the codes and try out the new technology on their new phones.

Maps are a great place for QR Codes.  QR Codes on maps have got to be, hands down, one of the best uses.  As I have said before, a map is not just to get someone from one place to another.  That information is readily available in numerous formats and media.  Maps communicate lots of information about the location being mapped.   QR Codes quickly and easily connect you to more information.

Here are a few examples of maps with useful QR Codes we have printed:

QR Code on the Pennsylvania Tourism & Transportation Map

The Pennsylvania Tourism & Transportation Map uses QR Codes to highlight places to go and things to see on the map.

QR Code on the Ohio Scenic Rivers Map

The Ohio Scenic Rivers Map uses a QR Code to direct people to the donation page.

QR Code on the West Virginia Official Highway Map

The West Virginia Official Highway Map has a QR Code that links to the West Virginia Department of Transportation.

Here are a few more blogs about QR Codes that I like.

QR Code ® is a registered trademark of DENSO WAVE INCORPORATED

Communication is Key Talk to your printer when you’re designing the job

Geologic Map of Maryland

Geologic Map of Maryland

Questions will arise and the only silly questions are the ones that didn’t get asked.

Cartography has changed dramatically in the last 20 years.  Our skill used to be measured by our ability to manipulate, via various tools, the physical materials used to draft maps.  Almost any problem encountered could be taken to a journeyman with 25 years of experience who would know the answer because they had been there and done that.

Now, in our digital environment, we have to be problem solvers because what we see is not always what we get.  And what we saw and got this morning is different than what we’re getting this afternoon.  The color plots commonly used for proofing have physical limitations.  A line that is spec’d in the file at one thousandth of an inch will print at four thousandths on the plot because that’s as fine a line that it can do.  Unfortunately it will be accurately represented on a printing plate and therefore almost invisible on the printed sheet.  Information in your file that is seen by a high end ripping platform may not be seen by your preview or desktop applications such as Indesign, Illustrator or photo-shop.  Transparency settings that made your color plot look good on your computer monitor, may make your printed job look terrible.  Every new job is a new Rubik’s cube which has to be sorted out.  The most efficient way for that to occur is if everybody talks.

Finishing Your Map

This map folds to a convenient pocket size.

Determining how the map folds, panel sizes, and placement of cover panels should be an integral part of planning the map.  The objective is to develop a folding sequence that provides the greatest ease of use for the person trying to read it.  The exception to this is where advertising is paramount.  In these cases, the user is made to go past all the ads before they can get to the map.  If the image goes right to the edge of the sheet this “bleed edge” should extend 1/8” beyond the trim to allow for variation in cutting.  Panels/images that fold out, should wrap around the fold edge 1/16” to accommodate variation in folding.  If you’re printing on plastic, where the variation increases, you might consider 3/32” for a wrap.

Drilling down into Map Printing Specs: What ink colors are needed to print your map?

Contour lines printed in a brown spot color on plastic sheet

Contour lines printed in a brown spot color on plastic sheet

In previous posts, we discussed choosing map paper and determining the best size for your map.  This time we will talk about map printing ink colors.

Most maps start out as 4 color process. Due to legibility and print registration issues, you may want to make some elements print as a spot color.

A spot color is an ink that is not one of the four process colors (black, cyan, magenta, yellow).  On maps, spot colors are frequently used to print elements that are not well reproduced via four color process.  This could include fine line work or small type.  Printing a brown contour line, using screen dots of process colors, can result in fuzzy lines because the dots do not visually produce a hard edge.  With small type this can result in fuzzy type which is difficult to read.

Drainage type, on maps with lots of green tints, is frequently printed in a blue that is substantially stronger than cyan.  This is so that the type doesn’t drown in the cyan screens creating the green tints.  Starting at around 40%, drainage lines and type can start to become lost in the heavier cyan screens.  A way around this is to print the drainage lines and type in a stronger blue.  Currently PMS 300 seems to be in vogue although in the past reflex blue was a favorite.

Spot color or 4 color hill shading in combination with land status tints is another important color consideration for map printing.  Without any refinement, the hill shading can change the color of the land status or in some cases obliterate it.  The dot values in the hill shading layer need to be compressed such that the screens in the lower elevations drop to zero.  This allows the land status to be discernible.  Likewise allowing the dot values in higher elevations to tend toward solid would make type, etc. difficult to read if not illegible.

Another reason for a spot color could be the color itself.  If you look at a process color guide that has a swatch of the spot color next to a swatch of the equivalent process build you will note that the process builds only accurately reproduce the color about 50% of the time.  Colors that are integral to a brand have to be “spot” on.

How big should make my map?

Geopogic Map

Geologic Map, 46x46 inches, folded to 9x11, printed on plastic

The intended use of the map is one of the factors that determine the dimensions of a map. The area of interest needs to be shown at a usable scale. The printed area needs to be big enough for photos, or any other desired graphics. The size and shape of the area are too important to the scale and legibility of a map to rely on standard sizes. Paper sheet sizes can be ordered specifically for individual jobs to keep waste and cost down.
What is more important to you, the text and graphics, or the map?

I want to print a map. How do I determine the specifications?

The first thing to be considered when printing a map is the end-user.  A thoughtful examination of how people will use the map will help determine a majority of the specifications that define the product.  Incorporation of these elements will insure the end users interest in the product.

To decide what kind of paper will be best for your map, ask yourself:  Where will people use the map?

W&H Cruising Guide printed on wet strength paper

Nautical chart printed on wet strength paper

Will it be exposed to the elements?   If so, a wet strength stock, or better, a printable plastic would be best suited.  High Wet Strength papers retain 40% of their tensile strength when wet.  It is, however, an uncoated printing surface and is therefore subject to considerable dot gain which can greatly diminish the appearance of graphics.  In particular photos that were dark to start with will get a lot darker resulting in a loss of detail.

Plastics, synthetic sheets, have the surface characteristics of a matte coated stock which is far superior in print quality, to uncoated.  They are impervious to moisture, and have a folding endurance that greatly exceeds any paper.  If you are designing your map for extended use, plastic is great for a durable, long-lasting map. They are also more expensive; although the public seems more than willing to pay for the improved quality and performance.  Plastic is rarely used on a give-away product.  Plastic is specified by thickness not weight.

Shiny paper, such as gloss or dull-coated stocks have excellent print quality.  Unfortunately they are prone to cracking when folded, and hence are better suited to use in book products or maps that don’t get folded.  Gloss stocks are used in folded maps but normally only when the primary purpose of the map is advertising sales.  In these cases print quality takes precedence over functionality.

Will the map be hung on the wall or folded?  If the map is intended to remain flat and get hung on a wall, a heavy weight stock would be of benefit to reduce sagging.   A 100 lb. stock would be a good choice for a flat map destined for a wall.  Most folded maps are printed on 50 to 60 lb. stock.  Generally the larger the map, the thinner and lighter the paper needs to be to accommodate folding.

The weight of the stock is determined by the weight of 500 sheets at the basis size.  Although there are numerous other categories, most paper can be described as cover weight or text weight, with the cover stocks being the thicker and heavier ones.    The basis size of cover stock is 20 x 26 inches.  Text stock is 25 x 38 inches.  Hence, a 60 lb. text stock is one in which 500 sheets of 25 x 38 paper weighs 60 lbs.

A way to achieve multiple uses of a map would be to run multiple paper stocks at time of printing.  It should be noted, however, that multiple paper surfaces will result in multiple appearances.

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