What Software Should I Use For Drawing Maps?

Question: What Software Should I Use For Drawing Maps?

Jason writes: "I need to convert several hand-drawn line drawings (maps) into digital images. To do this, my plan is to get good scans of the hand-drawn maps, set the scan as a locked layer, and then "trace" it using the drawing tools on the software. This will give me a new, clean, digital image to use for publication. I just need to be able to layer images, draw shapes, straight lines, and freehand lines, rotate parts of the image, and adjust line widths.

" [Read the full post in the forum]

Answer: If you do your tracing in a vector-based program, the maps will be scalable. Compared to a bitmap-based program like Photoshop, a vector-based program is much better-suited to drawing and editing maps. For example, you can use different line styles for different things, change line widths and colors on the fly, and make adjustments to line placement more precisely. All of this is much more difficult using a bitmap-based program.

Also, a vector program will let you output either vector or bitmap files, so you could still output a JPEG if you need one but keep your working file in the superior vector-based format. If you create your file in a bitmap-based program, you can't convert it to a vector format without re-drawing or using trace software (which generally doesn't work so well). With a bitmap-based file you'd also be stuck with a fixed-resolution image that won't scale gracefully.

To learn more about the differences between vector-based and bitmap-based images, read both pages of my article: Vector and Bitmap Images

If you decide to go with a vector-based program, there are some inexpensive shareware programs that should be fine for what you need to do. For example, Inkscape is free, and ZonerDraw 4, is around $40, after the free trial period.

Visit the following links to find vector-based drawing software:

Some business drawing programs can also be used for drawing maps:

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