Designing a Basemap

Table of Contents

  1. Designing a Basemap
  2. Setting Up Your Workspace
  3. Download Data from the DataSF Website
  4. Refreshing a Folder in the Catalog Tree
  5. Changing the Map Projection of the Data Frame
  6. Changing the Map Size and Position
  7. Preparing the Layout
  8. Adjusting Line Weight and Color
  9. Cartographic Typography
  10. Skill Drill: Practicing Cartographic Typography
  11. Skill Drill: Choose a Map Theme
  12. Skill Drill: Finalizing the Poster

Changing the Map Size and Position

Before starting work on the cartographic design, always prepare your map layout ahead of time. Start by determining the size of the page on which you will be working. In this activity, you are making a poster-sized map that will display your choice of one out of two themes. You can choose the historic fire damage from the 1906 earthquake as the theme, or you can pick sea level rise and flooding. The poster size will be 32 inches by 18 inches. You will include a map of the City of San Francisco. Descriptive text and other map elements will surround the main map on the poster.

By default, ArcMap sets the page size to 8.5 inches by 11 inches. This setting is rarely acceptable, both professionally and in courses taught at Humboldt State University. In this step, you will change the page size. Then, you will change the data frame size and position on the page. From the main menu, select View, then Layout view.

An image of the Layout view option for SF basemap
There are two ways to display the data frame in ArcMap, Data View, and Layout View.

The data frame window immediately changes to show the page size and the data frame position on the page. Across the top and along the left you will see a ruler indicating the height and width of the page. Currently, the page size is 8.5 inches by 11 inches, which is the default setting in ArcMap. The Layout toolbar may also appear floating above the map. You may dock the toolbar on top.

An image of the initial layout view for SF basemap.
As you can see, ArcMap defaults to a layout for an 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper. Click to view a larger sized image.

It is essential to understand each of the tools in the Layout toolbar. These tools are only active when ArcMap is in Layout View.

An image of the Layout Toolbar
The layout tools only work while in Layout View.

On the left of the toolbar, you’ll see two tools for zooming in and out of the map layout. The icon looks like a magnifying glass over a page. These tools are sometimes confused with the Zoom In and Zoom Out tool with which you previously worked. They work similarly. Instead of zooming in and out of the data, the zoom tools on the Layout toolbar zoom in and out of the page layout. Likewise, the pan tool on the layout toolbar will pan across the page layout and will not move the data. Next to the Pan tool is the Zoom to Whole Page tool. This tool is handy for quickly viewing the entire page layout. Take a moment to experiment with each of these tools before moving on to the next step.

In a previous tutorial, you learned out to change the page size. From the main menu, select File, then Page and Print Setup. Uncheck the box next to Use Printer Paper Settings. For the Width, enter 32. For the Height, enter 18. When you are ready, click OK.

An image of the page and print setup for SF basemap
Check the lower left side of the Page and Print Setup window to change these settings.

The page is now a large poster size of 32 inches by 18 inches. You can tell because the ruler along the top and the sides have changed to show the new dimensions. However, the data frame is still the default size.

An image of the initital data frame size
There are always two steps when setting up your map layout. Change the paper size and change the data frame size. Click to view a larger sized image.

In a previous tutorial, you learned how to change the data frame size and position. Unlike that last tutorial, you will not be matching the size of the paper. Instead, the data frame has a different dimension and location on the page. To change the data frame size, open the data frame properties and navigate to the Size and Position tab. Change the width value to 19 and the height value to 13. Change the Anchor Point so that it is in the center position.  Then, enter 10.5 for the X value. Enter 9 for the Y value. When done, click OK.

An image of the size and position for SF basemap
By default, the Position value anchors the data frame on the page relative to the lower left corner. In this instance, you anchor the dataframe relative to the center of the page. Click to view a larger sized image.

When done, you should see your dataframe positioned on the left side of the paper.

An image of the SF basemap position
Here the data frame and the paper have different dimensions.