how to make an atlas: templates

I’m starting my thesis project! Where I intend to create an atlas about how the design and planning of our urban and regional areas have made us attuned to not cooking. During this atlas project, I’ll be making a series of maps of San Francisco and the world.

An atlas a trickier than a single map. I have to keep a consistent scale, art board size and attention to each map. The scales have to be consistent, otherwise it the map may accidentally make some places look larger than others. The consistency stays within the SF maps and global maps. If I choose to do singular districts, then I will adjust the scale for that. If some maps had larger art boards, they may appear to be more important, when hat isn’t the case. Additionally, given that this is an atlas of static maps, the maps will need to fit together in a the same booklet. Attention. Making a map is a lot of work. Making a lot of maps can be overwhelming and taxing. Each map has to given the same amount of attention to detail, or you could end up with some pretty maps and some ugly maps. Not only will sloppiness make a map look unaesthetic, but it will also derail your argument. The prettier maps will look more important, while in reality, the point of an atlas is to show multi-spaced connections.

I’m going to approach this with a seemingly simple solution: making a template. The template will be on Adobe Illustrator and layered specifically. A neatline will be necessary to carry over to new maps. And so my work begins…

how to use adobe illustrator: layers

Upon opening Adobe Illustrator, you should be prompted with this. This is setting up the dimensions of your Art Board. Left larger panel has default sizes and the right panel allows you to set it as you please with dimensions, title, landscape, etc. If you don’t know what sizes to do just yet, that’s fine. Pick something and we can adjust it later if we need. (Press command + O to do so for Mac)


If you’ve used any other program that uses layers, then you should already be comfortable with the format.

If you don’t know what a layer is no worries! Did you ever use that old school overhead in elementary & middle school? Think of those clear sheets as a layer, and then stacking them. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a more technical approach.

At the top, click Windows>Layers. You should see a small box appear on the right.  Click on the bottom icon that looks like a page folder over to create a new layer. To create a sublayer, already be on the layer you want to create a sublayer, then cluck the folder paper icon that has a 90 degree arrow.


I made 3 min layers: Top, Middle, Bottom. And they’ll appear in that description order. Meaning whatever you have on the Bottom layer will be respectively covered by the Middle layer and the same for the Top layer. There are also Sublayers, two of them under Top. This is just a way for you to stay extra organised within your layer. You’ll notice that each layer has a colour to the left of its title. When you select a point, line or polygon, it wlll come up in that colour to tell you which layer it’s in. The empty space to the left of the colour band is a locking function. If you were to click the space, a small lock would appear, indicating that you cannot change that layer. This is used heavily for things like tracing. The eyeball to the left of that tells you weather or not that layer is visible on the dartboard.

If that made zero sense, try to follow along what I said by looking at this image.The right panel is an expanded version of the layers and what is in layer. You may further notice that the image is stacked that way visually too. From top to bottom: Bears, Go, blue eclipse, black rectangle.


That’s what layers are simply stated and how to create them. That’s it for today! Layers are hard to understand, but super useful once you get the hand of it