Tutorial: Custom Street Map – for your flyers

Are you a retailer? a hairdresser? have a cafe? a shop owner? Basically, do you have goods and services that you need to promote enticing customers to your premises? If so then you want those potential clients to easily find you. Today we have a tutorial to help you design a detailed custom street map for your leaflets using Adobe Illustrator.

Easy I hear you shout. Just bring up Google maps, copy, and paste it into your favourite editing software. If it was only that easy! Google maps is great for viewing on-line ie on-screen devices but is really poor if used in your print material. To start, the colours used are not great. The text is tiny and often illegible not to mention the ‘ton’ of information not needed for your purposes just cluttering up that point of reference. Additionally, there are most likely many map pointers – or landmarks – absent from Google maps that you wish to include. What if your premises was near ‘Tim’s Tool Shop’. Google maps might not have this on their map. You might want to highlight the fact that ‘We are next door to Tim’s Tool shop’.

As at yet there is no way of obtaining the vector information from Google maps. So we can’t simply copy and paste as vectors into Illustrator.

The solution: We need a customisable street map for our flyers, one which we have complete control over, the colours, the text, the landmarks etc.

Note: There are other on-line map software boasting the fact you can use their maps for printed material ie have vector output but these are usually poor and at best expensive.

Step One: Import map from Google Maps

Goto to Google Maps: https://www.google.co.uk/maps
In the search box enter your desired location. In our case just for the purposes for this tutorial we are going to use a local hospital: Salford Royal Hospital.
Zoom in and out as appropriate. This is an important step. It may take a few times getting this right. Be patient as this step will save a lot of time if we don’t pick the correct zoom level and thus have to go back at a later stage.

Then take a snapshot of the screen.
PC (Prt Sc or Alt + Print Screen)
Mac (Command+Shift+3 or Command+Shift+4)

Step Two: Crop map in Photoshop

Open up Photoshop. In Photoshop we are going to crop any unwanted areas.
File > New > Ok
Edit > Paste
Select the Rectangular Marquee tool. Drag to select the area you need.
We don’t want the browser address bar and we just want enough information so that people can recognise key land marks and roadways. In this case we also want to include the nearby motorway.
Image > Crop
Save As > (Choose your destination folder) > (Select JPEG) > Save


Step Three: Tracing the map

Open up Illustrator. If you require ready-made templates with correct bleed values – you can obtain them from Saxoprint

Typically a flyer is A5 in size with the map on the back of the leaflet.

Rename Layer one to ‘Google Map’. Lets now bring our map into Illustrator:

File > Place > (the name of your map)
Resize as appropriate (keeping ‘shift’ pressed to allow a consistent aspect ratio).

<You may fell at this stage that the map elements maybe a little too small. In such a case it will be prudent to repeat the steps above.

Lock this layer.

Zoom in to start working on drawing/tracing the roads.

Create a new layer called ‘Roads’

Select the Pen tool.

At this stage choose a thin black colour stroke of say 2px with no fill colour.

Start clicking in the middle of the roads. It’s important to get the stroke in the middle as will be explained later on. To create a new path use ‘p’ or Select > Deselect


It takes some skill to use the Pen tool properly. If you’re using it for the first time then it’s advisable to have a good practice and follow some tutorials. There are plenty of tutorials on You-Tube. Here are some links to really good ones:
Pen Tool tutorial one
Pen Tool tutorial two


It does not have to be perfect at this stage.

Now for that motorway. Create a new layer called ‘Motorway’
Lock the ‘Roads’ layer. Hide this layer if this makes things easier for you.
Select the Pen tool.
Again trace/draw/click to create the motorway, as before in the middle of the Google maps motorway.
After you have finished lock this layer.


Step Four: Styling the Roads

Lets make our map more visually appealing. Firstly make the ‘Roads’ layer visible and unlock it.

Make sure your units of your stroke are now in millimetres if not already. We have to make sure the road names will be large enough for eligibility for print when we put them in later. Putting your stroke in millimetres might help. Edit > Preferences > Unit > Stroke > Millimetres

Firstly we need to copy the contents of this entire layer. The reason for this will become evident later on.
Create a new layer called ‘Roads Path’
Click on the ‘Roads’ layer.
Select > All > Edit > Copy
Click on the ‘Roads Path’ layer.
Edit > Paste in Place
Lock and hide the ‘Roads Path’ layer.

Lets get back to styling the roads.

Click on the ‘Roads’ layer.
Select > All
Now increase the stroke value to whats seems adequate. We have used a stroke of 2.5 mm. It needs to be ‘thick’ as we will be inserting road names inside them.

Put some text next to one of the roads. At least 5pts for eligibility. We eventually want this text to fit inside the road, so putting in some sample text will allow you to determine how thick the stroke should be. We have placed sample text indicated by a red arrow in our artboard. Make sure you lock this layer ie the one with the sample text.

Step-4-Illustrator-Rounding-RoadsBring up the stroke panel: Window > Stroke
Make sure all the roads are still selected: Select > All

In the Stroke panel select ‘Round Cap’ under Cap.
And ‘Round Join’ under Corner.

If your still not happy that the roads are still too ‘jagged’ then you can goto the Convert anchor Point Tool and ‘smooth’ them out. This tool is found under the Pen tool.
Note: ‘Smoothing’ out the ‘jaggedness’ is beyond the scope of this article – the You Tube videos we previously gave links to should help a lot.

Step-4-Illustrator-Colour-RoadsLets add some color to our roads:
Select > All
Change the stroke colour. We have chosen a light grey.

Note: Commercial printers don’t recommend CMYK values below 3%.

Step-4-Illustrator-Merging-Roads-Custom-Street-MapWe want to give the roads a stroke. Before we do we need to join all the roads together.
Select > All
Object > Path > Outline Stroke

Window > Pathfinder
With all still selected
Under pathfinders: select merge (The roads are now all joined together)

Now give the selection a stroke (a darker grey with a thin stroke value of your chose)


Step Five: Styling the Motorway

Lock the ‘Roads’ layer and hide it.
Unlock the ‘Motorway’ layer and reveal it.
Select > All
Stoke the motorways with an appropriate thickness, say 2mm to 2.5mm.
Object > Outline Stroke
Lets add some colour (a light orange):
Again with a stroke color as with the roads (again choose a thin stroke value):
The ‘Motorway’ layer sits under the main roads. So in our case we need to move that layer below the ‘Roads’ layer. Lock this layer.


Step Six: Adding Road Names

Lets add some road names. Remember the ‘Roads’ Path layer we created at the start. Now its going to come into play.
Hide the layers ‘Roads’ and ‘Motorway’. Keep the ‘Google Map’ layer visible.

Select the ‘Roads Path ‘ layer. Unlock and Reveal it.
Select from the Type on a Path tool from the Type tool.
Type on a road path using the appropriate road name and resize it to say 6pt. If there are several pieces of text on a single road then use the space bar to space them out.
Hide the other Road paths that you do not wish to use and lock them. You never know you might choose to use them later on. So don’t delete them.
Reveal the ‘Roads’ and ‘Motorway’ layers. The road names will now sit on the roads. They will probably need a little adjusting so move them accordingly.


Step Seven: Adding Landmarks

Create another layer called ‘Landmarks’
You can get free map vectors we can use as landmarks from here: http://www.flaticon.com/packs/map-icons
‘Dot’ these landmarks around the main reference point. We have included a circular disc as a background to our landmarks with various colours to indicate different types of landmark.
Add a large pointer highlighting your premises.

Arrows can be found in Ai brushes panel. Window > Brushes >
In the panel fly-out menu, choose Open Brush Library > Arrows.
Select an arrow of your choice then drag the thumbnail image of the arrow onto the artboard to use it.


Step Eight: Clipping the map edges

Lets clip the edges of the map to really neaten things up.
Create a new layer called ‘Background’
Move this layer to above the ‘Roads’ layer
Draw a rectangle just big enough to cut-off the edges of the map roads. It does not matter what colour this rectangle is at this moment in time.
Make a copy of this rectangle. Lock and hide the copied rectangle layer.
Lock all layers except ‘Roads’, ‘Motorway, and ‘Background’
Hide all layers except the these three.
Select > All
Object > Clipping Mask > Make (This will clip the edges of the map and we now have a neat rectangular background)
Make visible the ‘Roads Path’ and ‘Landmarks’ layers.
Select the copied layer containing the rectangle from the ‘Background’ layer. Unlock it.
Select the rectangle.
Use a fill colour: (we are using a soft beige)




Inspirational Street Maps

Please find below some great street maps from great designers. These maps will certainly get those ‘creative juices’ flowing.

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