Raster styling: A grey area?

Over the last couple of years we have been developing and applying our new corporate map styles which provide visual consistency to our portfolio of digital maps. These new styles have been applied to our OS VectorMap products and stylesheets are supplied for our vector products.

We have developed a full colour style and a backdrop style, with the latter being designed for contextual basemaps that facilitate data overlays. We have applied an element of colour science to ensure that all map features take their place within a clear visual hierarchy whereby the features deemed most important will be perceived first. This means that if you convert our raster products to greyscale, the visual hierarchy is still maintained. 1:10000 TILE SK54SE

OS VectorMap Local backdrop colour raster converted to greyscale: The visual hierarchy is maintained

Postcode finder

This year Ordnance Survey ran a programme for paid summer internships for undergraduates interested in working with geospatial data, technology and products as well as roles in Human Resources and Marketing. One of the interns, Joseph Braybrook, worked with our Innovation Labs team and completed two fantastic projects. One project was to visualise OS OpenData products in Minecraft which recently picked up a lot of media interest when the outcome of his work was made available for download.

Joseph’s second project was to create a postcode finder which allows for the interactive, graphical display of postcodes as points, using Code-Point Open which contains a list of postcode units in Great Britain. This slick application starts zooming in to a postcode area as soon as you begin to type and the speed in which it zooms in is very impressive. As cartographic designers it was Joseph’s visual design that really caught our eye.

He opted for a black background and overlaid each postcode as a small white point, with the selected postcode highlighted in green and labelled. As you reach the final zoom level a map fades in from the background to add geographic context to your chosen postcode. The map that appears is a unique rendering of OS VectroMap District full colour raster. The mapping, in GeoTIFF format, has been converted to greyscale and then inverted to create a dark base map which allows the postcode points to really stand out. This is a great example of good figure-ground, one of the aims of cartographic design, whereby the important features (figure) can be easily identified from other map features that add context (background).Raster2 As you zoom in a map appears: A unique rendering of OS VectorMap District full colour raster

This effect can be easily achieved using various software packages, including graphic design software such as Adobe Photoshop or GIMP. Take a raster tile, covert it to greyscale and then invert the colours – just two steps to create a unique, dark map.

Customising raster styles

If you are looking to create a customised map style then the obvious choice is to use a vector product as this offers the most flexibility, but there are options for using rasters. As mentioned above, graphic design software offers one option but many Geographic Information Systems (GIS) offer this functionality too. It is easy to adjust brightness and contrast levels to tweak the colours and it is also possible to create some eye-catching base maps using a single hue. The map below has been created using OS VectorMap District colour raster and the ‘colorize’ tool in QGIS 2. You can see how the mapping could be styled to fit a theme or the colour of a brand – and importantly the visual hierarchy is still maintained!

Raster3 Green basemap: you can make a map in any colour you wish

Using a textured image and blend modes you can also create a vintage-looking map using our raster products (again here the example is OS VectorMap District colour raster):


Vintage-looking map: easy to create using our raster products

If you have any examples of unique map stylings then please let us know in the comments section below, or by emailing us CartoDesign@ordnancesurvey.co.uk.

You may also like

When real world mapping meets Tolkien
Comparing the past to the present with the new OS Maps API layers
The GeoDataViz team’s favourite maps of 2019
Britain’s most complex motorway junctions 

1 Response

  1. Pingback : A paper map for Skyrunning

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name* :

Email* :