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Cartographers use all kind of tricks to make their maps look deceptively simple. Yet, anyone who has ever tried to reproduce a cartographer’s design using only automatic GIS styling and labeling knows that the devil is in the details.

This post was motivated by Mika Hall’s retro map style.

There are a lot of things going on in this design but I want to draw your attention to the labels – and particularly their background:

Detail of Mike’s map (c) Mike Hall. You can see that the rail lines stop right before they would touch the A in Valencia (or any other letters in the surrounding labels).

This kind of effect cannot be achieved by good old label buffers because no matter which color we choose for the buffer, there will always be cases when the chosen color is not ideal, for example, when some labels are on land and some over water:

Ordinary label buffers are not always ideal.

Label masks to the rescue!

Selective label masks enable more advanced designs.

Here’s how it’s done:

Selective masking has actually been around since QGIS 3.12. There are two things we need to take care of when setting up label masks:

1. First we need to enable masks in the label settings for all labels we want to mask (for example the city labels). The mask tab is conveniently located right next to the label buffer tab:

2. Then we can go to the layers we want to apply the masks to (for example the railroads layer). Here we can configure which symbol layers should be affected by which mask:

Note: The order of steps is important here since the “Mask sources” list will be empty as long as we don’t have any label masks enabled and there is currently no help text explaining this fact.

I’m also using label masks to keep the inside of the large city markers (the ones with a star inside a circle) clear of visual clutter. In short, I’m putting a circle-shaped character, such as ◍, over the city location:

In the text tab, we can specify our one-character label and – later on – set the label opacity to zero.
To ensure that the label stays in place, pick the center placement in “Offset from Point” mode.

Once we are happy with the size and placement of this label, we can then reduce the label’s opacity to 0, enable masks, and configure the railroads layer to use this mask.

As a general rule of thumb, it makes sense to apply the masks to dark background features such as the railways, rivers, and lake outlines in our map design:

Resulting map with label masks applied to multiple labels including city and marine area labels masking out railway lines and ferry connections as well as rivers and lake outlines.

If you have never used label masks before, I strongly encourage you to give them a try next time you work on a map for public consumption because they provide this little extra touch that is often missing from GIS maps.

Happy QGISing! Make maps not war.

This is a guest post by Mickael HOARAU @Oneil974

As an update of the tutorial from previous years, I created a tutorial showing how to make a simple and dynamic color map with charts in QGIS.

In this tutorial you can see some of interesting features of QGIS and its community plugins. Here you’ll see variables, expressions, filters, QuickOSM and DataPlotly plugins and much more. You just need to use QGIS 3.24 Tisler version.

Here is the tutorial.

Today’s post is a follow-up and summary of my mapping efforts this December. It all started with a proof of concept that it is possible to create a nice looking snowfall effect using only labeling:

After a few more iterations, I even included the snowflake style in the first ever QGIS Map Design DLC: a free extra map recipe that shows how to create a map series of Antarctic expeditions. For more details (including project download links), check out my guest post on the Locate Press blog:

If you want to just use the snowflake style in your own projects, the easiest way is to grab the “Snowy Day” project from the QGIS hub (while the GeoPackage is waiting for approval on the official site, you can get it from my Dropbox):

The project is self-contained within the downloaded GeoPackage. One of the most convenient ways to open projects from GeoPackages is through the browser panel:

From here, you can copy-paste the layer style to any other polygon layer.

To change the snowflake color, go to the project properties and edit the “flake_color” variable.

Happy new year!

One of the new features in QGIS 3.20 is the option to trim the start and end of simple line symbols. This allows for the line rendering to trim off the first and last sections of a line at a user configured distance, as shown in the visual changelog entry

This new feature makes it much easier to create decorative label callout (or leader) lines. If you know QGIS Map Design 2, the following map may look familiar – however – the following leader lines are even more intricate, making use of the new trimming capabilities:

To demonstrate some of the possibilities, I’ve created a set of four black and four white leader line styles:

You can download these symbols from the QGIS style sharing platform: https://plugins.qgis.org/styles/101/ to use them in your projects. Have fun mapping!

Mapping spatial decision patterns, such as election results, is always a hot topic. That’s why we decided to include a recipe for election maps in our QGIS Map Design books. What’s new is that this recipe is now available as a free video tutorial recorded by Oliver Burdekin:

This video is just one of many recently published video tutorials that have been created by QGIS community members.

For example, Hans van der Kwast and Kurt Menke have recorded a 7-part series on QGIS for Hydrological Applications:

and Klas Karlsson’s Youtube channel is also always worth a follow:

For the Pythonically inclined among you, there is also a new version of Python in QGIS on the Automating GIS-processes channel:

 

If you follow me on Twitter, you have probably already heard that the ebook of “QGIS Map Design 2nd Edition” has now been published and we are expecting the print version to be up for sale later this month. Gretchen Peterson and I – together with our editor Gary Sherman (yes, that Gary Sherman!) – have been working hard to provide you with tons of new and improved map design workflows and many many completely new maps. By Gretchen’s count, this edition contains 23 new maps, so it’s very hard to pick a favorite!

Like the 1st edition, we provide increasingly advanced recipes in three chapters, each focusing on either layer styling, labeling, or creating print layouts. If I had to pick a favorite, I’d have to go with “Mastering Rotated Maps”, one of the advanced recipes in the print layouts chapter. It looks deceptively simple but it combines a variety of great QGIS features and clever ideas to design a map that provides information on multiple levels of detail. Besides the name inspiring rotated map items, this design combines

  • map overviews
  • map themes
  • graduated lines and polygons
  • a rotated north arrow
  • fancy leader lines

all in one:

“QGIS Map Design 2nd Edition” provides how-to instructions, as well as data and project files for each recipe. So you can jump right into it and work with the provided materials or apply the techniques to your own data.

The ebook is available at LocatePress.

If you have already designed a few maps in QGIS, you are probably aware of a long-standing limitation: Print Composer maps were limited to the project’s coordinate reference system (CRS). It was not possible to have maps with different CRS in a composition.

Note how I’ve been using the past tense? 

Rejoice! QGIS 3 gets rid of this limitation. Print Composer has been replaced by the new Layout dialog which – while very similar at first sight – offers numerous improvements. But today, we’ll focus on projection handling.

For example, this is a simple project using WGS84 as its project CRS:


In the Layouts dialog, each map item now has a CRS property. For example, the overview map is set to World_Robinson while the main map is set to ETRS-LAEA:

As you can see, the red overview frame in the upper left corner is curved to correctly represent the extent of the main map.

Of course, CRS control is not limited to maps. We also have full freedom to add map grids in yet another CRS:

This opens up a whole new level of map design possibilities.

Bonus fact: Another great improvement related to projections in QGIS3 is that Processing tools are now aware of layers with different CRS and will actively reproject layers. This makes it possible, for example, to intersect two layers with different CRS without any intermediate manual reprojection steps.

Happy QGIS mapping!

In 2012 I published a post on mapping the then newly released Tirol river dataset.

In the comments, reader Michal Zimmermann asked:

Do you think it would be possible to create a river stream which gains width along its way? I mean rivers are usually much narrower on their beginnings, then their width increases and the estuary should be the widest part, right?

For a long time, this kind of river style, also known as “tapered lines” could only be created in vector graphics software, such as Inkscape and Illustrator.

With the help of geometry generators, we can now achieve this look directly in QGIS:

Data cc-by Land Tirol

In the river dataset published by the state of Tirol, all rivers are digitized in upstream direction. For this styling to work, it is necessary that the line direction is consistent throughout the whole dataset.

We use a geometry generator symbol layer to split the river geometry into its individual segments:

 

Then we can use the information about the total number of segments (accessible via the expression variable @geometry_part_count) and the individual segment’s number (@geometry_part_num) to calculate the segment’s line width.

The stroke width expression furthermore uses the river category (GEW_GRKL) to vary the line width depending on the category:

CASE 
WHEN "GEW_GRKL" = '< 10 km2 Fluss' THEN 0.2
WHEN "GEW_GRKL" = '10 km2 Fluss' THEN 0.4
WHEN "GEW_GRKL" = '100 km2 Fluss' THEN 0.6
WHEN "GEW_GRKL" = '1.000 km2 Fluss' THEN 0.8
ELSE 1.0
END 
* ( 1- ( @geometry_part_num /  @geometry_part_count ))

If the rivers are digitized in downstream direction, you can simply remove the 1- term.

Happy mapping!

In my previous posts, I discussed classic flow maps that use arrows of different width to encode flows between regions. This post presents an alternative take on visualizing flows, without any arrows. This style is inspired by Go with the Flow by Robert Radburn and Visualisation of origins, destinations and flows with OD maps by J. Wood et al.

The starting point of this visualization is a classic OD matrix.

migration_raw_data

For my previous flow maps, I already converted this data into a more GIS-friendly format: a Geopackage with lines and information about the origin, destination and strength of the flow:

migration_attribute_table

In addition, I grabbed state polygons from Natural Earth Data.

At this point, we have 72 flow features and 9 state polygon features. An ordinary join in the layer properties won’t do the trick. We’d still be stuck with only 9 polygons.

Virtual layers to the rescue!

The QGIS virtual layers feature (Layer menu | Add Layer | Add/Edit Virtual Layer) provides database capabilities without us having to actually set up a database … *win!*

Using a classic SQL query, we can join state polygons and migration flows into a new virtual layer:

virtual_layer

The resulting virtual layer contains 72 polygon features. There are 8 copies of each state.

Now that the data is ready, we can start designing the visualization in the Print Composer.

This is probably the most manual step in this whole process: We need 9 map items, one for each mini map in the small multiples visualization. Create one and configure it to your liking, then copy and paste to create 8 more copies.

I’ve decided to arrange the map items in a way that resembles the actual geographic location of the state that is represented by the respective map, from the state of Vorarlberg (a proud QGIS sponsor by the way) in the south-west to Lower Austria in the north-east.

To configure which map item will represent the flows from which origin state, we set the map item ID to the corresponding state ID. As you can see, the map items are numbered from 1 to 9:

small_multiples_print_composer_init

Once all map items are set up, we can use the map item IDs to filter the features in each map. This can be implemented using a rule based renderer:

small_multiples_style_rules

The first rule will ensure that the each map only shows flows originating from a specific state and the second rule will select the state itself.

We configure the symbol of the first rule to visualize the flow strength. The color represents the number number of people moving to the respective district. I’ve decided to use a smooth gradient instead of predefined classes for the polygon fill colors. The following expression maps the feature’s weight value to a shade on the Viridis color ramp:

ramp_color( 'Viridis',
  scale_linear("weight",0,2000,0,1)
)

You can use any color ramp you like. If you want to use the Viridis color ramp, save the following code into an .xml file and import it using the Style Manager. (This color ramp has been provided by Richard Styron on rocksandwater.net.)

<!DOCTYPE qgis_style>
<qgis_style version="0">
  <symbols/>
    <colorramp type="gradient" name="Viridis">
      <prop k="color1" v="68,1,84,255"/>
      <prop k="color2" v="253,231,36,255"/>
      <prop k="stops" v="0.04;71,15,98,255:0.08;72,29,111,255:0.12;71,42,121,255:0.16;69,54,129,255:0.20;65,66,134,255:0.23;60,77,138,255:0.27;55,88,140,255:0.31;50,98,141,255:0.35;46,108,142,255:0.39;42,118,142,255:0.43;38,127,142,255:0.47;35,137,141,255:0.51;31,146,140,255:0.55;30,155,137,255:0.59;32,165,133,255:0.62;40,174,127,255:0.66;53,183,120,255:0.70;69,191,111,255:0.74;89,199,100,255:0.78;112,206,86,255:0.82;136,213,71,255:0.86;162,218,55,255:0.90;189,222,38,255:0.94;215,226,25,255:0.98;241,229,28,255"/>
    </colorramp>
  </colorramps>
</qgis_style>

If we go back to the Print Composer and update the map item previews, we see it all come together:

small_multiples_print_composer

Finally, we set title, legend, explanatory texts, and background color:

migration

I think it is amazing that we are able to design a visualization like this without having to create any intermediate files or having to write custom code. Whenever a value is edited in the original migration dataset, the change is immediately reflected in the small multiples.

Last time, I wrote about the little details that make a good flow map. The data in that post was made up and simpler than your typical flow map. That’s why I wanted to redo it with real-world data. In this post, I’m using domestic migration data of Austria.

Raw migration data

Raw migration data, line width scaled to flow strength

With 9 states, that makes 72 potential flow arrows. Since that’s too much to map, I’ve decided in a first step to only show flows with more than 1,000 people.

Following the recommendations mentioned in the previous post, I first designed a basic flow map where each flow direction is rendered as a black arrow:

migration_basic

Basic flow map

Even with this very limited number of flows, the map gets pretty crowded, particularly around the north-eastern node, the Austrian capital Vienna.

To reduce the number of incoming and outgoing lines at each node, I therefore decided to change to colored one-sided arrows that share a common geometry:

migration_twocolor

Colored one-sided arrows

The arrow color is determined automatically based on the arrow direction using the following expression:

CASE WHEN
 "weight" < 1000 THEN color_rgba( 0,0,0,0)
WHEN
 x(start_point( $geometry)) - x(end_point($geometry)) < 0
THEN
 '#1f78b4'
ELSE
 '#ff7f00'
END

The same approach is used to control the side of the one-sided arrow head. The arrow symbol layer has two “arrow type” options for rendering the arrow head: on the inside of the curve or on the outside. This means that, if we wouldn’t use a data-defined approach, the arrow head would be on the same side – independent of the line geometry direction.

CASE WHEN
 x(start_point( $geometry)) - x(end_point($geometry)) < 0
THEN
 1
ELSE
 2
END

Obviously, this ignores the corner case of start and end points at the same x coordinate but, if necessary, this case can be added easily.

Of course the results are far from perfect and this approach still requires manual tweaking of the arrow geometries. Nonetheless, I think it’s very interesting to see how far we can push the limits of data-driven styling for flow maps.

Give it a try! You’ll find the symbol and accompanying sample data on the QGIS resource sharing plugin platform:

resourcesharing_flowmap

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