Have you ever made a map in ArcGIS and wondered sadly: “wow, is this really the best I can get my map to look?” (ok, maybe that’s just me). But, if you’ve ever wondered why production quality maps look so much better than yours (let’s ignore a lot of recent journal publications here), it’s because the author cared enough to actually make the map look good. The good news? You can do it too! In this post we’re going to focus on getting your vector map out of ArcMap reliably and in to a real graphics program – Adobe Illustrator. For the following I’m assuming you have a working knowledge of Illustrator.
There are two camps of thought on using ArcMap and Illustrator together: Do most of what you can in Arc first VS. do the minimum in Arc and get it into Illustrator ASAP! What camp you’ll fall in to will likely depend on your experience/comfort with each piece of software. That’s only going to come with experience. So, play around both ways. It might feel like a time sink to mess with the same map at least twice, but in the long run your experimentation will save you a lot of time and grief, and help you develop the workflow that works best for you. I’m not going to tell you what’s best, but there are certain things you need to do regardless – that’s what we’ll focus on.