Ask A Cartographer

How do I best display district boundaries without using color fill

September 28 2010 | 0 comments
Categories: Symbology

I have created a county basemap and now adding in additional map services, one being school district boundaries. My basemap uses subdued colors and still I am having a real difficult time determining good colors to use that work well together. In this case I need only two but when I do political I will be using 4 boundaries that overlap in many areas. My parcels are black, roads are a peacock green, and orange for highway/freeway which limits me further. Thanks in advance for any guidance.

Mapping Center Answer:

Right now, it looks like you are going to have to use fully saturated colors for your services. Consider the full saturation especially if you or your client-viewer will have control over the transparency of a service. One quick answer is to use the typical color wheel arrangement of the primary, seconday, tertiary colors and since you need two colors -- use complimentary color schemes (in the RGB model is it pairs like red and cyan, green and magenta, blue and yellow.)

To select the polygon fills, you can use a Web-based tool called ColorBrewer2.0. This site is used by many cartographers to select colors for their maps. Since the school districts are qualitative data, you will want to use the qualitative schemes rather than the sequential or diverging color schemes. Once you have the polygon fill and you need to outline the districts, you can use brighter colors than on your map. We recently answered a similar question here on Ask a Cartographer -- the solution for that user's problem will likely help you: Printing touching polygon outlines.

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