Cartographic Concepts and Resources

Maps communicate through abstraction. Map symbology like icons, colour choices, and  legends are central to map design. Here you will find information on cartographic methods to create attractive maps.

Map Symbols & Patterns for U.S. National Park Service Maps

This page contains the standard cartographic symbols and patterns used on National Park Service maps.

Map Elements


If you use transparencies on your map, you may get frustrated trying to match up your legend with map colours. Pixie is a small application from Nattyware that will tell you the colour of any pixel on your screen in either RGB, CMYK or HSV. You can download it from here:

(Hint: if you turn on Caps Lock, Screen Lock and Number Lock all at once, you can freeze the colour in the application window.)


Tired of the default colour schemes in your mapping software? Taking too long to create your own colours? Try ColorBrewer! It's an excellent resource for finding good colour schemes.

Check it out here: ColorBrewer



Wikitravel: Common map symbols

In an effort to provide a standard methodology for map-making for travellers, Wikitravel has a page called the Mapmaking Expedition. It is a Wikitravel Expedition* written to organize and standardize the maps used in Wikitravel. They have a nice basic symbology page.

*A Wikitravel Expedition is a special sub-project for Wikitravel articles or images. Expeditions help Wikitravellers collaborate and organize around certain subjects, be they based on shared interests, geography, or shared skills.