Large Format Map Printing – Paper, Toner & Patience

Business mapping software is a visual tool. Its purpose is to add value and meaning to business analysis through imagery and maps. Those images can be shared as digital files (JPEG, PNG files), interactive webpages, or they can be printed.

Printing maps is more art than science.  Map printing has been happening for thousands of years now. These days the maps we print are ready in a matter of minutes. We’ve come a long way since the days of Columbus and Magellan when maps could take decades to produce. Back then, checking the printer queue involved horses and the iron maiden.

Today printable maps can still be quite challenging to produce despite the application speeds we experience. Printing a large format map for wall maps is not a quick click-a-button and you’re done process. Plan to spend some time making your map print job match your desired output.

Map Options

Printing a typical photographic image, like a picture of your child, entails setting a few options but in large part, the process is straight forward.  Crop the image, tweak the color and contrast, then print. Map printing can be quite a bit different from picture printing.

Printing a map requires forethought. You must ask yourself, “What map layers do I want to show in this picture?” Options might include:

  • A street level detailed map back ground
  • Topographic detail
  • Satellite or aerial imagery
  • Cites or towns
  • Rivers and water bodies
  • Zip codes, counties, Census tracts, states or other district layers
  • Demographic data
  • Imported business data layers
  • Additional draw layers pertinent to your business – market analysis, territories, lines & points

Simply deciding you want to see a given layer doesn’t solved the problem. In digital mapping much depends on your area of interest. You must ask yourself, “What is the map extent I desire for my printed map?”

Your Map Extent

Let’s explore this further. Your map extent will typically be defined by a rectangle. That rectangle could be your map application’s screen view or a drawn rectangle you place on the map defining your map area of interest. If you want to include zip codes on your map and your map extent includes New York city, you need to consider how large an area you can accept before those inner-city zip codes become invisible. The further back you pull the less detail you’ll achieve in your map result.

Mapping applications are designed to provide a variety of zoom levels for the map viewer. As a map user zooms out they see more geographic area and less map layer detail. As they zoom in they see more map layer detail and a smaller area of view.  For map layers like zip codes, the mapping application is designed to optimize the map viewer’s visual experience so that information is presented in a readable fashion at any given zoom level.

Zip code labels are a great example of how mapping application manage map layer data views. At a contiguous USA wide map view, if zip code labels are all turned on, the application must decide which labels it shows. It cannot show all zip code labels because they would overlap, creating an unreadable mess. That’s why Columbus always left the zip codes out of American maps.

The map application must control the visual presentation.  A map user can tweak the map layers to encourage more zip codes to appear, but there will be a limit. To optimize your view try to:

  • Zoom in as far possible while still maintaining the desired map extent
  • Adjust the zip code label font to the smallest possible setting
  • Avoid bolding your text

What is the shape of your area of interest? This matters a lot. The full USA is a natural landscape view, print rectangle that fits fairly well in your business map field of view. States like California, Texas, or New Jersey may be less optimal for full views. We’ve had multiple customers desire a map of Texas that displays all county labels. This is a tall order because the size and shape of Texas doesn’t optimize the map application’s field of view. California is a vertical object that doesn’t not optimize well in a landscape field of view. These states just don’t fit well into a typical map application screen view.

Business Analysis Map

This means the business map user who desires a printed map should consider map layer options and target area shape and size as they prepare to print. For instance, make sure your printer settings are set to landscape view for business maps. It just makes sense to match the map application field of view to the printer parameters.

Print Button Options

Map Business Online includes print options in the Print Button functions. When you print to your desk top printer your print image will reflect your screen map image exactly. That’s a What You See Is What You Get image.  Use this for straight ahead print jobs on 8.5 x 11 pages.

But if you want to capture more map detail, try large format printing by saving your map file to PDF.  Print from that saved PDF file either to a desktop printer’s larger page size options or to a plotter printer.

The large formatting options in Map Business Online provide several additional options for your print output:

  • Print…center on current map view – Zoom your map view in well beyond your regular field of view. Now play with the paper sizes to optimize your map to print shape and make your output bigger – up to a 60” x 60” wall map
  • Print…defined by rectangle – Let’s you define your maps rectangle, then proceed to paper and size adjustments

But here’s the key to map printing: it’s not a cookie cutter experience. It really requires experimentation and patience. So if you’ve got a map print job ahead of you, remember to think about your options and allow time for experimentation at the end.

Remember, Columbus would have killed for a map in a half hour. Plus all the limes and lemons you require to avoid scurvy are a short drive to the grocery store. And no one is getting keelhauled at your business today. I hope.

Map Business Online – Easy, affordable, advanced and we’ll help.

Find out why over 25,000 business users log into

Contact: Geoffrey Ives or Jason Henderson (800) 425-9035, (207) 939-6866

MapPoint users – please consider as your MapPoint Replacement.

Please read customer reviews or review us at Capterra, or at the AppExchange.



This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply