How to Color Shade a Simple List of ZIP Codes on a Map

Many first-time users of MapBusinessOnline business mapping software begin their search for a mapping tool with a list of ZIP codes. Businesses of all types find themselves in possession of a list of ZIP codes with a desire to:

  • Visualize or color-shade ZIP codes to reflect sales or business activity on a map
  • Define sales territories or areas of interest on a ZIP code map
  • Visualize ZIP codes on a map with business data appended to a ZIP code label

MapBusinessOnline enables all of the above capabilities and so much more. But let’s keep this focused on the basic need to visualize and color shade a list of ZIP codes.

Get Building ZIP Code Maps  Learn More About Color Shading

While MapBusinessOnline users may easily select one or more ZIP codes and create color-shaded areas manually simply by using their mouse cursor to click on a map-based ZIP code, the fastest way to create a color-shaded ZIP code area is by importing a spreadsheet of ZIPs. Clicking and holding the shift key will undoubtedly get you there, but it takes a while if you’re talking more than ten ZIPs per area of interest.

Build a simple spreadsheet that lists your ZIP codes. Label a column in your spreadsheet as ZIP codes. Add any ZIP codes of interest to that column, and import that data into Map Business Online.

Additional columns are not necessary but could be helpful to your project. You could, for instance, have columns for Territory Name, Sales History, Equipment, or Sales Rep.  That’s up to you and your business requirements. The data will import precisely the same regardless of the number of columns you include.

Import your ZIP code list using the Datasets button under Adding to Map on the Master Toolbar. To semi-automate data updates to your data imports, read this.

Color-Shade Your Imported ZIP Codes

As you finish importing your data and the points show up on the map, a dialogue pops up offering help color-coding your data points on the map. Those ZIP code points you just imported represent the center locations of each ZIP code you’re interested in. Answer Yes to the import dialogue only if you want to color-code the points you just plotted instead of color-shading the actual ZIP code areas.

If you want to color-shade ZIP code areas, click No. Most often, MapBusinessOnline users want to color-shade the ZIP areas, not just the ZIP code points. Now uncheck the imported ZIP code layer box in the Map & Data box. Your points will disappear. Don’t panic; that’s cool. Go to the middle of the master Toolbar and click the Three Puzzle Piece button labeled Boundaries. Select the ZIP code map layer option, choose your imported data, and the column of your data that you would like to use for color-shading.

If you want to shade every ZIP code differently, you can color-shade up to one hundred ZIPs. It’s less confusing for the map viewer to choose color shades based on a limited number of color groups or perhaps just one or two shades. Much depends on the purpose of your map. May we suggest the following:

  • To display  ZIP code areas with business activity – Use one prominent color
  • To display worst to best activity by ZIP code – Use color gradations (several color gradation options are listed)
  • To designate X or Y options – Use two colors (adjust as necessary for more options)

When attempting to show just one-color shade, try using the Count option in the data dropdown. You will notice the minimum number of color groups allowed is two. Choose two color groups and set the ranges 0 to 0 and 1 to 1. Color the group of ZIP codes with no points (0 to 0) light green. Color the ZIP codes with points (1 to 1) a lovely blue (or a color of your choosing.) Click Done and bask in the color-shading of your ZIP code list.

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You may retire now. Well, maybe not.

Look at all the fun users have with ZIP codes!

There are several more aspects to the color-shading process that you may want to keep in mind:

  • The maximum color range quantity is one hundred (so if you have more than 100 ZIP codes, that’s no good.)
  • You can choose to hide non-impacted ZIP codes or change their default color.
  • Unique value and Exclude values options can come in handy occasionally—this help to make larger, more varied datasets easier to classify.
  • Once you’ve chosen your color-shading scheme, complete the operation either by clicking preview or done.
  • Remember, it’s wicked easy to go back and reconfigure the color scheme again. All your settings will be saved—experiment to your heart’s content. You can’t break it.

Or Just Create Territories from a ZIP Code List

Another way to create those color-shaded ZIP areas is to add a Name column to your simple ZIP code list and import the list using the Create Territories button. You’d have one column for ZIP codes and another for a territory name or list of names.

This import process is nearly identical to the Plot Data process until it moves to the Create Territory function. Instead of using the Plot Data Button move one more button to the right and click Create Territories. Once in the Create Territory dialogue, you will match your ZIP code map layer and the Name columns to the appropriate MapBusinessOnline input fields. Read about the Create Territories process here.

Don’t be intimidated by the concept of territories. You will not be required to use the territories in a complex way; they can just be shaded ZIP codes if you want to keep them simple. Just remember MapBusinessOnline includes powerful data analysis capability built into territory management. 

Leverage Your Imported Data

You may have business lists by address that include ZIP codes. No need to cull out the columns that are not ZIP codes, just import as described above and set the other columns to None as you process the address dialogue into MapBusinessOnline. Your data will behave just like a ZIP code list.

When you’re ready, there’s much more that can be done with MapBusinessOnline. Once your data is imported into MapBusinessOnline, the application allows the map user access to all imported data from various places. In addition to color-shading by ZIP code area or ZIP code point, that data is available for territory management and analysis, data window filtering, and market analysis.


Discover why over 25,000 business users log into for their business mapping software and advanced sales territory mapping solution. The best replacement for Microsoft MapPoint happens to be the most affordable.

To access MapBusinessOnline, please register and download the Map App from the website –

After installing the Map App, the MapBusinessOnline launch button will be in the Windows Start Menu or Mac Application folder. Find the MapBusinessOnline folder in the Start Menu scrollbar. Click the folder’s dropdown arrow and choose the MapBusinessOnline option.

The Map App includes the Map Viewer app for free non-subscriber map sharing.

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