• Anderson, J. R., Hardy, E. E., Roach, J. T. and Witmer, R. E. "Land Use and Land Cover Classification System for Use with Remote Sensor Data" (114 KB PDF). Geological Survey Professional Paper 964 (1976). A revision of the land use classification system as presented in U.S. Geological Survey Circular 671.
  • Few, Stephen. "Practical Rules for Using Color in Charts" (460 KB PDF). Perceptual Edge Visual Business Intelligence Newsletter, 2008.
  • Kennelly, P. J. "NOT Mapping Our World." ArcUser, July–September 2007.
  • Lindsay, Janice. All About Colour. McClelland & Stewart, 2008.
  • Meihoefer, H. "The Utility of the Circle as an Effective Cartographic Symbol." Cartographica: The International Journal for Geographic Information and Geovisualization 6, no. 2 (1969): 105–117. Article available for purchase.
  • Nighbert, Jeffery S., Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. "Characterizing Landscape for Visualization Through 'Bump Mapping' and Spatial Analysis" (2 MB PDF) is a good run-down of the technique "bump mapping," using the example of shaded relief for particular modeled forest stands. Bump mapping is an advanced visualization technique related to hillshading, borrowed from the broader world of computer graphics. Essentially it is a way of providing additional realism by shading individual pixels or groups of pixels to represent the elevation of a part of an object or whole objects instead of the typical GIS map bare-ground elevation.
  • Ovenden, Mike and Ashworth, Mike. Transit Maps of the World. Penguin, 2007. Transit Maps of the World is a comprehensive collection of transit maps that is a great resource for color, especially if your map is as complex as some of the ones shown in the book. The book also sports good design in its own right and can thus give you ideas for how to incorporate your maps into a layout, report, or book.
  • Patterson, T. and Kelso, N. V. "Hal Shelton Revisited: Designing and Producing Natural-Color Maps with Satellite Land Cover Data." Cartographic Perspectives, Journal of the North American Cartographic Information Society 47, Winter 2004.
  • Tufte, Edward. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd edition. Graphics Press, 1992. This classic book on how to display data graphics with examples from scientific studies and cartography shows how things ought not to be done as well as presents ways to design correctly. The Web site is a source of information for more specific questions and in-depth topics.
  • The American Standard Geologic Age Color Scheme (5.2 MB PDF), developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Association of American State Geologists, is shown in a reference diagram on this site.
  • A Tapestry of Time and Terrain shows the American Standard geologic rock age color scheme with hillshading underneath.
  • Color Brewer developed by Cynthia Brewer, professor and associate head of the Department of Geography, Pennsylvania University is a web tool used for selecting map color schemes.
  • Color Oracle is a colorblindness simulator that applies a full screen color filter to what you are designing independently of the software in use.
  • Color Scheme Designer is an online tool that allows you to interactively choose a color palette using a clickable color wheel. Analagous, complementary, and polychrome palettes are created based on a single color choice by the user.
  • Color Wheel Pro is a software package that helps you create color schemes and then allows you to visualize them on sample websites, logos and product packages before downloading.
  • COLOURlovers is an online community where members post colors (individual or in palettes) and patterns, paired with a ranking system and critical feedback from other members. Informative articles and trend-spotting features are also on there. This is a great place to look during the stage when you are picking out colors and need specific RGB triplets to go with whatever you find. Also see their article titled "Common Color Names for Easy Reference" found here.
  • GenoPal is a software package with some online toolsets that use a technology to create palettes based on how your mind perceives color. They focus on using photographs to inspire and create color palettes.
  • kuler, by Adobe, is another community color site that allows you to browse user's color palettes and view critical feedback.
  • MollyMaps are hand-drawn maps for a variety of purposes which offer inspiration on color, design and layout.
  • Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection provides many maps that can aid in color-picking and inspiration.
  • Strange Maps is a widely read blog with a variety of maps and corresponding critiques. These maps are useful to glean ideas on novel approaches and color schemes.
  • TiGERcolor is a software package where the user selects the main color and the color wheel will display a selection of matching colors. You can then adjust the color harmonies, shades and tints.
  • Vischeck is a website where you can upload a map and have it transform into a graphic that shows you what your map would look like to a color-deficient person.
  • Web Colors Explained presents articles explaining the RGB, CMYK, HSB and hex color models.
  • Pattern Chart (5 MB PDF). In FGDC DigitalCartographic Standard for Geologic Map Symbolization Federal Geographic Data Committee Document Number FGDC_STD_013_2006 (Federal Geographic Data Committee, 2006), p. 290.
  • Munsell Software Conversion Program (Version 10).

Web Mapping

  • Muehlenhaus, Ian. Web Cartography: Map Design for Interactive and Mobile Devices. CRC Press, 2013.
  • Youngblood, Brian. GeoServer Beginner's Guide. Packt Publishing, 2013.
  • Boundless is a company that helps get you going with opensource webmapping tools. They offer solid support and advice.
  • Mapbiquity allows you to make a digital map to easily embed in your website using your locations on top of a Google map.
  • OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a free service that allows you to contribute to a worldwide basemap by digitizing things into their database. You can also use the OSM data in your own digital and static maps, with a bit of work.
  • The Los Angeles Times web map detailing homicides in LA County.
  • The New York Times Web site is continuously creating interesting, well designed interactive Web maps. A few examples are here and here.
  • TileMill is MapBox's desktop digital map builder. You download it and use it to build a map, then export that map so that it can be served up digitally by MapBox or elsewhere.



Last updated February 2014

Special thanks to for compiling the original version of this list.