Lab: The Compilation Process

This lab is designed to get you familiar with the process of digital compilation sheets, and also working in ArcGIS Pro. Please note, some screenshots may be from different versions of ArcMap/ArcPro, and may not match exactly.

This lab is meant to be used in conjunction with Chapters 2 and 3 from Mapping with ArcGIS Pro, which are provided for current students on Canvas in draft form.  The entire book may also be purchased from the publisher ( or Amazon.

Companion data for the book chapter can be found here. Data for this lab can also be downloaded from Esri.  You will need US States and US Counties for the first part, and World Countries and World Administrative Divisions for the actual submission.

Creating your first map

  1. Create a folder (on the desktop if working in vLab or remotely on a lab computer) and call it CompSheet.

Note: Spaces in folder names and file paths won’t cause us trouble yet, but when you work with some more advanced tools in ArcMap/ArcPro, spaces can be an issue.  Get in the habit of creating file and folder names without spaces.

  1. Create your originals/working/final folders within this folder, and copy the data into your Originals folder.

Quick Review: Originals is for downloaded data; Working is for data that you have altered in any way (projected, clipped, selected, etc.); Final is for outputs such as maps and reports.

  1. Work through the steps and information in Chapter 2: Getting Started in ArcGIS Pro until you have your completed layout. Please note, the text was written for an earlier version of Pro, so some things may look a little different.  In particular, the GettingStarted.aprx is not provided, so you’ll need to start a new blank project and add in two maps (Insert > Map), one called US Counties, the other North America.
US Counties map
Figure 1: Sample map from Chapter 2 instructions

While this map is certainly functional, it’s not very creative, and it’s not very well balanced.  For a cartography class, this is “C” quality work.

Turning a map into a Map

  1. Touch up your scale bar and add a legend, as outlined in Chapter 3 (p. 68 in the text, p. 15 in the draft copy). The legend is pretty boring at this point, and we don’t always need one, but let’s put one in to work with page balance.

Tip: If your legend text has underscores and unclear names, revisit Renaming Layers in Chapter 2.

  1. Recall the principles of figure-to-ground and information/visual hierarchy, and work with your various lineweights and shades of gray to make the map really pop. A good rule of thumb is to knock back everything to about 70% gray, then bring key elements up to full black, and anything that still looks heavy to lighter gray or thinner/dashed lines, or both.
US Counties map reworked
Figure 2: Map with line weights and shades of gray adjusted

Better.  There’s still work to be done.  The counties might be a little light, the balance is still a little heavy on the left (the legend might help with that, or an alternative locator map), but there is a definite hierarchy of information.  Remember that this is a basemap – there would ultimately be more data displayed here, which might mean adjusting hierarchy a bit more, but it’s a start.

On Locator maps

Locator maps are meant to help the reader place the main map in context.  So, you need just enough surrounding area to help them figure out where they are.  Sometimes, if there is a distinguishing feature, such as the Iberian Peninsula, or Indian subcontinent, you can use a smaller area.  Other times, you might need more – it depends on your audience.  For states in the US, you can generally show the lower 48 states (unless it’s AK or HI, obviously), but if it’s an international audience you might want all of North America.

For a super fancy locator globe, check out this globe locator from Aileen Buckley.  This really only works well with large landmasses, so may not be appropriate for all countries.

What to turn in

For your actual assignment, you’ll be making an entirely different map, but using these same processes.  This time, map an awkwardly shaped country – choose from Chile, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Norway, or Eritrea. Others may be used only by arrangement with your instructor, to make sure they meet the intent of the exercise.  It’s recommended you use Select by Attributes to isolate your country for the main map – the point here is to balance the asymmetrical geography with your other page elements.  For countries with overseas territories or far-flung islands, you may choose to zoom to the main landmass, as we did with the US, or include them – it’s your call.  Also include the next level administrative boundaries so you have some interior lines to work with (World Administrative Divisions on the Esri site).

Projections, which we’ll talk more about next week, can radically alter your country’s shape, particularly as you move away from the equator.  Do a quick Google search on “best projection for <country>” and see what you find – something from a national agency is a good idea.   It doesn’t have to be perfect, but Norway in particular will lend itself to a very different layout if projected even remotely correctly.

Your map should have a locator and a legend (even though it will be primarily blank).  This is an exercise in compilation, so don’t worry about using any other data, just leave the country and state/province borders as your legend items.  Be sure to correctly cite your sources.

Submit to the Canvas assignment as a PDF, 8-1/2” x 11”.  Map should be made in grayscale.

Creating a PDF

  • Export the map by following the steps in Chapter 2 under Sharing your map, up to step 3.  Skip this step and continue reading to export your PDF.
  • Make the file name meaningful and save it in your Final folder.
  • The Resolution should be 300 dpi and the Output Image Quality should be best. Keep these settings for all assignments unless directed otherwise.

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