Drawing Rivers on Simple Maps in Illustrator

Following on from the video posted a couple of weeks back that showed how to quickly draw roads on simple maps in Illustrator, this week we’ll take a look at adding another feature: rivers.

Drawing Rivers

Rivers tend not to be of a consistent width along their course, and the way this is often approached is to treat them as a shape, drawing the outline and filling it. Of course, if your river needs to have a specific level of detail, then that is perhaps the way to go, but in a simplified map, then there is another, much faster way to approach the task—using the Width Tool.

compareRiverUsing strokes and the Width Tool (accelerator: SHIFT-W) means that you can simply plot the course of the waterway with your preferred drawing tool and then change the width at appropriate points.

Pattern Texture

compareRiverTexturesTexturing your river adds a bit more visual interest—look at (1) in the image above, compared to (2); it looks a lot more alive than just flat colour. This is easily achieved by duplicating the stroke in the Appearance Panel and changing the stroke colour to a pattern. In the example above, I’ve used one of the default mapping patterns that ship with Illustrator, to find those:

  • Go to the Swatches Panel
  • Click on the “loader” icon (Swatch Libraries Menu) to the bottom-left of the panel
  • Choose Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphics_Textures

Although of course you could always make your own texture quite easily.

Work Smarter, Not Harder: Drawing Rivers on Simple Maps

As part of my Work Smarter, Not Harder series on YouTube, I’ve recorded another quick video that shows another quick approach to drawing river features on simplified maps:

It seems that the WSNH videos are getting more popular every time I make one, and that make sit easier for me to make more, so if you like the content, please subscribe to the channel. You can always suggest topics for any of the desktop or mobile design tools to me on Twitter @tonyharmer and keep up with my posts on Facebook.


Export for Screens and Asset Export Panel in Illustrator CC2015

Photoshop has been improving and updating it’s export capabilities over the last couple of years, with functionality that is much more relevant for the requirements of digital design these days, but Illustrator has been stuck with the Save for Web dialog—until now. This is great news, especially as Illustrator became the most popular Creative Cloud product this year for the first time in years—probably as the modern UX designer demands vector assets for a multi-screen world—and this makes me especially happy as I’ve been stressing it’s importance as a tool for years.

Asset Export Panel

exportForScreens1A new Asset Export Panel has been created that allows you visually collect—and organise—individual assets simply by dragging* objects into the panel; any art added to the panel automatically updates to reflect any changes made in Illustrator, and the items in the panel also travel with the file—which is great if you’re working collaboratively.

*If you’re more of a clicker than a dragger, there is also an Export Selection… command in the File menu—as well as the command being present in contextual right-click menus, too. Also in the contextual menu you’ll find a Collect for Output command that adds the asset to the panel.

Export Options

In the Asset Export Panel you can set up all of your different rendering options for file type and scale (except of course for lovely, lovely SVG, which does not need it) and there are preset buttons for iOS and Android that will pre-populate at the required sizes:


  • 1x
  • 2x
  • 3x
  • SVG


  • ldpi
  • mdpi
  • hdpi
  • xhdpi
  • xxhdpi
  • xxxhdpi
  • SVG

The complete list of default file formats include:

  • PNG (24)|PNG-8 (the algorithm for generating PNG files has been tweaked to generate the files faster and produce better transparency in PNG-8 files)
  • JPG (presets for compression are 100|80|50|20)
  • SVG
  • PDF

Tip: When dragging assets into the panel, make sure that you change the name that is automatically generated (Asset 1, Asset 2, etc.) to something more meaningful—simply double-click to the name to change it—and the export will use that name as the basis for the filename; click the Export button at the bottom right to export your assets.

If you only want to export a subset of the assets in the panel, simply click on those you wish to exclude—deselecting them—and they will not be exported.

To remove a scale rendering, click the X icon to the right of the output type

If you’d like to export the assets and the artboards at the same time, then click the Export for Screens Dialog button (or select the command from the Export menu item in the File menu).

Export for Screens

The Export for Screens… dialog gives you a number of options for tuning your export:

  • Location—specify where the files will be exported to, and if you’d like that location to open up in your Finder/Explorer then there’s an Open Location after Export checkbox
  • Prefix—text that will start at the beginning of the exported filenames for all the exports
  • Suffix—text to ensure that exports have individual names; usually, this is for different size renderings and is automatically generated when you add new scale renders
  • Range Selector—in the artboards tab (see next) you can determine what artboards are exported, or export the complete document as one file

Export Artboards

exportForScreensAt the top of the dialog you’ll see that there is a tab for artboards, so you can also export an entire set of artboards to multiple formats and sizes in one go, with the same options that are available for assets.

Wrapping Up

These options mean that rather than multiple time-consuming trips to the Save for Web dialog, or needlessly creating whole new artboards for individual asset export, you can now set all of your exports, at all of your required asset types and dimensions, in one go; welcome to getting half of your day back!

Drawing Roads on Simple Maps in Illustrator

It’s one of those jobs that comes up from time-to-time in just about every freelancer’s career—drawing a simplified map of a site such as a campus or industrial area, or showing the location of a business/venue in a town/city. There are a number of techniques employed to do this kind of job, and this video shows the one that I use, as it makes drawing—and particularly editing—so much easier.

Drawing Roads on Simplified Maps in Illustrator

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