So you’ve made a custom historical map in #QGIS, you’ve taken some nice screenshots for your PowerPoint slides – but what’s the next step? How do you add cartographic info like scales and legends? Another good-enough-for-us-historians tutorial, on the Print Layout tool!
Print Layout is definitely another step up in complexity. There are also some known bugs (the perils of Open Source)! But I’ve seen so many beautiful screenshots over the last week that really deserve to be given the Full Treatment, so why not?!
Getting your map ready to print
Step one: open your map project in QGIS. I’m assuming that you’ve already set up a map with some points and labels along the lines of my earlier tutorial thread (or something more elaborate, but if that were the case then you wouldn’t be reading a Twitter tutorial…).
Here’s what I’m working with today. I’ve tried to be a little bit fancy with the region names and some of the ocean styling (does it work?!). Please show me what you’re working on too! Looking at your maps is great dissertation procrastination.
[edit: show me through Twitter, I don't think I have comments enabled on this blog...]
As an important step, make sure that your “magnification” is set to 100%, and that you’re only zooming in using the “scale”. You can check this at the bottom right of your screen.
Think of “scale” as how close-in your map is actually being drawn, while “magnifier” is how close you’re standing to the drawing. Print Layout ignores magnification, so we want to make sure that we’re happy with how everything looks at the right scale without magnifying.
You might notice that, like on my map, some of your labels are overlapping. Fixing overlap is a whole other faff I’ll cover in a later thread (Inkscape); if you’re happy with how everything else looks at this scale then let’s get into the Print Layout!
Creating a Print Layout
Create a new layout through the dropdown menu, or by hitting Ctrl+P. You’ll be asked to name your layout. You’ll also see in the dropdown the “Layout Manager,” which will allow you to return to Print Layouts you’ve previously made at a later date.
Your new Print Layout should open in a new window. It’ll look like a blank page for now, something like this:
On the right, you’ll see panels called “layout,” “item properties” (blank for now, you don’t have any items yet), and “guides.” You’re mostly going to use “item properties” for now.
Try right-clicking the page itself and selecting “page properties.” It should show up in your item properties panel – try switching the orientation, or playing with background colours just to get used to how item properties work.
But this is boring with a blank page. Let’s get your map in here! On the left you’ll see the “add map” button. Select it, and then click-and-drag an area on the blank page where you’d like your map to appear.
Oh hey, it’s your map! By default, your new map object should be set to display whatever you were last looking at in your main QGIS screen.
(My labels have gotten even uglier. I hope yours haven’t. We’ll fix that in the next thread…)
Your cursor will probably have changed from the “Add Map” tool to the “Select/Move Item” tool. This lets you move the map item around within your Print Layout, without altering the map itself. Try changing to the “Move item content” tool and wiggling the map itself around!
Let’s head over to the “item properties” panel, Scroll down and tick “frame” to, shockingly, give it a frame (a border). There are plenty more options here to play around with if you’d like!
Now let’s add a scalebar. There’s a button for that! Back over to the left.
While your scalebar is selected, the “item properties” panel should change to let you edit it. Play with the style, the units (you can use miles if you REALLY want to), the segments and the font (under “display”) for starters! Here’s what I ended up with:
Have a look through the other “add” buttons on the left as well to see what options are available to you. Do you want to add a north marker? Textboxes, pictures, lines and arrows…? The world is your oyster, and this map is your oyster pearl. I am not good at metaphor.
I went for a nice title across the top of the page using “add label.” You can edit the font and orientation just like you edited the labels on your main map.
Let’s add a legend next. This auto-updates based on all the layers in your map (as you can see, I have too many, because I am messy with data), and by default it will look HIDEOUS.
We can fix that by unticking “auto-update” in legend items, ticking “only show items in the linked map” and then manually deleting everything else we don’t want. I’m only going to keep my cities, since I want the legend to explain why some are squares and some are circles.
Then, after some more formatting in the item panel (fonts, frame, box size….), here’s what I’ve got:
If there’s anything in the underlying map design you only now realise you aren’t happy with, just make those changes in your main QGIS view. Then hop back to Print Layout, select the map and hit “update map preview”
And there you go! You can print, export as image or – best yet – export as a high-quality, high-resolution PDF.
Obviously, my labels still overlap. I’ve tried fixing it with the render and placement rules within QGIS, but it would be *much* nicer if I could just manually squiggle them about… and, using Inkscape, I can! Will post an update about that sometime next week.
Happy mapping! Please let me know if you found this helpful/also enjoy pretty maps.
About this blog
I'm mostly using this to archive Twitter threads in a slightly more read-able format. No content final.