Natural-color maps via automated coloring of bivariate grid data

Jane E. Darbyshire, Bernhard Jenny

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


    Natural ground color is useful for maps where a representation of the Earth's surface matters. Natural color schemes are less likely to be misinterpreted, as opposed to hypsometric color schemes, and are generally preferred by map readers. The creation of natural-color maps was once limited to manual cartographic techniques, but they can now be created digitally with the aid of raster graphics editing software. However, the creation of natural-color maps still requires many steps, a significant time investment, and fairly detailed digital land cover information, which makes this technique impossible to apply to global web maps at medium and large scales. A particular challenge for natural-color map creation is adjusting colors with location to create smoothly blending transitions. Adjustments with location are required to show land cover transitions between climate zones with a natural appearance. This study takes the first step in automating the process in order to facilitate the creation of medium- and large-scale natural-color maps covering large areas. A coloring method based on two grid inputs is presented. Here, we introduce an algorithmic method and prototype software for creating maps with this technique. The prototype software allows the map author to interactively assign colors to design the appearance of the map. This software can generate web map tiles at a global level for medium and large scales. Example natural-color web maps created with this coloring technique are provided.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)130-138
    Number of pages9
    JournalComputers and Geosciences
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


    • Natural-color maps
    • Spatially variable map symbolization
    • Web mapping
    • Bivariate maps

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