Here's a decent example of what I'm trying to do - a print version of something like this:

enter image description here

I need to pick-and-choose which crossroads and street labels to show, add custom icons, plot the actual race route, and of course modify the color scheme. I'm trying to avoid spending hours and hours of manually tracing roads with the pen tool though. Wondering if anyone else has done this and what their approach was.

My current plan is to use Maperitive software (Google it - I can't add more than two links to this post) to start with a map and pick a theme that is relatively close to what I want, then export it to Illustrator, then start slash-and-burning everything I don't need and re-tracing and modifying colors.

Any other suggestions? I feel like a better tool could make this 100x easier and faster. I've seen amazing web services like https://www.mapbox.com, but haven't found one that will export a vector file for print.


3 Answers 3


Get vector data

You can download vector data from http://www.openstreetmap.org for free.

Choose the region you need and choose 'share' (right side). Then select PDF and download.

Recolor Artwork

Open the PDF in Illustrator. Use Edit > Edit Color > Recolor Artwork.

Trace the course

To create a course (two continuing lines along the course):

  • Create a new layer.
  • Lock the other layers.
  • Trace the route as one connected path. (You can copy paste existing roads and join them, but i think tracing is faster).
  • Duplicate the route layer.
  • Give paths in the top route layer a small line width and white.
  • Give paths in the bottom route layer a bigger width and contrasting color.
  • Play with colors and widths to get the desired look.

This 'two lines on top of each other' is the same technique as OSM uses for their own roads.

Don't forget to credit OpenStreetMap

We require that you use the credit “© OpenStreetMap contributors”. http://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright

  • Thank you so much, especially for the step-by-step guide! OpenStreetMap was the first place I looked, but I didn't realize you could export PDF (I was looking at the Export feature, not in the Share section). I also haven't used Illustrator's Recolor Artwork yet, but it looks like that's going to save me a LOT of time. And GREAT to hear where exactly I should spend my time tracing.
    – Michael
    Commented May 14, 2014 at 18:03

You can easily draw the lines using the pen tool.

1) use the pen tool (P) and start drawing some paths. Once you're done with a road you can click on the black mouse (V) to stop/deselect the current path. You can change the colors by selecting the boxes next to the width stroke option.

stroke options

2) Re-select the path using the black mouse tool (V). Change the stroke to something wide like 13 pt.

draw lines with the pen tool

3) Select the paths with the mouse tool (V), copy them (CTRL + C) and then paste in back (CTRL + B). Then change the stroke width and color.

copy paths and paste in back

4) I created a new layer below the top roads (The 3 roads I created in the first image). Draw more paths with the pen tool (P) and and repeat step 3 (To easily select the bottom roads, just lock the top layer).

more roads

  • Sorry i meant the exact question you answered for the OP. You will see the OP asked the same question twice if you go to their profile. I would do it but its hard to mod on a phone.
    – user9447
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 17:57

Another source you could use is http://openvectormaps.com. It's a side gig I am working on and contains a library of free maps that are already layered in .svg and .ai formats.

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