Most old maps in my home (ranging from a school atlas to professionally made large maps from the National Atlas of India) use a peculiar technology. Instead of colored 'dots', they use 'strokes' of continuous, straight lines oriented in different directions.

The following image is a portion of a map of South America from a school atlas published by a local publisher here in Kolkata (Chandi Charan Das and co., 150 Lenin sarani, kol-13. No mention of date or edition found, but it is a 15 to 20 year old book).

Portion of south America from that school Atlas.


with scale; corrected

The word Caracas ( "কারাকাস" ) on paper is approximately 1.05 cm wide.

On a compound microscope (biology) (objective: 10X, eyepiece: 10X) but using reflected light, the lines do not show any 'dots' but instead uniform, continuous bands. The photograph below is taken from another map (on Asia, topography) from the same book.

Asia from that book; microscopy

The image on the left shows some vertical and horizontal lines. The one on the right shows some diagonal lines.

However the same school atlas also uses dot printing. There are also other maps which are solely made from dots, without any of these 'solid' lines.

An old map by the National Atlas of India, copyrighted in 1986, uses a similar pattern and probably the same technology. However, their grids are finer (narrower and more closely placed).

enter image description here



The width of the word "Chamoli" on paper is approximately 3.3 cm.

Could anyone help me identity this beautiful, old map printing technology?

  • 1
    The halftone pattern does not actually have to be round dots, it could be lines i have several books at home where the author has chosen to use line halftones. While in this case its not even halftoning but you could do the same for images.
    – joojaa
    Nov 17, 2016 at 21:08
  • Nearly a duplicate of graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/4576/…. However this question is about straight-line patterns of more than one colour.
    – user80505
    Nov 18, 2016 at 3:59
  • related: Screen Angle
    – user80505
    Nov 18, 2016 at 4:04
  • @joojaa you may write an answer about 'line-halftone' if you wish.
    – user80505
    Nov 18, 2016 at 5:40

2 Answers 2


At its heart, this is simply called "line art," and as DA01 states, halftone dots are really just a method to get a continuous tone (photograph etc) into line-art form for printing with a single ink.

Map makers are usually free to choose the tones they use, but in some case, such as geological survey, the texture choices are formalized so as to represent different types of rock etc.

In the mid-late 20th century, maps, comics and manga often would be shaded by using a sheet of pre-made texture cut into the desired shape and then compositing them, like a collage.

enter image description here

A company called Letraset (above) used to sell rub-on transfers which people would xerox, cut, and paste, and people would often buy a set and then xerox them infinitely.

If this reminds you of old video games from the 80s and 90s, well, some of those artists had to use these real-world materials in their technical drawing classes.

For manga, the artists would ink the lines with pen, and then use "screen tones" for the shading. These were often then photographed "as-is" without the need of a halftone screen.

The image below shows the use of screen tones by Katsuhiro Otomo, along with some examples of screen-tone texture sheets. The artist cut, overpainted and/or scratched away some of the screen.

enter image description here

  • 1
    The multi-colored examples in the question are simply doing the above methods with multiple plates, each inked with a different color.
    – Yorik
    Nov 17, 2016 at 20:51
  • The term 'halftone' is very helpful. Now on further internet search; it looks nearly a duplicate question of graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/4576/…. I didn't knew where to look for.
    – user80505
    Nov 18, 2016 at 3:58
  • 1
    To be clear, your images are not halftones.
    – Yorik
    Nov 18, 2016 at 15:12
  • Then what are they?
    – user80505
    Nov 21, 2016 at 10:21
  • 1
    line. art. line art
    – Yorik
    Nov 22, 2016 at 15:36

It's not particularly a technology nor something exclusive to maps. It's essentially doing the same as your 'dots' method--which is screening back a solid color via a pattern. The only difference here is that instead of a dot pattern, they're using lines...what you could consider a modern form of hand-drawn line work referred to as hatching (or the more commonly heard variant: cross-hatching)

This old map here uses hatching to emphasize the water edge:

enter image description here

When using multiple colors, you also end up with the useful side-effect that my layering different layers down with or without hatching, you get the multi-color printing capability of mixing colors on page.

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