Training Kit on Participatory Spatial Information Management and Communication. CTA/IFAD

Module M09 - Participatory Scale Mapping and Surveying

Unit M09U06 - Drawing and Producing Scale Maps


This Unit gives an overview of the process and various methods for putting together the spatial data to make a scale map. There are a number of ways that scale maps can be made; the method depends on whether you have chosen to work with digital or written data, which in turn affects whether you draft the maps by computer or by hand. Scale maps may be drawn on blank paper using GPS or compass field survey data or drawn using the framework of a scale base map. Scale maps may be drawn by hand on paper overlays or field data may be digitised and the map drawn on computer. The basic cartographic principles are the same whether working with paper maps or digital data on computer. This Unit provides an overview of the logical process of organising the data, compiling the data and drafting a map, with a focus on paper maps.

In making scale maps, we are essentially transcribing local knowledge about the land onto a standardised, two-dimensional scale map. For many community members, this is not how they see their land and they may not be directly involved in this part of the process. Therefore, it is important that the mapping team have a system for verifying, correcting and validating the maps with community members.

Unit objectives / expected outcomes

After the completion of the Unit the trainee will be able to:

  • describe to community members or outside technicians what a scale map is and how the scale map is made;
  • produce scale maps from hand-drafted and computer-drafted maps and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of hand-drafted and computer-drafted maps;
  • organise manually-plotted and computer-plotted data, compile rough draft maps and use thematic maps from other sources;
  • create thematic scale maps by compiling and organising local map data onto a map or series of thematic maps following the conventions of standard cartography;
  • produce scale maps from scratch;
  • verify the elements of scale maps by following checklists of essential and other optional map elements;
  • document the source data for the map;
  • cross-check and verify map information and validate the map with community members and other actors.

Content outline, main topics covered and suggested sequencing

This Unit focuses on the topics listed below.

  1. The process of drawing and producing scale maps (PPT No. 1: Drawing and Producing Scale Maps) (40 min).
  2. Procedure and tips for hand drafting a map (Exercise No. 1: Hand Drafting a Map) (2 hours)
  3. How to calculate amount of area from a finished scale map (Exercise No. 2: Calculate Area From a Map) (40 min)

Keywords / key concepts

Data compilation, hand-drafted vs. computer-drafted maps, thematic map series, essential elements of a scale map, source data, process for verification of the maps

Components of the Unit


Handouts for Trainee (to be distributed in printed format):



3 ½ hours

Additional trainer resources

  • Design a great map layout. Source: Land Trust GIS, USA
  • ESRI 1996. Introduction to Map Design. ESRI. California, USA. Description: Primer on cartography and map design. Available online at:
  • Dent, Borden, Jeff Torquson, Thomas Hodler. 2008 Cartography: Thematic Map Design. McGraw Hill, USA
  • Krygier, John and Wood, Denis. Making Maps: a visual guide to map design for GIS. Guilford Publications

Equipment needed

Table and smooth drawing surface, pencils, erasers, drafting pens, technical pens, long straight-edge, long drafting ruler, square, protractor, tracing paper or acetate, graph paper, calculator, notebook, a map of any scale with an area boundary drawn (this may be an original map or a photocopy because the map will not get marked), plotted data and/or base map from surveying exercises in M09U03 and M09U05 (or sample maps to work with), mylar or transparent paper (or prepare a light table and large sheets of white paper)

Optional materials: drafting adhesives or templates for area fill, graphic lines and point symbols

Additional downloads

Source: CTA. 2010. Training Kit on Participatory Spatial Information Management and Communication. CTA, The Netherlands and IFAD, Italy (ISBN: 978-92-9081-446-7)